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Black History Month: your guide to what’s happening in London

Black Boys Can Cry with Alex Beresford (ITV)
Black Boys Can Cry with Alex Beresford (ITV)

October is Black History Month in the UK: a time to celebrate and reflect on the legacy of black trailblazers, culture and communities that have all shaped London’s history.

Of course, the capital is buzzing with things to do to mark it: including talks, exhibitions and even TV programmes. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some of London’s best upcoming events into a handy calendar for you to peruse at your leisure.

October - Three Little Birds on ITV (mid/ late Oct)

Written by Sir Lenny Henry in partnership with Russell T Davies, this brand new ITV drama tells a Windrush story loosely based on that of Henry’s own mother. Our heroes are two sisters, Leah and Chantrelle, and their acquaintance Hosanna, who arrive in Notting Hill to start a new life from their home in Jamaica. Henry himself has said he cried every time he watched the edits, which gives a good indication of how moving it will be.

October 1 - Fresh Cuts begins on ITV

ITV’s Fresh Cuts initiative is back for Black History Month. Four up and coming black directors will be taking the reins and releasing brand-new documentaries about subjects as diverse as the NHS, mental health amongst black men and the influence of black culture and design on British fashion.

October 1 - Untold Stories: Hair On Set - Sky Documentaries and NOW

Actress Fola Evans-Akingbola’s brand-new documentary sheds light on a little-discussed subject: the struggles black stars have faced on set when it comes to dressing their hair and make-up. Comprising interviews with Naomie Harris, Nathalie Emmanuel and Top Boy’s Verona Rose, it promises to be a sobering and fascinating watch.

October 1 - Dear Mama on Disney+

Rapper Tupac’s close relationship with his mother Afeni Shakur has been well-documented - he even dedicated a song to her - but rarely has it been examined in such detail. Now, an FX series is promising to shed new light on the pair, celebrating both their legacies with never-seen-before footage and interviews with fellow artists Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre.

October 1 - Hackney (Dalston) Black History Walk, tickets here 

Head along to Dalston for a walk that celebrates 75 years since Windrush, and Hackney’s thriving black community over sixty years. Exploring everything from black music (including acid and soul), to gentrification and activism, there’s plenty to get stuck into and learn about.

October 1 - November 4 - Young, Gifted and Black at the Theatre Peckham, more information here

Celebrating its fifth anniversary at the Theatre Peckham, Young, Gifted and Black celebrates some of the area’s best up and coming black talent in areas as diverse as theatre, film, music and poetry. This year’s lineup, which spans the entire month, includes photography exhibition Contemporary Creatives by Alex Galloway, two plays and a range of workshops.

October 3-31 Portraits of Peckham: A Black History Month Exhibition

Based at Peckham Levels, this unique exhibition was created and put together by artist and UAL academic Sharon Bertram. Over the course of the month, visitors will be invited to come in and explore the way she has used ceramics to examine identity - as well as explore some of the many workshops taking place, including lessons in photography and beading.

October 6 - 28 - Here & Now: Black History Month Exhibition at Brady Arts Centre

Arts organisation Alternative Arts is celebrating Black History Month with an exhibition of works that spotlights black British photographers. The lineup includes artists as diverse as Àsìkò and Olufemi Olaiya and have been selected and curated by East End Photographer Sarah Ainslie, and Alternative Arts Director, Maggie Pinhorn: perfect for an afternoon of contemplation and examining African and Caribbean culture in London.

October 6 - Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess screening + Q&A at Docklands, book tickets here

This year, the Museum of London Docklands is spotlighting the legendary resistance figure that is Queen Nanny. Born in the 1600s, she escaped from slavery and became a rebel leader of the legendary Maroons in the jungles of Jamaica. She was one of the first people to master modem guerilla warfare - and now her legacy is being celebrated with this documentary screening from award-winning filmmaker Roy T. Anderson.

October 8 - The Explorers Family Festival: Black Natural History

The Natural History Museum is celebrating Black History Month with a whole day of free activities, workshops and tours. There will be a sneak peek behind the scenes of the Spirit collection with Senior Curator of reptiles Patrick Campell (focussing on specimens from the African and Caribbean regions), workshops on how to make your own body butter and traditional weaving techniques, and talks on the way black communities have shaped our knowledge of natural history.

October 13 (also 20 and 27) - Selecta Suave’s Black History Month Takeover

Every Friday this month, Chivas Regal Ambassador Suave (@selectasuave) and Queen of the South Founder Clement Ogbonnaya will be curating a selection of DJs to play music from all across the Black diaspora and celebrate the sounds we love but may not be able to hear in mainstream venues. Running from 10.30pm to 2am, the lineup includes DJs like LAJ, ChuckieOnline, Donch and Mercedes Benson; perfect for relaxing before the weekend.

