Africa- and Diaspora-related events in the UK this Summer

It's not all about the Olympics this Summer in the UK. There are a multitude of arts, culture and entertainment events going on throughout the country over the next few months, including some exciting Africa- and Diaspora-related ones that you may want to check out.

I'll be updating this post weekly as I discover suitable additions to the list. If you know of any I haven't yet included, please do drop me a line.




We Face Forward
City: Manchester
Venues: Manchester Art Gallery, Whitworth Art Gallery, Gallery of Costume (Platt Hall), The Manchester Museum, National Football Museum, Band On The Wall, The Bridgewater Hall, The Printworks and more
Expect: art, music, family activities

A celebration of the global and the local, exploring the links between Manchester and West Africa as part of the London 2012 cultural festival. 

Forget everything you think you know about African art… And embrace all that you don’t yet know about the art, culture and creativity of West African artists today. Major new sculptural installations, painting, drawing, photography, textiles, video, sound and fashion ask us to consider global questions of trade and commerce, cultural influence, environmental destruction and identity. These form a huge, city-wide exhibition that is complemented by music performances and family activities at various venues.

The music programme features world renowned acts such as Afro-Cubism, Femi Kuti, Angelique Kidjo, Diabel Cissohko and Kanda Bongo Man and reflects the incredible diversity and brilliance of musical styles from West Africa.


23 – 24 JUNE


Africa Oyé
City: Liverpool 
Venue: Sefton Park
Expect: music, food, crafts, dancing

The UK's largest free celebration of African music and culture celebrates its 20th anniversary. The line-up this year features acts such as Samba Mapangala, Dele Sosimi, Diabel Cissokho and more. I've attended Africa Oyé for the past couple of years and it's a fantastic day/weekend out: good music, delicious food, beautiful crafts and positive vibes. Take a big blanket, a bunch of friends and BYOB too! 


29 JUNE – 1 JULY


Back2Black Festival
City: London
Venue: Barbican

Expect: music, talks, debates, workshops, dancing, food, crafts

An unprecedented celebration of the African roots in music and culture, the acclaimed Back2Black Festival travels from Rio de Janeiro to London this summer.  Three days of live music with an eclectic line up of over twenty African, Brazilian & international artists across 3 stages, including host Gilberto Gil. Taking place in the stunning riverside location of Old Billingsgate Market in central London, transformed for the occasion by Brazilian visual artist Miguel Rio Branco. 

Featuring artists such as Macy Gray, Roots Manuva, Hugh Masekela, Femi Kuti, Gilberto Gil, Amadou & Mariam to name a few, more than just music is on offer during the Festival. Alongside a heady mix of funk, reggae, dub, hip hop, samba and blues, Back2Black features a programme of talks and debates with leading international writers, thinkers and musicians. 


1 JULY – 28 JULY


Africa Utopia
City: London
Venue: Southbank Centre
Expect: music, theatre, film, literature, dance, fashion, talks, debates 

Africa Utopia is a month-long festival of music, theatre, film, literature, dance, fashion, talks and debates programmed by Southbank Centre in conjunction with renowned Senegalese singer and human-rights campaigner Baaba Maal, as part of Southbank Centre’s Festival of the World. Throughout the festival there will be performances by iconic musicians who share Baaba Maal’s belief in the power of music for social change. 

You can also hear from writers who provide insight into the reality of contemporary African culture. Meanwhile an invited group of young delegates – guided by ‘elders’ including Baaba Maal and Lemn Sissay – explore how art projects can be mobilized to bring about social change.



World Shakespeare Festival
City: Various
Expect: theatre

Desdemona Rokia Traoré Toni Morrison

19 JULY – 20 JULY
City: London
Barbican Hall 

Musician Rokia Traoré , novelist Toni Morrison and director Peter Sellars come together to create Desdemona. 


Julius Caesar – Royal Shakespeare Company
Newcastle: Theatre Royal Newcastle (19 – 28 July)
London: Noel Coward Theatre (8 August – 15 September) 
Aylesbury: Waterside Theatre (19 – 22 September)
Bradford: Alhambra Theatre (25 – 29 September)
Manchester: The Lowry (2 – 6 October) 
Norwich: Theatre Royal (16 – 20 October)  
Cardiff: New Theatre (23 – 27 October) 

The dictator must be assassinated.  But who will replace him?

Shakespeare's great political thriller finds dark contemporary echoes in modern Africa, directed by RSC Artistic Director Designate Gregory Doran.


21 JULY – 22 JULY


BT River of Music, Africa Stage
Venue: London Pleasure Gardens, Docklands
Expect: music, food & drink 

From Africa’s greatest stars to emerging new voices, this stage will witness a weekend of incredible live music.

Superband Staff Benda Bilili collaborate with Zao bridging a gap much bigger than the few miles of Congo River that separates their respective hometowns of Kinshasa and Brazzaville. Guitar matesro and international phenomenon King Sunny Ade takes to the stage in a project prodcued by the British Council. Indie-rock band The Noisettes will be heard as never before, with Shingai Shoniwa exploring her Zimbabwean heritage in collaboration with singers from across Southern Africa. Veteran singer Angelique Kidjo from Benin brings her band back to the UK. Ace guitarist Justin Adams (Robert Plant, Tinariwen) brings us The Invisible Republic of JuJu with guest artists from across North Africa and the Sengalese master Baaba Maalwho is hosting the Africa Utopia festival at the Southbank Centre, will close the stage on Saturday night.

IMPORTANT: Tickets are free but must be booked in advance.




30 Nigeria House
City: London
Venue: Theatre Royal Stratford East
Expect: art, theatre, dance, spoken word, animation, music, poetry

30 emerging Nigerian artists create new commissioned work in celebration of art and creativity 




Festival Jamaica 2012
City: London
Venue: Maryland School Complex
Expect: art, music, food, theatre

For 17 days, the Maryland School Complex will be transformed into cultural spaces, performance stages and lush tropical jungle to celebrate Jamaica’s 50th year of Independence and the anticipated success of the island’s athletes during the Olympic Games. Patrons will be able to enjoy art, music, food, theatre and more.

Highlights of the Festival include performances of the acclaimed musical The Harder They Come, cooking demonstrations in the Reggae Kitchen with celebrity chef Colin Brown and an exclusive performance of ‘The Israelites’ and ‘007’ from Desmond Decker’s band, The Aces. Also part of Festival Jamaica 2012 is The Reggae Exhibition – three rooms documenting the island’s rich musical heritage from Mento to Dancehall.



Look Black in Laughter (part of the Ha Ha season)
City: London
Venue: Hackney Empire 
Expect: comedy 

The artists you know and love from shows such as The Real McCoy, The Posse, BiBi crew, Mixed Blessings and Desmonds are back together for a one night spectacular. Directed by Paulette Randall.



Africa Express
Africa Express
City: Middlesbrough (3rd), Glasgow (4th), Cardiff (6th), Bristol (7th), London (8th)
Venue: a train traversing the UK!
Expect: music 

In September 2012 Africa Express will travel through the UK, bringing together African and Western musicians for an inspirational week for artists and audiences alike. Unexpected gigs in unexpected places. Visits to schools, factories, homes and local clubs. Each day, each town, each show will be different.

After a week of magic and mayhem, the tour arrives in London. A united army of musicians armed with new music will be ready for a finale show – a collaborative musical epic that defies musical and geographical boundaries.

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