Rise Festival

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2008 National Delegate Conference
18 June 2008

Conference condemns the recent decision by the newly elected Tory Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to take anti-racist campaigning and politics out of the annual Rise Festival.

In a statement issued to trade unions last week, and confirmed in writing to UNISON on Tuesday, Johnson’s Director of Cultural Policy stated that the explicitly anti-racist campaigning message was to be replaced with one of “joyous celebration of music and culture” and that “it is no longer appropriate to have overtly political campaigning groups involved”. As a result the National Assembly Against Racism has had its tented area removed and it’s volunteers rejected, while the Cuba Solidarity Campaign has been refused entry.

Conference is appalled by the London Mayor’s latest act, which exposes his true right wing beliefs. The man who once called Black people “picaninnies” with “watermelon smiles” now denigrates the memory of Stephen Lawrence, after whose brutal racist murder the festival was first established, and all other Black citizens who have suffered at the hands of racism in this country.

This act by the Mayor has also given new life to the British National Party who recently won a seat on the Greater London Assembly. The BNP, who supported Johnson’s campaign as Mayor, openly welcomed the decision on Tuesday claiming Britain’s major anti-racist music festival was in fact just an “orgy of anti-BNP rhetoric”.

Conference is further alarmed at the blatant attack on the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, the only organisation to be targeted as an “overtly political campaigning group”. Confirmation that Johnson sits firmly in the right wing, pro-Bush camp supporting the blockade and interference in this independent country.

Conference urges the General Political Fund and the Greater London Region to implement their welcome decisions to withdraw funding from the festival. UNISON has a proud and successful record in campaigning against racism and injustice and must make a stand against any attempts to weaken or undermine this.

Further, Conference calls on the National Executive Council to work with relevant bodies within the Union to ensure this message is conveyed firmly to the London Mayor, is publicised widely amongst our members and the wider public, and that UNISON works with other unions and relevant campaign groups to ensure that anti-racist campaigning continues to thrive in Britain’s capital city and across the country.