Black to the Future: new biennial art festival celebrating black artists to launch

 (Udita Mukherjee )
(Udita Mukherjee )

A new art festival celebrating afro-futuristic literature, music and films will be launched by author Irenosen Okojie.

The biennial event, Black to the Future, is in partnership with the British Library and the Royal Society of Literature and will run along the British Library’s upcoming exhibition Fantasy: Realms of Imagination.

The festival will launch as part of British Black History Month in the UK and run until February next year when Black History Month takes part in the US.

It will be held at venues across London, including The Garden Cinema and The Standard Hotel.

Okojie, who judged the 2023 Women’s Prize for Fiction, said she founded the festival as a way to “open up the spaces” for black, indigenous and people of colour in art and literature beyond the “limited expectations.”

She said: “I want to showcase artists exploring intergalactic space operas, a female-only colony where black mermaids exist, electronic music paying homage to the legacy of Drexciya.”

BttF opens with the theme Black Phantasmagoria, with a focus on finding “invigorating dialogues and genres” within black literature and art.

The festival offers live-streamed talks, readings, performances and workshops hosted by local and international talent. Entrepreneurs will also be present as part of the technological strand of the festival.

Some of the headliners include actress Adjoa Andoh, authors N.K. Jemisin, Victor LaValle, Ken Liu, Leone Ross, Natasha Bowen, and Tade Thompson, along with producer Alby James, and narrative designer Chella Ramanan.

The festival will kick off at The Garden Cinema with a screening of the sci-fi musical Neptune Frost by Saul Williams, introduced by Africa-in-Motion founder Liz Chege and photographer David Kwaw Mensah.

Director of Royal Society of Literature, Molly Rosenberg, said:“We’re proud to support this new festival and excited to see how it will continue to evolve, and what it will mean for readers and writers.”

Okojie’s team includes creative director Sara Veal and events producer Elliot Jack, who runs the literary cabaret Book Slam, which has featured authors like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Okojie said: “There’s been lots of conversations about the lack of space for BIPOC in the arts. It occurred to me that I could use my agency to do something positive and so creating a festival firmly anchoring the depth and dimensions of black lives in the future feels boundlessly rich and liberating.”