October 13 - Randall Goosby in Recital at Queen Elizabeth Hall, book tickets here

Rising star violinist Randall Goosby is joined by the equally prodigious pianist Zhu Wang for an evening of virtuoso music. They will be playing music by three great black composers and their contemporaries for one evening only, including Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, William Grant Still and Florence Price, as well as the people who inspired them.

October 13 - Jordan O - Friday Sessions at Poplar Union Soul Cafe

The monthly music event Soul Cafe celebrates Black History Month with a special themed event curated by local singer-songwriter Jordan O.

October 14 - Cugoano250: Julianknxx performance in Ode to Cugoano at St James’ Church, Piccadilly, book tickets here

Julianknxx wears many hats - artist, poet, filmmaker - but on October 14 he will be taking to the stage for a choral performance like no other. Working in collaboration with a London-based community choir, the evening will be an ode to prominent abolitionist Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Cugoano’s baptism at St James’s Church.

October 18 - Start from Scratch DJ workshop at Fabric

Beloved London club Fabric and DJing equipment brand Pioneer have teamed up with DJ and KISS radio presenter Esi to put on a free, beginners’ workshop for budding turntablists at Fabric. The three hour session is open to all aspiring Black DJs as well as those from other communities of colour. Check out the details and register here

October 21 - City of London: Slave Trade Money Trail Tour

The slave trade made Britain one of the richest countries in the world before its abolition in 1807. Its legacy is still very much evident today, not least in the buildings dotted around the City of London - now, Black Rooted’s history tours (which take place all through October) will seek to trace the city’s terrible history, and follow the blood money trail of the Lloyds family, who helped drive the slave trade in its earliest days.

October 21 - Pioneers Of Comedy at Hackney Empire, book tickets here

More and more black comedians are finding success on stage and screen, and this event seeks to pay tribute to those who first threw the doors open. For one night only, Hackney Empire will be hosting a star-studded comedy lineup to celebrate them, with performances from Richard Blackwood, Slim and Eddie Nestor.

October 21 - Black Book Festival 2023 at Goldsmiths, University of London, book tickets here

Indulge your love for reading in this grassroots festival at Goldsmiths University. Entry to the book expo and exhibitions is free, but pay up to £12 and you’ll be able to catch top black artists and authors talk about their craft - including science fiction writer Chiemeka, novelist Tony Fairweather and historian Robin Walker.

October 22 - So Solid Crew Perform at Camden Caribbean Brunch, book tickets here

Turtle Bay Camden is hosting the ultimate party on Saturday 22 October: inspired by the Black British experience and their influence on a multitude of music genres, from Garage to Funk and Hip-Hop, Turtle Bay is hosting one of their iconic bottomless brunches with two live DJ sets. Spinning the decks will be DJ Esi of KISS FM, followed by an exclusive performance from So Solid Crew at 5pm.

October 24 - Olivette Otele in Conversation at Museum of London Docklands, book tickets here

Olivette Otele is a Distinguished Research Professor of the Legacies and Memory of Slavery at SOAS - so she knows her stuff. Catch her at the Museum of London Docklands chatting to Renée Landell about the role of black women in resistance, abolition and anti-colonial movements around the world. The conversation will span Queen Nzinga to Fanny Coker - in all, it promises to be a fascinating evening.

October 27 - Island Movements with the Black British Ballet Project

Head to the Royal Opera House on October 27 for a free performance of this touring show. Choreographed by the first Black British graduate of the Royal Ballet School, Darren Panton, alongside Patrick Williams of the Alvin Ailey and Paris Opera companies, Island Movements tells the story of Windrush and explores the impact of this generation’s experiences on their families, communities and society. There’s a pulsating score from performance youth group Kinetika Bloco, a mix of reggae, calypso and contemporary Black British music and some excellent ballet: what more could you want?

October 27 - A sonic reflection on Windrush with Dubmorphology at Beaconsfield Gallery Vauxhall

Formed by artists Trevor Mathison and Gary Stewart, Dubmorphology is an experimental research and performance group that explores the links between culture, history and creativity in boundary-pushing multimedia installations that draw from and repurpose archival content. Their upcoming event at Beaconsfield will explore the legacy of Windrush through ambient scores.

October 29 - Image of the Black walking tour in Tate Britain, book tickets here

Organised by Black History Walks, this walk examines some of the most iconic art in the Tate Britain’s collection to uncover how black people were perceived and painted over the course of 500 years. From the response to slavery to the feminist and gay art of the 1900s, it truly spans the gamut and makes for an eye-opening experience.