Black History Month was important this year. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, all eyes are on all organisations large or small, to stand up and be counted in the struggle for racial equality. Recognising Black History Month and being seen to celebrate it felt more pertinent than ever. Did you notice? The plethora of black this and black that events/talks/podcasts/tv shows/magazine covers/panel discussions/interviews. It was more of a tsunami than a wave this year. It was glorious, yes, but it was also short-lived and now that we’re in November, I’m willing to bet my lockdown toilet roll that it’s back to business as usual.
In meetings Team Bubble discussed what we might do to mark the occasion; where, how and with which projects? Limitations of working from home aside, the truth is that Bubble has never really celebrated Black History Month. Speaking with veteran members of staff, I have come to the conclusion that the reason for this is probably a little bit because Bubble hasn’t had to. That Blackness is embedded into the very fabric of the theatre-making that we do (because PEOPLE make theatre) and so to single it out feels slightly strange and unnatural. Still, we agreed that we are imperfect, the conversations were had and I was sure to share with the team my age-old gripe that too often Black History Month ends up just being Black Culture Month; with everyone cooking/sharing traditional dishes, buying African print and spotlighting Black celebrities. Or worse still, with everyone focusing on slavery and its legacy of victimhood, neo-colonialism and racism when none of that is Black history.
We have decided to launch an inquiry into the Black History of Bubble and give it the space and time it needs. Founded in 1972, Bubble’s purpose has always been to bring people together in the creating and enjoying of theatre. Over the years the vehicle and methodology for achieving this has shapeshifted but our determination to be inclusive has not. Black Theatre Matters aims to explore Bubble’s history through a black lens. It’s both a timeline and a celebration. Examining the various moments, themes and dynamics of theatre produced by Bubble in the context of the wider theatre world, just might help us to recognise when we have been on the right side of history from when we haven’t. It’s a way of looking backwards to move forwards. In other words, Sankofa; the official symbol of Black History Month. Go back and get it.
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