Commonwealth Games Cultural Festival accused of pushing people of color out | Commonwealth Games 2022

Organizations in the West Midlands have accused the Commonwealth Games of failing to engage with the region’s multicultural communities.

A number of groups have claimed that organizers of the sporting event, which takes place in Birmingham in July, ignored their requests for involvement, and said creative groups led by people of color were put on the line. gap for the cultural festival that takes place alongside the Games.

“Birmingham is such a diverse city, we have the whole Commonwealth here and they have missed this opportunity,” said Aftab Rahman, director of Legacy West Midlands, a charity promoting migrant heritage and community wellbeing. “It’s important for us as a city, it will put us on the international stage. But when they accepted the Games, one of the most important points was diversity. And that didn’t happen.

Rahman was one of many signatories to an open letter to the Games published last month which claimed that “Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities appear to have been ignored and key contributors to this local culture and business innovation ignored”. .

Martin Green, the Games’ creative director, responded to the claims by saying: “While some of the fears expressed are entirely valid and understandable, I am truly convinced that in the end they will prove to be unfounded. Unfortunately, no matter what type of financing you have, there are always choices to be made.

He said the schedule of events was still being worked on and “anyone can go and see the program as it stands now and see for themselves that it really reflects this place.”

Varun Singh, program manager at Sandwell and Birmingham Mela, the UK’s largest South Asian music festival, who also signed the open letter, said: ‘We engaged with them, the cultural team we gave lip service but often we did not hear from them. You feel like you’ve been left out. We want to work together. It’s sad that we had to shout about it like that.

“But it’s not too late. Our doors are open. We are ready to work with the cultural team. He said that the Mela had submitted a proposal to be present during the Games but had not yet received a response.

Singh also said he had asked for a breakdown of the recipients of all Games grants and creative commissions to date, but organizers said that while they had “nothing to hide”, they would not release the results. information until the calendar of events is complete. .

Jatinder Singh, the chairman of Guru Nanak Gurdwara near the Sandwell Aquatics Center – newly built for the event – said he had received “continuous negative responses” trying to work with the Commonwealth Games, including inviting Perry, the event’s mascot, to visit.

“It has been very disheartening to be honest. The lack of response we got really put the brakes on the situation. It’s not that we want to cause problems for the Games themselves, because that’s something we’re proud of,” he said. “But we are located a mile from a multi-million pound complex built for the Games. We would like to be more involved.

“We have 10,000 people coming to our gurdwara every week. I tell our congregation about the Games and what’s going on, but how or why am I supposed to do this when the people I’m promoting don’t want to know? »

This is not the first time the event has been criticized for equality issues. It came under heavy criticism in 2020 when it was revealed that its entire executive team was white and all but one of its board members were also white. He responded by recruiting more diverse board members and hiring an equality officer.

Commonwealth Games organizers said they held 50 community hub events and 60 community tours, which reached nearly 150,000 local residents, as well as diversity and faith forums to consult with community representatives.

Darcy J. Skinner