Award-winning poet John Agard has inspired a new generation with a stirring performance at Sussex Downs College.
The Lewes resident and renowned wordsmith, who recently received the Queen’s Gold Medal for poetry, gave a spell-binding recital of his work as part of the College’s celebrations for Black History Month, which kicked-off on Wednesday, October 9.
Attended by students, staff, friends of the college and dignitaries including The Worshipful The Mayor of Lewes Cllr Ruth O’Keeffe, the event at the College’s Lewes campus celebrated Caribbean and African culture through food, music, poetry, dance and the arts.
Headlined by John, the all-star cast featured Sierra Leonean writer and poet Kadija George – herself the recipient of many awards – and renowned musician Paul Gladstone-Reid MBE, who blew the audience away with a fascinating speech about globalisation.
Music for the evening was supplied by African DJ Tony Kalume and Cuban band Son Guarachando, who had the crowd off their seats and on to the dance floor.
There were also dance and singing performances from Embrace and Clap Star Music – groups formed by Sussex Downs College students.
Melanie Hunt, Principal of Sussex Downs College, said: “I am tremendously grateful to the talented artists and students who gave their time to make this event so special.
“We wholeheartedly embrace diversity throughout the college and celebrating Black History Month is just one of many ways we engage with the rich cultural tapestry of our country’s heritage.”
John Agard said: “I was pleased to be involved in Sussex Downs’ Black History Month celebrations and wish people to recognise that the English language is the greatest metaphor we have for diversity.
“I would like people to see Black History Month as something not isolated, but connected to everything and that history becomes something they experience themselves.”
Paul Gladstone-Reid said: “Humanity has been spreading ideas long before the advent of Facebook and Twitter and it’s important to examine how we came to be.
“By celebrating Black History Month, Sussex Downs College has provided an opportunity for us to glean a deeper understanding of the genealogy of our historical story.
“I would urge people to be curious about our history – to investigate and to inquire – because our past refers to our present in order to propel us into the future.”
The College will continue to celebrate Black History Month by screening a series of films centred on Caribbean, African and African American life and culture, to be shown weekly throughout October at the Lewes and Eastbourne campuses.