Third Annual Rise Up! Festival Celebrates BPOC Voices in Aberdeen

We share what you can expect as Rise Up returns for its third year, celebrating the artistry and vision of BPOC creatives

Third Annual Rise Up! Festival Celebrates BPOC Voices in Aberdeen

Hey you,

Something a little different this month. We’re huge fans of Rise Up so wanted to share what you can expect as it returns for its third year, celebrating the artistry and vision of Black and People of Colour (BPOC) creatives. From May 2nd to 4th, this festival, curated by We Are Here Scotland and commissioned by Aberdeen Performing Arts, showcases powerful and diverse talent from across Scotland.

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Rise Up is one of the most exciting festivals Aberdeen has to offer. It not only brings a whole host of artists and acts to the forefront that are often overlooked by the mainstream, but on top of that the discussion panels and workshops are thoughtful and steeped with insight.

So who better to share his thoughts about the festival than Ica Headlam, founder of We Are Here Scotland.

When we spoke to Ica this week, he was keen to share his hopes and reflections about Rise Up 2024. He explained that the festival has grown in popularity and set the stage for a future where cultural diversity is the norm in Scotland's festival scene.

"As with any event or project that you're a part of or involved in," he told us, "you always hope for a decent turnout and engagement. I see Rise Up as a platform for showcasing Black and People of Colour creative and artistic expression and it's really about the people we are showcasing and for the wider public and our peers to discover something new or different that, without Rise Up they may never get to experience."

He went on to explain how the festival has grown and evolved in terms of audience recognition and engagement. "I think that with previous Rise Up Festivals, we have not been afraid to draw on topics that need to be discussed via panels and workshops. I think in the future I would love to see the festival grow to a level where the efforts for the work we do in terms of industry representation aren't seen as "different" but rather just accepted as any other cultural event/festival that happens in Scotland."

As you might expect, organising and curating a festival isn't without its challenges. Ica explained, "We are a very small grassroots service covering so many aspects of the festival. This can mean working late during the week, just trying to make everything run as smoothly as possible. This doesn't always go to plan."

"You have to expect the unexpected at times and roll with it as much as possible. We started developing the festival in September last year and it has taken up a lot of our time as an organisation."

We’re always keen to get the inside scoop about what might be the highlights this year, so we asked Ica what he, himself was looking forward to. Ever warm and obliging, he told me, "I'm definitely looking forward to the Cabaret night on 3rd May, the Black Scot Pod live podcast at the Music Hall, and the Bemz headline gig on Saturday 4th May."

When asked if he'll get a moment during the festival to be at peace and enjoy what he and the team have achieved, he laughed, adding "I'm not sure if I'll get a moment of peace during the festival. I know there will be a few people popping up from around Scotland, so when I'm not making sure everything is running smoothly, there's always networking to be done."

"But we have a great team of volunteers involved with helping facilitate the festival, so it's usually after the festival is done that we get to take in all the hard work."

What's in store for you at Rise Up 2024?

The much-anticipated festival keynote is presented by Adura Onashile, an award-winning Glasgow-based theatre artist. She’ll share insights into her filmmaking journey and her acclaimed works, including the BAFTA-nominated "Expensive Shit." The keynote is followed by a diverse cabaret evening blending comedy, spoken word, and music. Highlights include performances by Kristin Weichen Wong and Ayo Adenekan, alongside innovative music by 1000Trees.

This year’s festival kicks off with an exhibition by Joshua Ekekwe. He explores daily life in the diaspora through his paintings on display for the first time this year.

In-depth panel discussions are a festival staple and are worth checking out. They feature topics ranging from the intersection of activism and art to the importance of Black-owned creative spaces in shaping the Scottish creative landscape. Other panels will address disability inclusion within creative communities, shedding light on overlooked barriers and fostering a more inclusive environment.

Look out for interactive workshops including storytelling, pitching with Raisah Ahmed, zine making with Kumi McKenna, and practical sessions on screen printing, badge making, and podcasting. These workshops will help you develop new skills and a deeper understanding of your artistic expression.

