Black History Month test events kickstart a new model for celebrating Black creativity in the West Midlands

Header image from Motherland by Ayesha Jones

With Black History Month now widely marked across the UK, October is generally recognised as a time for reflecting on the past. But how does history inform our understanding of the present, and how will current events shape the histories of the future?

In the wake of recent Black Lives Matter protests across the world, migrant-led arts organisation Maokwo has teamed up with the Belgrade Theatre to develop Black Futures, a pioneering programme that will ask urgent questions about where we go from here.

Taking place both online and in-person, Black Futures is a multi-disciplinary celebration of Black creativity, collaboration and entrepreneurship in the West Midlands. Expect visual art, photography, poetry, discussion, performance and live workshops as artists, businesses, cultural leaders and young people take over the building, testing out new ways of sharing creative work as we emerge from the Covid crisis.

In line with Maokwo’s ethos of giving space to diverse artists and amplifying often unheard voices, the programme has been co-created by young people through its Yxng & Gxfted initiative, empowering them to tell their own stories and shape their own visions for their future.

Events taking place in October and November will lay the groundwork for ongoing collaborations in the lead up to 2021, ensuring Black voices continue to be heard throughout our City of Culture year and beyond, long after Black History Month is over.

The programme below offers a flavour of what to expect over the next few weeks – keep checking back for updates!


Motherland Exhibition

Belgrade Theatre foyer – 8-14 Oct
Visit the exhibition online

Over the course of three years, photographer and Belgrade Theatre Audience Development Officer Ayesha Jones travelled with her mother to Burkina Faso, Togo, Ghana and Benin, setting out to deepen their understanding of their ancestors’ culture and history. Combining analogue and digital photography, this week-long exhibition captures their journey and efforts to reconnect with their roots in order to better understand their place in the present and future.

Ayesha Jones said: “These images offer a snapshot of a reality that has ‘natural order’ at its centre. I was exposed to a culture that has been working with nature for thousands of years. At the beginning of our visit I was told that in the Motherland they call people from the West like us, ‘the people with eyes who can’t see’. By the end of our stay, I knew exactly what they meant.”

Black Futures Exhibition

15 October – 2 November
Belgrade Theatre foyer

Local creators from Maokwo’s Fusion Artist Network and Yxng & Gxfted programme respond to the theme of Black Futures with a visual art exhibition comprising painting, photography, sculpture and the live creation of an installation piece. Displayed on both floors of the Belgrade Theatre foyer, the exhibition will feature work by Ryan Hart, Japhet Dndinganga, Zoey Sibanda and more. A virtual walk-through will also be available online.

Boys to Men – Mind Taster Workshop

7pm, Thursday 22 October
Online – Booking opens soon

Research has show that Black men are much more likely to be diagnosed with severe mental health problems than their peers. Yet before the age of 11, there is no evidence of poorer mental health among Black boys than in other children of the same age. Led by a representative from mental health charity Mind, this online workshop will explore the causes of this disparity, and what can be done to help build resilience and support the mental health of young Black men.

Yxng & Gxfted Panel Discussion

6-8pm, Saturday 24 October
Online – Book Now

An exploration of Black Futures developed by and for young people aged 11-18 through Maokwo’s Yxng and Gxfted programme. The discussion will be held online via Zoom – booking will be open via Eventbrite soon.

Creativity as a Form of Activism: Yxng & Gxfted workshops

Fri 30 Oct, 12-4pm
Online – Book Now

Young people aged 11-18 are invited to reimagine their futures through a series of workshops led by young artists from Maokwo’s Yxng & Gxfted programme. Three workshops focused on visual art, music and poetry will explore how the arts can be used as a form of activism, inviting participants to develop their own creative responses to George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter movement. Places will be available to book soon via Eventbrite.

Supporting Black-owned Businesses

Throughout the month
Belgrade Theatre foyer

Throughout the month, the Belgrade will be offering up space in its foyer for Black entrepreneurs to display flyers and information about their businesses. To enquire, please contact Ayesha Jones by emailing

Performance: Black Future – Untitled

6-8pm, Fri 30 Oct, Belgrade Theatre B2 Stage – Book Now
7-9pm, Sat 31 Oct, Online – Book Now

Join artists and speakers from the Maokwo Fusion Artists Network to wrap up the month with an evening of socially distanced performance and discussion, either in-person at the Belgrade Theatre or online. Facilitated by Maokwo – an emerging, migrant-led company supported by the Belgrade’s Springboard talent development programme – this live event will be divided into two parts, followed by a chance to visit the Black Futures exhibition in the Theatre foyer.

Kicking off the evening, performance poets John Bernard and Chrissie Okorie will use spoken word to convey what Black Futures means to them. A second, interactive performance will follow, with Maokwo Artistic Director, storyteller and body adornment artist Laura Nyahuye joined by designer, storyteller and lecturer Pam Samasuwo-Nyawiri for an on-stage exploration and celebration of difference.

This double-bill of creative reflection will ask questions about how we communicate the need for change, and celebrate the diverse backgrounds and specialisms we draw upon to do so.

Natural Hair Workshop

Early November – Date TBC

Local hairdresser Naomi Richards will be giving an online demonstration of her work with natural Black hair, which will be shared alongside stories from the community about their own hair stories.

Workshop: Dear Black Women

Early November – Date TBC

Serena Flaidbury presents a toolkit for overcoming trauma aimed at supporting Black women. Adopting an Afrocentric perspective, her work caters to those who may be less well served by Western systems of healing.

Workshop: Body Mindfulness Meditation

Early November – Date TBC

Static: In Conversation

Early November – Date TBC

Join local grime artist Static for a short performance, followed by an in-conversation exploration of his work in the context of Black Futures and what it means to be a young Black man in Britain today.