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Black History Month on the cheap

SLASHED: Many councils are cutting back on Black History Month celebrations

DON’T EXPECT a song and dance at your local Black History Month event this year, because everything's gone chirpy chirpy cheap cheap.

Unless you live in a riot zone.

October, as you know, is Black History Month. Only this year it isn't. Black History Month is the latest casualty of the Government's austerity package as more and more councils are knocking it on the head to save money, or at the very least slashing the spend to a cut-price token acknowledgement that black people have a history and, therefore, a past. In most boroughs it's Black History Day or Two'. And in others it's 'Black History Money Can't Stretch That Far. Sorry.'

In Brent, where half the population of areas like Harlesden are black, Black History Month has been substituted for Word Up! A Celebration of Books and Reading (you can tell from the Word Up! that we're talking 'black'). In another London borough, Tower Hamlets, the council funding which helped produce one of the country's best Black History Month calendars has virtually disappeared. In other areas of 'black interest' from Leeds to Luton there's very little going on for Black History Month.

You can't do black history on the cheap. It's an insult. If you can't do it well don't do it at all. A half-hearted Black History Month is like a half eaten pork pie.

However the picture is surprisingly different in some of those areas which experienced a riot in the summer.

In Haringey, the area which triggered the summer insurrections after violence broke out in Tottenham, the council has gone so far as to acknowledge 2011 as The International Year for People of African Descent. They have got a fantastic programme of Black History Month events which take place in the borough’s museums as well as its libraries and cinemas.

Likewise Birmingham, where the most horrific consequences of the riots were experienced when three innocent men were mown down by a car, has not scrimped or saved on its Black History Month budget. They’ve included the obligatory troupe of African drummers but there’s also a ‘whodunnit' with history detectives tracing the black history of the West Midlands and a history lesson with live cooking.

In Lambeth, which as far as everybody is concerned is a black borough, the Black History Month programme is lavish in celebrity guests but it’s restricted to libraries in Brixton, Streatham and South Lambeth. But when did Black History Month become an opportunity to justify the use of public libraries? Why are there no Black History Month events in Brixton Market, at the Ritzy cinema or even the Academy music venue as happened in the past? Or does Lambeth think that making people read is going to keep them off the streets?

It's a case of a borough which suffered two lots of riots (Brixton and Clapham Junction) panicked by the fear of Black History Month and even more terrified by the fear of no Black History Month.

Clearly the government's austerity package doesn't apply to areas where there were disturbances in the summer. But is a decent Black History Month worth rioting for? You tell me.

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