On Saturday you can look forward to a live podcast recording by Black Scot Pod featuring Vanessa Kanbi. And you can enjoy the cross-cultural musical narrative, "When Mountains Meet," showcasing the story of musician Anne Wood. The festival closes with a bang as festival headliner Bemz takes to the Lemon Tree stage for a live show. A huge star in the Scottish music scene, he continues to build his reputation for emotional honesty and powerful lyrics. We’ll see you there.

You can get your tickets for all events through Aberdeen Performing Arts. Tickets are selling well so don't leave it too late.

What else is on in May?

Gordon Contemporaries

Aberdeen Art Gallery is hosting a new exhibition called “Gordon Contemporaries" showcasing recent works by award-winning North East artists.

Supported by the David and June Gordon Memorial Trust, this exhibition not only celebrates local artistic talent but also offers insights into the artists' career paths and practices.

The Trust supports artists with local ties by awarding an annual prize to those selected for the RSA New Contemporaries exhibition in Edinburgh.

Find out more here

Why they called themselves Peacock

Join Griffin Coe, curator of the "Celebrating Printmaking at Peacock" exhibition, for a lunchtime talk.

He will introduce works created by the founding printmakers during Peacock’s early years, offering insights into the pivotal developments of this formative period.

More details here

Titans with Jackal & Vagrant Real Estate

Sat 4 May

Krakatoa hosts the Titans’ Clash Reggae Club. The event will feature a blend of musical styles including rocksteady, ska, and dub, with vinyl sets from Burning Bush Hifi and Finnie.

Additionally, Hip Hop MC Jackhill and producer Vagrant Real Estate will perform a live set with new material.

This event is non-ticketed, so just turn up on the night and enjoy.

Connect here

Speakin' Weird with Esmond Sage

Wed 8 May

Speakin' Weird open mic night returns with another evening of spoken word, giving you the chance to enjoy and share poems, stories, and more. The much-anticipated headliner for May is the fantastic poet and performer, Esmond Sage.

This regular gathering, hosted by Orla Shortall, welcomes all forms of prose, comedy, and personal narratives.

Get the details here

The Sun Day: Live

Sat 11 May

The Sun Day is set to headline at Drummonds, marking their first major gig of the year.

They'll be joined by talented bands The Sankaras and Pitnamoon, promising a night of exceptional live music.

Proudly signed to Aberdeen's Fat Hippy Records, The Sun Day has made a mark on Spotify playlists and performed at notable festivals like Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival.

Tickets are available now


Sat 25 May
Lemon Tree

The Capollos are gearing up to set the Lemon Tree alight with their performance on the 25th of May. They're touring across Scotland and you don't want to miss their stop home in Aberdeen.

Their shows are electric, bringing energy, style, and charisma to every performance. Not just musicians; they're artists who know how to own the stage.

Get tickets now

Music Releases

Album: Cold Years - A Different Life

Out Now

Aberdeen pop-punk heroes Cold Years areleased their third album, ‘A Different Life’, following the success of their previous albums ‘Paradise’ and ‘Goodbye to Misery’.

Their sound, a mix of punk rock, alternative, and rock, has garnered a dedicated fanbase and drawn comparisons to iconic bands like The Gaslight Anthem and Green Day.

Listen now

EP: The Sun Day - Spacial Awareness

Out Now

The Sun Day was formed with the ambition to carve their unique space in music, bringing together Connor Ritchie as the frontman handling vocals and rhythm guitar, Luke Doyle on lead guitar, Aidan Forret playing bass, and Craig Spink behind the drums.

Their music is distinguished by melodic riffs and catchy lyrics, backed by a compelling drumbeat that not only gets you moving but also stirs feelings of nostalgia.

Listen now

Until Next Month…

That’s it for May. There are bound to be countless new events and releases added through the month, so keep an eye on our social channels as we keep you in the loop. We’ll be back as we head into June (‽) with a whole new issue for you to get your teeth into.

Love and hugs,

Chris & Kev xx