Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre is this autumn hosting a new festival celebrating Black creativity, invention, collaboration and entrepreneurship in the West Midlands.

Black Futures invites artists, businesses and cultural leaders to take over the theatre building and pioneer new ways of sharing creative work in the lead-up to Coventry’s City of Culture year in 2021. 

The festival features visual art, photography, poetry, discussions, performances and a number of creative demonstrations, ranging from natural hair workshops to the live creation of an art installation.

Here is a taster of what the festival has to offer audiences - both online and in person.

Motherland Exhibition - Belgrade Theatre foyer until 14 October and online from Monday 12 October

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 their efforts to reconnect with their roots in order to better understand their place in the present and future.

Black Futures Exhibition Belgrade Theatre foyer, 15 October - 2 November

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 foyer, with a virtual walk-through also available online.

Boys to Men - Mind Taster Workshop - online, Thursday 22 October at 7pm

Research shows 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 support young Black men’s mental health.

Yxng & Gxfted Panel Discussion - online, Saturday 24 October from 6 to 8pm

An exploration of Black Futures developed by and for young people aged 11 to 18 through Maokwo’s Yxng & Gxfted programme. The discussion will be held online via Zoom - places must be booked in advance.

Creativity As A Form of Activism: Yxng & Gxfted workshops - online, Friday 30 October, 12noon - 4pm 

Young people aged 11 to18 are invited to reimagine their futures through a series of workshops led by young artists from Maokwo’s Yxng & Gxfted programme. Three workshops focusing 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 must be booked in advance.

Supporting Black-owned Businesses - Belgrade Theatre foyer, throughout October

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

Performance: Black Future - Belgrade Theatre B2 Stage, Friday 30 October, 6 to 8pm and online, Saturday 31 October, 7pm - 9pm

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 - online, 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 experiences.

Workshop: Dear Black Women - online, 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.

Static: In Conversation - online, 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.

Further details for all events, and how to book, can be found at belgrade.co.uk/whats-on/black-futures