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UpRise – Campaigners resurrect London festival

Rising against racism

The legacy of an anti-racist music festival axed by the Mayor of London will live on now campaigners
plan to stage the show independently.

Finsbury Park residents Freya Van Lessen and Mike Barnard have fought a 18
month long campaign to resurrect the Rise Festival after the Mayor announced
in April 2009 he could not justify spending £551,000 to fund the free
concert.

The Mayor was left with the hefty bill after alienating its commercial sponsors when he took the decision to strip it of its anti-racist theme months after he was elected in 2008.

Rise was held annually in Haringey’s Finsbury Park and attracted big names such as Jimmy Cliff, The Specials and Run DMC. It was set up by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in 1996 in the wake of Stephen Lawrence’s murder to promote racial harmony. The Rise event was then organised by Ken Livingstone and Lee Jasper who developed the festivals unique anti racist theme.

But now UpRise: London United Against Racism will take its place. It is also being supported by the National Assembly Against Racism, the Runnymede Trust, Unison, Unite and Love Music, Hate Racism.

Campaigner Mike Barnard said

Boris Johnson made a serious error in judgment when he stripped Rise of its core anti-racism message and proceeded to cancel the event at a time when organisations with racist beliefs and policies were
and continue to receive increasing amounts of political and media coverage.

Rise was a landmark event for Londoners, and it is for this reason that we have been working tirelessly to plan UpRise, a festival with the same purpose as its predecessor.

After an 18 month long campaign Haringey Council has granted permission to host the event, but concert organisers are still £15,000 short and are hoping that over the next few weeks more commercial sponsors will come forward.

A petition of 3,000 signatures calling for the festival to be reinstated was ignored by the Mayor’s office but Megan Dobney, TUC regional secretary for the south east, said:

“We are absolutely backing the festival and just trying to determine how much funding we are able to give. “We were very unhappy when Mayor Johnson decided to take away the anti-racist message. We did ask him to reconsider his decision, which he did not.

“Rise as it was, and UpRise as it will be, is a strong symbol that we support London’s cultures. It is especially important when we see parties like the BNP getting elected that we make sure we stand up and say we are not supportive of that type of message.”

Lee Jasper former Director of the original Rise Festival stated:

I am delighted that the organisers of UpRise have been succesful in getting Haringey Council to agree to host the festival back in its spiritual home Finsbury Park. Londoners loved the original Rise and I am sure that the important messages of a united London committed to anti racism, respect for diversity and difference and challenging the lies of the racist extreme right wing, through the UpRise festival will once again become a regular feature of London’s cultural landscape.

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