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Beenie Man calls out Croydon council for 'stealing' idea

SPEAKING OUT: Beenie Man

BEENIE MAN has called out Croydon council for hosting the Ends festival at Lloyd Park, after a similar idea was created and proposed to them by a local black-owned organisation.

The inaugural Ends Festival, organised by Live Nation took place over the weekend (May 31-June 2) in Croydon which featured a selection of artists including Nas, Wizkid and Damian Marley. The three-day event which saw thousands descend to Lloyd Park seemed to be a huge success - however, the history of how it came to be has resulted in a two minute video from Beenie Man calling out the council.

In 2016, Beenie Man was asked to do a charity festival in England, which was being organised by Shezal, the founder of Slavery Remembrance, an organisation which hosts Sankofa Day, and My Tribe.

According to Shezal, she approached Tony Newman, her local councillor for Croydon council that year and presented a proposal to host a black excellence charity music and culture festival in Lloyd Park.

Shezal claims the purpose of the festival was to celebrate ‘black excellence’, help to tackle racism by challenging views on racist stereotypes, use all of the profits from the festival to fund black businesses and to support the Sankofa Day memorial in Trafalgar Square.

The concept of the festival was allegedly laid out in the proposal, which also featured the key acts that Shezal wanted to perform - Stormzy, Fuse ODG and Beenie Man, who has now shared his support for Shezal’s initial idea in a new video.

In the video clip which was posted on YouTube on Saturday (Jun 1), Beenie Man says: “In 2016 I was asked to do a charity festival in England. This festival was special to me because it was going to act as family reunion by joining our family which was separated by slavery and with artists from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America and artists from the UK.

“We were going to share one stage to celebrate black excellence through our art and culture, music and achievement and to support the national annual memorial in England for our ancestors.”

The dancehall artist continued, saying that the people putting on this festival were in talks with Croydon council to see if it could be held in one of their parks.

“They met to see if they could hold it one of their parks but they [council] planned to keep their own festival in the same park with another company and the line-up was kind of the same thing - artists from Africa, the Caribbean, and whole heap more.”


PICTURED: Shezal

DETAILS

In a detailed blog post, Shezal sheds further light on the subsequent meetings which took place with Croydon council following her initial proposal in 2016. She writes: “The entire concept was laid out in my proposal and was further discussed in the several meetings which took place with my team and I, Tony Newman, councillor Hamida Ali and later on Paula Murray (creative director for Croydon Council).

“I already had a key headline artist, Beenie Man, confirmed and committed to appear. Two other acts that I had discussed having was Stormzy and Fuse ODG which would have brought together the Caribbean, Africa and the UK leaving only the Latin American element to fulfil.”

Shezal adds that during her second meeting with Mr. Newman, one thing stood out. “Tony wanted to change the name of the festival from Unity Splash with the acronym ‘Us’ to Urban Edge. I explained to Tony why the name was important and that black people didn’t tend to describe our music as ‘urban’ and that it was more a term used by others to describe black music in order to avoid using the word ‘black’,” she writes.

“Skip to 2017, Croydon Council decided to enter the Mayor of London’s Borough of Culture Bid. This competition was open to all of the London boroughs, with the winning entry receiving £1m to put on cultural activities in their borough throughout 2019.

“Paula asked me to participate in this competition and partner with the Croydon Museum to help them creatively bring their archives to life. As a member of the Croydon Borough of Culture team, I was sent the programme summary of all the projects taking place as part of their bid.”

According Shezal, Croydon council incorporated her idea for the festival into the proposal - much to her surprise.

“Obviously I was excited to see Croydon council had seen enough value in MY IDEA that they chose to include it in their proposal. I emailed Paula with excitement to tell her that we were looking forward to working on the event with them, only to be informed that they already had a partner for the event.

“I thought that perhaps maybe this was a different type of festival with a variety of music genres and a multicultural line-up, so I said nothing more. That was until I received the final programme summary which included the following:

‘Lloyd Park will also host Metropolis – a new music festival from Metropolis Music and Live Nation – featuring Fuse ODG, Damian Marley, Carlos Santana and Croydon’s own Stormzy…’

“They literally stole the festival we had proposed to them, stripped it of its entire ethos and integrity and repackaged it as a new cool ‘urban’ festival happening in Croydon,” writes Shezal. “I was absolutely devastated, but what hurt me most of all is not that my intellectual property was stolen, but that they knew that this was a charity festival for the black community, with all profits going to support underfunded black businesses and entrepreneurs and the memorial for our ancestors.”

In the video, Beenie Man further agreed that he didn’t believe that the launch of the Ends Festival was a coincidence. “I believe Croydon council teef the festival and its no longer about celebrating black people and their achievements - now it's about making money for themselves.”

Watch the full clip below:

Croydon council were approached for a comment. A council spokesperson said: “We were delighted to welcome The Ends Festival, a Metropolis Music (Livenation) event, to Croydon this weekend as the latest new major music event to come to our borough.

“The Ends is not a Croydon council event; however as part of our Music City plans, we were proud to support the Future stage giving young local aspiring artists a platform.”

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