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What’s the future of Plymouth Respect Festival?

Updated: May 11

Since 1998, Plymouth Respect Festival has been a key event in the city’s calendar. Bringing together people from across Plymouth, it celebrates our diversity in a truly spectacular way.

At Plymouth and Devon Racial Equality Council we’re very proud to coordinate this event, which can only happen thanks to the hard work and enthusiasm of more groups and individuals than we can name.

We look forward to the Plymouth Respect Festival every year, but in 2020 we made the very difficult decision to cancel the event because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2021, with restrictions still in place, we ran our first virtual Respect Festival.

So, what have we learned from this experience and what does this mean for the future of the Plymouth Respect Festival?

Digitising the Respect Festival

On 5 June 2021, people from around the world tuned into a dedicated YouTube channel to watch Dan Thompson, who has been involved with Plymouth Respect Festival since day one, launch the festival.

Throughout the day, with support from FotoNow, we were treated to a dazzling array of performances. With flamenco dancing in front of the lido and South Asian singing on Dartmoor to poetry, music and dance performances filmed in homes across the city and beyond, our virtual visitors enjoyed a spectacular showcase from Plymouth’s unique mix of communities.

The Respect festival usually includes a diverse mix of stalls that people can visit to get information about organisations from across the city. A priority for us in 2021 was to keep the relationship with all the groups that would usually run stalls. We opened up our Facebook page to give those organisations a platform on which to promote their services.

We even managed to have a virtual parade, with artist Karen Evans creating a series of films with schools and community groups.

Despite the challenges, we also launched some Respect festival firsts. Collaborating with The Human Library we gave people an opportunity to share their personal stories in a new way. And, with support from WonderZoo, we ran the Hidden Histories of Plymouth, which celebrated 10 figures who had made a significant contribution to our city’s culture.

Importantly to everyone at PDREC and beyond, the 2021 festival was a tribute to Respect Festival founder Ann Wilkinson, who was a driving force for the creation of PDREC and against racism and discrimination in the city.

Bringing people together

With the hard work and commitment of everyone who took part, from the two YouTube hosts to all the performers and everyone behind the scenes, our virtual Respect Festival was a success. So, what does this mean for the future?

While the 2021 festival showed how much we can achieve with a virtual festival, there is still no substitute for bringing people together in person. From tasting delicacies at the food stalls to joining the colourful and vibrant parade along the Hoe, some experiences just can’t be recreated online.

While the virtual event gave us the opportunity to reach new audiences, we missed the human connection of being together in person.

This is why we are working really hard to make sure we can bring Plymouth Respect Festival back to the city in 2022.

Plymouth Respect Festival 2022: planning for the future

The next Plymouth Respect Festival takes place on 9 July 2022. Our challenge for the future is to achieve a blend of a virtual and physical event.

The 2021 Plymouth Respect Festival became international as it gave people across the world the opportunity to take part in the event. We reached new people and members of our communities in Plymouth were able to invite family and friends overseas to attend our virtual festival.

We are now thinking hard about how can we continue to reach new audiences and remove some of the barriers to attending the festival.

However, there is such a need for people to meet face to face and that has always been what makes our festival special. PDREC established the first Plymouth Respect festival to combat the racism and discrimination that black, Asian and ethnic communities were experiencing in the city.

Since then, the festival’s ethos has been to bring Plymouth’s communities together to celebrate its differences and commonalities through music, food and dance. Our aim remains to challenge negative and fearful perceptions and create a more cohesive city.

Sadly, these challenges and problems remain. That means we need the Respect festival as much as ever.

As we start to shape the Respect Festival 2022, we are looking for support and ideas from community groups, businesses and individuals. Together, we think we can make Respect Festival 2022 the best yet.

If you want to get involved in the Respect Festival, please contact us

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