Institutional racism threatens success of UK’s black music

Institutional racism threatens success of UK’s black music

INSTITUTIONAL RACISM: Dave topped the charts with his debut album, but success for black British artists means overcoming prejudice

INSTITUTIONAL RACISM threatens the success of black British music and artists, a report from MPs has said.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s report on live music, which was published on Tuesday, found that there were numerous cases of councils and venues failing to support urban acts because of concerns over perceived risks.

Even since the Metropolitan Police’s controversial form 696 was scrapped, a move that the committee said it welcomed, those working with Britain’s urban music scene are clear that prejudice against artists producing or playing black music remains.

Jane Beese, head of music at The Roundhouse, told MPs that urban music “is not being supported by local councils, by licensees”.

Beese said: “There is still an amount of what I believe to be institutionalised racism, which is hindering that scene rather than allowing it to flourish.”

While artists such as Dave, whose debut album Psychodrama has topped the UK album charts, and Stormzy, whose independently released debut album Gang Signs & Prayer also reached Number 1, have enjoyed phenomenal success, many artists face huge obstacles when it comes to having equal access to performing.

One artist who gave evidence to the committee shared their personal experience of how the policies that unfairly target them have affected their livelihood.

“I had a venue cancel on me on the day that I was meant to go there. I was booked for a performance in a club and called them ahead of time to say, ‘I am on my way’, and they said, ‘Oh, by the way, we were just listening to your music. You make Hip Hop’. I said, ‘Yes’, and he said, ‘Oh, we cannot do that here, we will lose our licence’,” the committee reported rapper ShaoDow said.

DJ Target said: “It could be a venue that has been pressured to cancel the event by the police. It could be a local authority that pulls a licence or threatens to pull a licence if you have that event. It is coming from different levels. The small promoter cannot afford to have his licence taken away. The small venue that already is struggling cannot afford to risk it so then they end up saying, ‘Okay. We do not do those types of nights anymore’.”

“It is concerning to hear that prejudices against urban acts persist. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Home Office should work together to develop guidance for licensing authorities, police forces and music venues on how to collaborate on managing risks to ensure that urban music acts are not unfairly targeted,” the report said.

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