Interview: BlackFest

Over the past year, we’ve been working closely with one of our favourite partners, BlackFest, a grassroots organisation who combine art platforms to empower and develop work by Black artists within our community.

From live-streaming the festival to hosting their BlackFest Live Lounge series earlier this month, we’re always striving to support the phenomenal work that BlackFest delivers. We sit down with BlackFest’s co-founder and artistic director, Jubeda Khatun, to find out more about where it all began… 

Hi Jubeda! How was BlackFest born?

We first piloted BlackFest in 2018 across Hope Street bars (The Casa, Frederick’s and Hope Street Theatre), covering spoken word, poetry, music, theatre and panel discussions. Since then, BlackFest has evolved and is now an annual grassroots combined Black arts festival, platforming and developing work by Black creatives and communities in established arts venues and community spaces.

We bridge the gap between institutions and marginalised communities, making arts accessible for underrepresented and underdeveloped groups via active conversations and a diverse arts programme. BlackFest answered a crucial need in the city’s cultural offering, celebrating black arts, initiating a platform for dialogue, development and performance. 

What are the main aims of the festival? 

Our aims are equality, empowerment and education, run through projects throughout the year, including our monthly BlackFest Live Lounge at Melodic Bar. We’re committed to collaborating with artists, organisations and the community to encourage the creation, appreciation and access to the arts. 

What different arts forms are involved? Why do you think it’s important to bring them together? 

It’s important for us to do a wide range of art forms because the talent and artists involved are usually multidisciplinary. We want to detangle from the idea of being in boxes, instead allowing a free flow of creativity for everyone involved and ensuring no artist limits themselves. 

How important is community to you? What do you think the benefits are of being part of such communities? 

Community is at the heart of our art, co-curating and creating projects on a need-to-need basis. Working with marginalised communities and increasing visibility is very important, as the world is multicultural and should reflect as such. We are an anti-racist organisation and telling authentic vibrant stories from the community is beautiful and representing their truths.

When and how did BlackFest Live Lounge start?

BlackFest Live Lounge started in 2019 prior to the festival as a monthly safe space to bring artists, audiences, and the community together. Creators share and test new work, network, connect and collaborate. It’s now become a legacy in providing this platform to do so, from amazing venues to digital due to COVID, through to outdoor performances by Sefton Park’s Palm House.

What elements do you tend to consider when curating line-ups?

When I curate line ups, I ensure that the artists involved are aware of the themes in place – for this BlackFest Live Lounge, it’s Collective Consciousness. Looking at soul food, music, poetry and raising vibrations. The music is of conscious rappers looking at spirituality, ancestral roots, social and political landscapes and talking about changes that are transformative and healing for audiences. 

What’s next for BlackFest and how can we get involved?

BlackFest have curated ‘Winterfest’ on the 18th December at District for Sickle Cell Disease, in memory of Naomi Loy. Naomi died last year from the disease at a very young age; it was a huge shock and affected the whole community. There is a new treatment that could have saved her life, but unfortunately due to not having the information she was lost. Her sister Rebecca Loy, in collaboration with BlackFest, will be starting a few campaigns to raise awareness and support families. In the UK, sickle cell disease is most commonly seen in people of African and Caribbean backgrounds. As we work with the Black African, Caribbean communities, it is essential we impact substantially to make change and save lives. Donate to the cause here.

We also have an Empowering Women’s Project starting in December – apply here by 30th November. And if you would like to volunteer for BlackFest, our Live Lounge and other projects, please email or @blackfestcreatives on socials.

Get your ticket for ‘Winterfest: A White Party for Sickle Cell’ here, which features live performances from our very own iamkyami, Ni Maxine and more amazing local artists. In the meantime, listen back to BlackFest’s ‘Collective Consciousness’ Live Lounge with Jubeda on Melodic Distraction Radio below!