2020 CultureMix Review

A royal couple watch a steel pan player

A testing year for CultureMix mostly lost to the pandemic lockdown, the launch of Distant Mix, Black Lives Matter rallies, and a new online virtual reality bringing about a major shift in focus.

The first few months of 2020 has the CultureMix team in a busy whirlwind of activity from our Caversham Centre base shared with Rabble Theatre, with our tutors delivering 37 music lessons each week in fourteen schools across Berkshire and Hampshire.

CultureMix Records artist Jnr Watson video single Soothe My Soul premiers on Reggaeville

RASPO bookings are confirmed throughout the year with venues secured to host our exciting annual events. Nothing could have prepared us for the impending pandemic that would affect our livelihoods and impact across the globe.

To minimise the spread of Covid-19 all schools, shops and restaurants are closed with a stay indoors directive for everyone apart from key workers bringing the world to a isolated standstill with only the media for information. By the end of March all CultureMix workshops, bookings and events are cancelled.
Covid-19 CultureMix Statement.

Three weeks of lockdown turn into six and then into months bringing despair and worry to individuals and businesses with some closing down despite the government offer of financial support in for form of a ‘furlough’ scheme to limit job losses.

The first Distant Mix video featuring RASPO and Jnr Watson – May 2020

As soon as lockdown is imposed the CultureMix team convene a virtual meeting. How can we continue to run a company that prides itself on physically bringing people together to experience the joy of collective creativity, music, carnival and live performances?

The Distant Mix project is created to maintain contact with RASPO, our partners and audiences, and to produce new international work. More. A shift in focus leans towards more virtual activity and a revitalised online shop.

In May Black Lives Matter protests, rallies and marches are sparked by the killing of George Floyd during an arrest in the US. BLM raise global awareness of the injustices towards Black people due to institutionalised racism and in the UK highlights Britain’s role in the transatlantic slave trade.

For the 2nd Distant Mix video Triniboi Joocie joined RASPO & guests.

CultureMix sets up advice and support to companies, schools and communities seeking to become actively anti racist with all conversations conducted virtually either by Zoom, Skype or Teams. More

As part of the Windrush Day 2020 commemorations on 22 June Reading’s Caribbean community produces audio and video recordings for broadcast on Gold Dust radio. Reading Museum now holds a digital archive of the voices and stories including Mary Genis’s talk on the history of steel pan in the UK. More

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To celebrate Windrush ITV News Meridian features RASPO Steel Orchestra to look at the culture the Windrush generation brought with them, and how their children continue to be inspired by those who arrived here more than 50 years ago. More

Declaration of Rights with Reading Reggae Collective and guest mentors

In July Don Chandler launches the repurposed Reading Reggae Collective as a platform for ambitious reggae artists seeking a professional career in the music industry. Supported by CultureMix Records the weekly rehearsals observe social distancing guidelines. More.

Jnr Watson records for Notting Hill Carnival at the iconic Abbey Road Studios Aug 2020

Featuring musicians from across the county including members of afro wave group L2R, reggae band IYA Rebels, dub poet Lou Mulato, spearheaded by reggae artist Jnr Watson, the collective hosts masterclasses led by professional session musicians.

With most UK events cancelled or repurposed as online offerings Notting Hill Carnival launches Access All Areas presenting a compilation of pre-recorded live performances instead of the street event. CultureMix artists take part in the global event streamed via YouTube over August Bank Holiday weekend.

RASPO Steel Orchestra perform for 2020 Notting Hill Carnival Access All Areas Aug 2020

In early August RASPO films a live seven-minute segment at The Tabernacle for the Parade channel. Jnr Watson performs two of his songs for the Main Stage channel filming live with the Reading Reggae Collective at the iconic Abbey Road Studios. More

To celebrate coming out of lockdown CultureMix invites Brazilian Afoxé percussionists Ylê de Egbá to remotely collaborate with RASPO and guests for a unique Carnival edition of Hot Hot Hot. More

Ylê de Egbá Brazil joins RASPO UK and guests for Hot Hot Hot carnival August 2020

In September school music lessons tentatively resume with the threat of a possible second lockdown. RASPO Bootcamp launches new classes with limited numbers.

However a second wave of the virus ensues coinciding with notice to vacate Caversham Centre. Although not unexpected the local authority and commercial property agents do all they can to help CultureMix find a new home.

Numerous retail and office spaces are now vacant due to the new working from home culture which enables CultureMix to secure temporary storage whilst exploring more permanent options.

In October CultureMix is delighted to be offered £80,000 from the Culture Recovery Fund set up to help the arts sector. The funding will ensure the organisation remains sustainable, retain the workforce and future proof its portfolio with CultureMix Digital. More

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Mary joins the Global Carnivalz Guild set up to support UK carnival culture. More

On 4 November the government impose a second official one month lockdown in an effort to allow people to get together for Christmas. With schools and building sites remaining open and shops, restaurants, pubs closed, working from home becomes the new normal.

On 8 December RASPO performed at the Royal Berkshire Hospital for a surprise visit from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

What does the future hold for CultureMix and the creative sector? We are fortunate that our investors and funders continue to support our work.

It is thanks to Arts Council England and the Department for Culture Media and Sport along with local support that we are able to survive these challenging times.

Our ambition to thrive with the addition of a new and exciting digital platform will future proof our organisation and ensure we maintain our workforce so Black culture continues to remain accessible to all.