Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Why Boris Johnson cancelled the Rise Festival

Boris Johnson has cancelled the Rise Festival less than a year after he stripped it of its anti-racist theme.

The news, which I caught wind of last week, was confirmed by the Evening Standard today.

A spokesperson for the Mayor said: 

"Without a major sponsor in place it is not considered appropriate to spend such a large amount on a single music event, particularly during a recession. Instead, the money will be used to fund a multitude of events and grassroots activities across London."

What the Mayor fails to acknowledge of course, is that trade union sponsorship for the festival was only withdrawn after Team Boris decided to strip it of it's anti racist message.

In fact the TUC, who established the event in 1996, confirmed to me today that they have not been asked for any sponsorship by the Mayor this year.

"No great surprise"

In any event trade union sponsorship last year only made up a minority of the funding for the event, which was primarily funded by the Mayor and private sponsors.

And with all purpose removed from the event, there was now little reason for others to fund it.

As the Labour Assembly Member Jennette Arnold said today:

"The festival embodied all that is good about London, bringing people of all ages and cultures together. It was a celebration of London for Londoners - something Boris just doesn't get. It's no great surprise the Mayor couldn't find a sponsor for the event, given that he had already got rid of all its meaning. Who is going to sponsor a festival of nothing?"

Fears that the Mayor's re-branding was just the first step towards cancelling an event his team disapproved of were first raised after Munira Mirza's "doing anti racism for real" article.

These fears were soon confirmed when Patience Wheatcroft included the following in her 'Forensic Audit Report':

"There may also be scope for reviewing the list of events offered through Events for London; it is possible that a detailed critical analysis could generate substantial savings, particularly if entire events such as the ‘Rise Festival’ (which cost over £300,000) were cancelled. Careful consideration should be given to the rationale behind such events..."

That 'careful consideration' has now been taken.


Ken Livingstone (press release) said...

'Boris Johnson's cancellation of London’s anti-racist music festival, Rise, is a blow to good community relations in the city. Rise was the biggest anti-racist festival in Europe and on that basis attracted significant sponsorship. It lost much of this when Boris Johnson dropped the central anti-racist message last year. It is no surprise that Johnson is now cancelling the festival altogether. But it is misleading for his administration to try to blame this on trade unions withdrawing sponsorship, when sponsors had signed up to an anti-racist festival and obviously saw no reason to fund an event with no coherent message. There is now a clear pattern of Boris Johnson cutting funding to events celebrating the contributions of different communities to London and promoting good community relations. And, as with the still-birth of the Mayor’s Fund and the loss of most sponsorship for the St Patrick’s Day festival, his claims that he will save tax payers’ money by bringing in outside sponsors have been shown to be just so much hot air.’

Alex J. Thomas said...

Is Boris actually aware of this?

AdamB said...

Ah yes the famous "are you sure" quote.

David Boothroyd said...

If the TUC etc still have funds available for sponsorship, then perhaps they can get together and put on a proper anti-racist music festival with no connection to Boris. Indeed one theme could be highlighting public figures who are shrinking from the anti-racist fight.

Tom said...

That had occurred to me, too. A 'Beat the recession, beat the BNP' party would be well worth supporting IMHO.

AdamB said...

There were reportedly 100,000 at last year's Rise Festival. Anything of that scale would need funding either from the Mayor or from ticketing. I think we've probably seen the last of it to be honest.

A smaller event could possibly get off the ground though.

Unite (press release) said...

Unite, one of the former sponsors of the Rise anti-racism festival, has today (Wednesday), slammed London Mayor Boris Johnson for his short-sighted and hasty decision to cancel the event on the basis of what he deemed to be a lack of 'major sponsorship'.

Unite regional secretary, Steve Hart, said:

"Unite was never approached by the London Mayor, or by any of his staff in the run-up to this decision. Unite is calling for the London Mayor to work with the union to devise new strategies to combat racism and reconsider his decision to the cancel Rise Festival 2009.

"After last year's scandalous decision to remove the anti-racism message from promotional material for the Rise Festival and instead use the words 'celebrating diversity', Boris has now decided to take a hasty, short-sighted decision to stop the festival all together disappointing over 100,000 loyal followers.

"The Mayor should promote a festival that celebrates London's diversity and sends a strong anti-racist message. Boris Johnson has not asked us to be involved in such an event. We call on the Mayor to work with the unions and others in devising strategies that actively oppose racism and the BNP in London in 2009 and beyond."

Barry Rochford said...

David Boothroyd's suggestion that the trade unions could fund an event is laudible, but the scale of running such a festival - not just the £300,000 from City Hall makes this prohibitive on the scale that existed before.
No doubt there will be further events, but the main message from it being a festival run by the mayor's office was that London government was opposed to racism. What message can be drawn from the past year with Boris's two-step to get rid of this festival?

Steph said...

I knew this would happen eventually, after he changed its name and whole ethos without much consultation as soon he arrived as Mayor... and now he'll be able to spend the money instead on his plans for a public schoolboy style St George's Day piss-up in Trafalgar Square!

Tom said...

Actually, he's *frozen* the money for SGD, not that you'd know it from the papers. In real terms that's a cut, as it is when Tories discuss council tax.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy that Boris has stopped the funding of this festival. There are more sensible ways to spend taxpayers money.

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed the Rise Festival on the occasions I went there. It has been rewarded by much public support and there was always something on the bill for everyone. Ironically last year, in Boris's first reign, it was absolutely jam ram packed with people, which was brilliant. Support was not waning, it was climbing and being in Finsbury Park, it had excellent transport links. It also provided free trade to budding entrepreneurs to sell their wares and get direct feedback on their products - nowhere else will provide this environment. It's sad because this is the time it is most needed.

Anonymous said...

Save Rise Festival - join our group and sign our petition at:

Anonymous said...

I tell you why Boris stopped the Rise festival in Finsbury Park. There is a big mosque near Finsbury Park, and as we all know, Muslims don´t like music. So that is the reason why the Rise Festival in Finsbury Park is stopped. One wonders, how much money did Boris get for stopping this festival.

AdamB said...

And the prize for worst anonymous comment of the week goes to 12:31 from Germany. Congratulations 12:31, you're a moron.

Anonymous said...

Well AdamB, it would be OK to say that you do not agree, but using an insult...???. This here is not a pub.