Commonwealth Games cultural festival accused of sidelining people of color | Commonwealth Games 2022

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

A number of groups claimed organizers of the sporting event, taking place in Birmingham in July, have ignored their requests to get involved, and said creative groups led by people of color have been sidelined for the cultural festival running alongside the Games.

“Birmingham is such a diverse city, we’ve got the whole of the Commonwealth here and they’ve missed that opportunity,” said Aftab Rahman, the director of Legacy West Midlands, a charity promoting migrant heritage and community wellbeing. “It’s a big thing for us as a city, it will put us on the international stage. But when they took the Games on, one of the biggest points was diversity. And it hasn’t happened. ”

Rahman was one of a number of signatories of an open letter to the Games published last month that claimed “Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities seem to have been sidestepped and major contributors to this local culture and business innovation ignored”.

Martin Green, the chief creative officer of the Games, responded to the claims by saying: “While some of the fears being expressed are completely valid and understandable, I am really confident that at the end of the day, they will prove to be unfounded. . Unfortunately, no matter what kind of funding you have, there are always choices to be made. ”

He said the schedule of events is still a work in progress, and “anyone can go and look at the program as it currently stands and see for themselves that it’s really reflective of this place.”

Varun Singh, a program manager at Sandwell and Birmingham Mela, the UK’s biggest south Asian music festival, which also signed the open letter, said: “We’ve engaged with them, we’ve been given lip service by the cultural team but often we’ve not heard back. It feels like we’ve been blanked out. We want to work together. It’s sad that we’ve had to shout about it like this.

“It simply came to our notice then. Our doors are open. We are prepared to work with the cultural team. ” He said the Mela had submitted a proposal to have a presence during the Games but had yet to hear back.

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

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

“It’s been very disheartening to be honest. The lack of response we’ve had has really put a dampener on it. It’s not that we want to cause any issues for the Games themselves, because it’s something we’re proud of, “he said. “But we’re situated one mile from a multimillion-pound complex built for the Games. We would like to be more involved.

“We have 10,000 people coming into our gurdwara every single week. I tell our congregation about the Games and what is happening, but how or why am I supposed to do that when the people who I’m promoting don’t want to know? ”

It is not the first time the event has come under fire over equality issues. It received heavy criticism in 2020 when it was revealed its entire team of executives were white, and all but one of the board of directors were also white. It responded by recruiting more diverse board members and hiring a head of equality.

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

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