Lee Jasper, Chair of Brixton Splash, has posted a message to Brixton businesses – many of whom have failed to support the event in August – on his blog.
UPDATE 20/7/12: Lee Jasper has now removed this post from his blog and apologised for it after the furore that followed on urban75 and on the comment boards here. You can read what he wrote below
Brixton Splash 2012 celebrates London’s fantastic’s diversity and nowhere is that more evident that in Brixton itself.
Once infamous, Brixton is now famous as London’s most dynamic multicultural hotspot for food music and fashion. Forget London’s West End or Notting Hill: Brixton is now regarded as the best new place to shop, eat, drink and relax in the capital.
Although the notion of multiculturalism is under political attack from some quarters the reality of Brixton continues to befuddle those critics who have sought to portray multiculturalism as a weakness.
We reject that analysis and say walk through Brixton on a sunny day and hear languages from all round the world, smell food from almost every continent and island and dance to the world music.
Diversity can be a real strength and despite the premature declaration about the end of multiculturalism, the reality is that in an increasingly globalised world this is what the future of all major cities looks like.
This year we celebrate not only the London 2012 Olympics but also the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence. We will be rocking to major sound systems and our live music stage will contain some real surprises on the day.
Taking place on the same day as Brixton Splash 2012, the fastest man on earth Usain Bolt runs the 100 meters in the Olympic final. So all things being well this will be the biggest Jamaican Olympic gold medal winner’s party in London!
We have been very fortunate to secure partnerships with local and national employment agencies to ensure all our many volunteers who help deliver the Splash get access to some unique, good quality employment opportunities. With youth unemployment rising to incredibly high levels in Brixton this is an extremely important aspect of the festival.
This year we have a much more developed Arts/Craft village and children’s play area based in St Matthew’s Meeting Place. There will be lots of activities for families as well an opportunity to see some wonderful arts and craft stalls.
The food stalls will be many and varied providing a gastronomic kaleidoscope of tastes and smells from around the world. Such is the demand for these stalls that although we increased the overall number available this year they have all sold out.
We will be also holding a free pensioner’s party recreating a 1950’s Tea Party Dance at Lambeth Town Hall where we will honour those London pensioners of the Windrush generation on Saturday the 4th August. We have an unfortunate tendency to forget the huge and in many cases largely unrecognised contributions of our pioneer pensioners.
At the Electric formerly the Fridge we will be hosting the Brixton Splash 2012 After Party where we will be screening the race the whole world will be watching live. On stage will be the mighty Skatalite Rico & the Brixton Band, a host of DJs like the world famous Blackadread and Festus Coxsone playing revival music from the 1950s up to the present, a host of comedians and lots and I mean this, lots of special guests.
We will be hosting in partnership with the Voice Newspaper Brixton’s Black Cultural Archives and Brixton Library to present a wonderful photographic exhibition and public seminars that feature the themeJamaican Independence Jamaican Arrival.
We have received great support from companies like Jamaica National, Celebrating Jamaica 50th, Stay Bar, McDonalds, Lambeth Council, Arts Council, Electric and the Electric Social, Ritzy Cinema, The Market House and last but by no means least the Jamaican Government to mention just a few.
However whilst this has been fantastic I have to say locally we are more than disappointed at the response from some of the businesses in central Brixton.
This includes some big names such as KFC alongside new businesses that have recently opened up and some of the larger local businesses that have been in Brixton for some time.
Over the last four weeks we have distributed hundreds of local sponsorship packs that were hand delivered to most businesses in central Brixton.
We asked for two things to help support the festival. One was cash sponsorship: as a not-for-profit company and in the current climate we are trying to rebalance our financial model to make us less dependant on statutory funding.
Secondly we asked if they could consider finding a work placement or mentoring a young unemployed person. We offered to source and support these young people whilst receiving training. Operating outside the discredited Governments Work Programme we are actively and positively seeking new employment opportunities for local young people.
Most of the local hair and beauty shops on Atlantic Road simply refused to help in any way. I personally attended these businesses and one response was to offer me five pounds. One particular shop owner or manager and his staff were offensive, rude and dismissive in their response. I was quite shocked by this particular response.
I found this surprising when one considers their clientele: thousands of black women purchase their products daily from these businesses and yet they have simply refused to support an event from which the whole community benefits.
Many of the new restaurants and cafes in central Brixton have also simply refused to support the event. Most have, to date not even had the courtesy to acknowledge our appeal. Sam Marino Café refused, as did all of the businesses in the Village.
The same is true of some, not all, but certainly the majority of the major butchers and meat wholesalers and market stall holders all of whom rely on local shoppers.
There are some notable exceptions to this and we will be publishing a full list of those businesses that have sponsored Brixton Splash 2012 and those that did not.
There is much controversy and debate about the changing nature of Brixton. There are concerns that the African and Caribbean community is being slowly squeezed out by ever increasing rents inflated by increased demand. Many locals who campaigned and fought to ensure that the market became a world heritage listed site now see themselves priced out by increasing rents.
Unemployed young people are watching these restaurants selling food they cannot personally afford to people who come to Brixton precisely because of the multicultural nature of our wonderful village.
Brixton is a village therefore it is important that local businesses ensure that they are not simply doing business by taking the communities money and running.
Brixton Splash makes an enormous contribution to the local economy, giving local business a much needed boost at a time when the economy continues to decline.
Numbers in central Brixton increase by over 450% as thousands of people flock to Brixton to enjoy the festival. We have become an important part of the local economy and as such could have reasonably expected local businesses to respond positively to appeals for support.
The riots last year and the huge cuts to public spending means that local communities need more support from local businesses as the effects of the cuts and continuing recession continues to increase poverty and unemployment.
We are now only a few weeks away from what will be the biggest and best Splash ever. We are committed to ensuring that Brixton’s dynamic diversity is recognised and channeled into economic benefit and employment opportunities for local people.
Post event we will be exploring, with the community, how we can educate local communities and consumers in central Brixton on which businesses are good neighbours and citizens and those who have little regard for their custom.
We have three weeks to go and still hoping that more businesses will respond and I’m sure some will, however the issue of corporate social responsibility for big businesses and local engagement from small traders will be addressed through public discussion and debate.
London has the largest concentration of Jamaicans anywhere in the world outside of Jamaica and this year promises to be a great celebration of the Olympics and 50 years of Jamaican independence. The streets will team with people from all over the world who marvel at the way we here in the UK all get along.
That is the goose that laid the multicultural egg and the reason why Brixton is increasingly attractive to new businesses so we need to work together to ensure that we can promote all that’s best in Brixton and local business will need to improve their game working with organisations like Brixton Splash to ensure our continued success is enjoyed by all.”