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Lewisham: London Borough of Culture 2022 programme, to showcase creativity, diversity and tackle climate emergency

Lewisham: London Borough of Culture 2022 programme, to showcase creativity, diversity and tackle climate emergency

The London Borough of Lewisham has unveiled plans for its year as London Borough of Culture 2022 – We Are Lewisham – at the iconic Rivoli Ballroom hosted by Brenda Emmanus (main image pictured with Inua Ellams: credit ALT A). The programme, a Mayor of London initiative, will celebrate the borough’s rich diversity, provide a platform for the voices of local young people and inspire climate action through art, music, performance, poetry, discussion and debate – highlighting the power of culture to create change.

Olympian Alex Yee, Deputy Mayor for Culture Justine Simons, Brenda Emmanus, Inua Ellams and guests attend the programme launch of We Are Lewisham, the Mayor’s London Borough of Culture 2022, at Rivoli Ballroom in Crofton Park, London. David Parry/PA Wire

Lewisham will celebrate the power of culture and its diverse communities, aiming to bring about positive change in its year as London Borough of Culture, which will include:

  • Breathe 2022, a striking new public artwork about air pollution by artist Dryden Goodwin and Invisible Dust that pays tribute to Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah
  • A dance spectacular by Alleyne Dance and IRIE! Dance Theatre, with a cast of over 200 local performers celebrating the contribution of migration to the borough
  • UK premiere of the award-winning climate change artwork Sun & Sea, Golden Lion winner at the Venice Biennale
  • Revolution Though Music, a celebration of Lewisham’s activist history and its rich contribution to music in Britain, with Dave Okumu, Novelist and Linton Kwesi Johnson
  • Climate Home, a new, low carbon creative space designed and led by young people

The ambitious programme, inspired by the history of activism in the borough, will begin in January 2022, and will kick off with a borough-wide opening celebration that pays homage to Lewisham’s change makers, trailblazers, and social justice pioneers.

The We Are Lewisham programme will include a new outdoor dance spectacle taking place in Beckenham Place Park, directed by choreographers Kristina and Sade Alleyne and developed in partnership with IRIE! Dance theatre. The event will highlight Black creative leaders in dance and feature an intergenerational cast of over 200 local performers in a mass performance that brings stories to life and showcases the rich and positive impact of migration on the borough.

Breathe: 2022 will be a striking new public artwork that has been commissioned close to the South Circular Road. Presented by Invisible Dust and created by artist Dryden Goodwin, ten years on from his first creation of Breathe, it will depict his five-year-old son inhaling and exhaling and highlight the growing emergency for climate action, paying homage to the case of Lewisham resident Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, 9. Ella’s mother, Rosamund, tirelessly and successfully campaigned for air pollution to be included on her death certificate, due to the adverse effects of air pollution to her health.  

Revolution Through Music will tell the story of Lewisham’s activist musical heritage and celebrate its grassroots musical culture that has evolved from the borough.  Political and cultural movements such as Rock Against Racism thrived in Lewisham and brought people together to share their common joy for music and take a stand against increasing racist attacks and support for the far-right. Pop, grime, afrobeat, jazz, global, classical and punk all play a part in Lewisham’s diverse musical ancestry. Spread across March, May, August and October, there will be musical events taking place across the borough in venues and public spaces, with Dave Okumu, Novelist and Linton Kwesi Johnson.

Co-presented with the Albany, LIFT and Serpentine, the UK premier of the award-winning Sun & Sea at the Albany will include ten tons of sand, 13 vocalists and an all-female creative team. The theatrical installation stunned audiences at the 2019 Venice Biennale, earning the coveted Golden Lion award.  It will transform the Albany, recreating a beach scene inviting visitors to explore the relationship between people and our planet.

Other highlights will include Sonic Phô which will bring food and stories from the largest Vietnamese community in London together in one unique audio experience, Liberty Festival, showcasing a diverse programme of ground-breaking art, performance and interactive installations from D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists and Climate Home, which will put the voices of young people from diverse backgrounds at the centre of climate justice in a new low carbon pop-up creative space, based in Deptford. The pop-up venue will house an eclectic climate focused programme of performances and events led by youth arts collective Sounds Like Chaos and a network of local partners to create training, employment and commissioning opportunities for young creatives.  

Damien Egan Mayor of Lewisham said: “Lewisham’s year as London Borough of Culture will celebrate everything that is great about our borough and showcase the incredible talents from Lewisham. From famous names performing in brilliant venues to inspiring events in our parks and schools and celebrations of the music and events that have defined us – our year as London Borough of Culture will be open to everyone, with events popping up across the whole borough; in our markets, local businesses and on street corners, created with and by local people. We’ll be giving a platform to the very best of what Lewisham has to offer – from Catford to Crofton, Downham to Deptford, and Lewisham to Lee – and we can’t wait to welcome people to have a great time exploring our borough.”

Lewisham’s landmark creative institutions; Trinity Laban, Goldsmiths University of London, the Rivoli Ballroom, the Albany and the Horniman Museum, will be part of the ‘We Are Lewisham’ programme, which will also explore the historical depth of the borough and immigration, and will bring different generations, artists and members of the community together to create a lasting legacy of positive change.

London Borough of Culture is a Mayor of London initiative which puts culture at the heart of local communities. It celebrates the character and diversity of London’s boroughs, aiming to increase access to culture for everyone.1

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Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said: “Lewisham has unveiled an outstanding programme of events that will showcase the borough’s grassroots creativity, musical heritage and diverse community. The entire borough will be engaged in an incredible year of cultural activity and climate action with young Londoners at the heart of it all.

“Culture is our DNA and our London Borough of Culture programme has shown the power the arts have to inspire – bringing communities together and to celebrate world-class creativity right on their doorsteps.

“Lewisham’s ambitious programme will show how culture can empower communities to pursue positive change. It is a fantastic opportunity to shine a spotlight on the talent, innovation and artistry that can be found across our capital and will be a very exciting year for its residents, Londoners and visitors alike.”

Gavin Barlow Creative Director of Lewisham, London Borough of Culture said: “As well as being a much-needed call to action, we’re excited to announce a programme that is also joyful and celebratory. Lewisham has always been somewhere that stands up for what it believes in, and the year will showcase the power of the arts to inspire positive change and celebrate our borough’s contributions to music, visual art, dance and more. In the Albany’s role as Lead Delivery Partner, we’ve worked closely with Lewisham Council as well as local residents, organisations and communities to co-create something that is authentic and true to the spirit of Lewisham that everyone can enjoy.”

Kae Tempest said: “I feel so proud of being from Lewisham and, more importantly than that, it’s an integral part of my musicality, my politics, my understanding of the entire world and how it works. If I wasn’t from Lewisham I don’t think I’d be the artist I am. James Joyce said: “If I can get to the heart of Dublin, I can get to the heart of the world” and that’s exactly how I feel about Lewisham – it’s so present in my work. Everything’s here – you don’t have to look anywhere else, just be here and you will understand the universal in the particular. I feel like my formative experiences, the music that I was around, that I played and the people that I played with – the accessibility to space that we had back in those days…it was just integral.”