A number of London unions have severed all links with the London Mayor’s Rise Festival.
The Rise Festival, established following the murder of Stephen Lawrence and organised by the TUC, was known as the Respect anti-racist festival. The idea was taken up by Ken Livingstone, who changed the name from Respect to Rise and held seven annual festivals during his mayoralty.
Unite, the union, has accused the organisation of the event this year as being ‘a fiasco from start to finish’. Mayor Boris Johnson’s new cultural advisor, Munira Mirza, has, according to the union, ‘stripped the festival title of its sub-heading “London United Against Racism” only for the Mayor to say to the BBC that he knew nothing of this decision. Ms Mirza [has] also banned the Cuba Solidarity Campaign from continuing their joint sponsorship of the Latin American stage in partnership with Unite, and from even participating in the event. The unions have decided that this package of measures changes the focus and nature of the Rise Festival to such an extent that it will be just another musical event in Finsbury Park, and therefore that money earmarked for anti-racist campaigning will be better spent in other ways.’
- Megan Dobney, (TUC London Regional Secretary): ‘Trade unions are greatly offended by the removal of the central anti-racist message as well as by the ban on an organisation supported by the TUC. Trade union negotiation has proved fruitless and SERTUC is therefore left with no alternative but to withdraw.’
- Steve Hart, (Unite London Regional Secretary): ‘Rise, or Respect as it was known, was launched by the trade unions as a means of involving mainly young people in anti-racism in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence and other racist murders. What is the point of what was explicitly an anti-racist festival if it drops its commitment to anti-racism?’
- Matt Wrack, (Fire Brigades Union General Secretary): ‘We have supported the Rise Festival as a celebration of London’s diverse communities and of anti-racism. It appears that this clear message is now being lost and the FBU no longer feels able to participate. We remain committed to any genuine initiative aimed at combating racism.’
Read an IRR News Story: From the frying pan into the fire? by Jenny Bourne