Blog Archive

Sunday, 26 October 2014



BARAC UK is supporting the campaign to save 22 year old dad from Croydon, Marcus Campbell, who is in a critical condition at Croydon University Hospital after having initially being turned away from the hospital in the summer, wrongly diagnosed with a virus.  He was subsequently diagnosed at St Georges Hospital with a rare inflammation of the brain stem. He was transferred to Croydon after 3 months at St Georges, against his family's wishes and the hosptial has stated that should Marcus's heart stop beating they will not resuscitate him. 


Marcus's family has been forced to launch a campaign to save him, demanding a transfer to a hospital with a specialist unit that can give him the care that he needs and deserves.

As if Marcus's critical condition was not enough for the family to deal with, they have been treated appallingly by hospital personnel, including being banned from visiting for a number of days, told they must seek permission to pray by his bedside by the hospital's head of security and told not to read the Bible to him because it won't do anything as he is going to die and his mother Sandra being told that she must take his belongings home as he won't be needing them again. 

It is an absolute outrage that a family wanting nothing more than to get the best possible care and support for their seriously ill loved one should be treated so inhumanely by the hospital who have attempted to deny them human and religious freedoms.

The petition launched by the family on has rapidly gained over 26000 signatures but more are needed to keep up the pressure.  They have staged three protests outside the hosptial supported by their local MP Steve Reed and it is of great concern to learn that at the protest held on Saturday,  security barred access to the hospital for some visitors allowing white people to enter but refusing entry to black visitors seemingly on the basis that because they were black they might be supporting the family campaign.

Support is needed by trade unions, community organisations and the wider community to save Marcus and get him moved to a hospital where he can receive the right treatment and care and against the horrific inhumanity,  injustice and race and religious discrimination Marcus and his family are facing.


What you can do to help:  

  For further info please contact the family directly via the twitter / facebook pages or email



 Human Zoo Barbican controversy comes to Liverpool


Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK has teamed up with the International Slavery Museum, PCS union and MCARF (Merseyside Coalition against Racism and Fascism) to reopen the debate that arose in London around the Barbican’s Human Zoo exhibition & institutional racism in the arts & culture sectors . The debate is taking place in the International Slavery Museum, Albert Dock on Monday 27 October at 5.30pm and is part of the museum's Black History Month programme.

The Barbican exhibition, in which white South African artist Brett Bailey, featured live black performers shackled and in cages charged visitors £20 to enter. Despite claiming to be a piece of art challenging prejudice and racism, the work created a huge controversy in the art world and black and anti-racist campaign groups including BARAC UK objected to the exhibition and their campaign forced the Barbican to cancel the show. The controversy generated debates around institutional racism, the role of art and the meaning of art censorship.

Zita Holbourne, national co-chair of BARAC and a member of the PCS National Executive Committee, will be one of the speakers as a leading campaigner against the exhibition. She says: “The protest that led to the cancellation of the Barbican’s Human Zoo exhibition was not anti-art – it was anti-racist. It is not black communities that censor art, rather arts institutions  that censor black artists. As an artist I am passionate about art, but I don't believe that the rights of a piece of art should be placed above the rights of people to equality, humanity & dignity ”.
The debate will be chaired by Dr Richard Benjamin, the Director of the International Slavery Museum, and will be joined by councillor Anna Rothery and Professor David Peimer, author and professor at Edge Hill University. Dr Benjamin says: “For me there is nothing more important than the culture sector being subject to such scrutiny. The International Slavery Museum has a very clear ethos, we are a campaigning museum and as such use the museum and its content to challenge views/actions/ideologies that persist today.”
PCS union has been at the forefront of highlighting how budget cuts are impacting on local communities and workplaces, including the museums themselves. Clara Paillard, President of the PCS Culture Sector and union rep at the Liverpool museums said:  “At a time when black communities are disproportionately impacted by job cuts and huge cuts are being made to arts funding it is becoming harder for black artists to find work and showcase their talents. Institutional racism means that black people are the first affected by local cuts in arts &culture budgets”.
Please call 0151 478 4062 to reserve your free place.
Contact: Zita Holbourne, Co-Chair BARAC
Tel. 07711861660

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Co-Chair BARAC UK contributes to a new publication by The Fabian Society & Compass on feminism & Labour

Riding The New Wave

Spurred on by social media and the effects of the recession, a new wave of feminism is gathering strength at an impressive pace. Meanwhile, our political parties struggle to offer inspiring solutions to the challenges people face in their daily lives. Is Labour in danger of becoming an irrelevance for this generation of feminists?

Yet Labour can still be a vehicle for contemporary social activists to achieve lasting, systemic change in their fight for equality – if the party can find ways to hang on and enjoy the ride.

Zita Holbourne is co-chair of Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts (BARAC UK), an anti-austerity organisation, that also support family justice campaigns such as that of Mark Duggan. Though she’s active in her community, she writes in a new Fabian and Compass report released today: “The only time I ever see local councillors is when they are canvassing for votes”. In her view, local collaboration is the answer: “For black women to be attracted to Labour party activism, the party must be willing to support our grassroots campaigns in the spaces we have created too”.  This could involve the party campaigning on the multiple discriminations faced by young black people while respecting the fact that BARAC UK’s strong anti-cuts stance does not comfortably align with Labour’s public spending policies.

With contributions from:
  • Ivana Bartoletti, chair of the Fabian Women’s Network and founder of its magazine Fabiana.
  • Lisa Clarke, member of the No More Page 3 campaign
  • Zita Holbourne, co-founder and national co-chair of BARAC UK
  • Natacha Kennedy, academic at Goldsmiths College and a trans activist
  • Lisa Nandy MP, Labour member of parliament for Wigan
  • Yas Nacati, 18 year old feminist activist and campaigner living in London
  • Fiona Mactaggart MP, Labour member of parliament for Slough
  • Sue Marsh, writer and disability campaigner who blogs at the Diary of a Benefit Scrounger
  • Kirsty McNeill, strategy consultant to some of the world’s leading campaigning organisations
  • Anwen Muston, trans officer for LGBT Labour
  • Stuart White, director of the Public Policy Unit and an associate professor of politics at Jesus College, Oxford

Friday, 10 October 2014



 BARAC is seeking volunteers for Workers Beer Company in 2015 at UK Music Festivals such as Glastonbury and Reading. 

Sharon Griffiths with Lee Jasper

 This summer the first BARAC team of volunteers for Workers Beer Company attended the Reading Festival.  BARAC is grateful to the team of volunteers which included National Co-Chair of BARAC, Lee Jasper for raising much needed funds to support the work BARAC does campaigning for race equality and justice. 

Sharon Griffiths, BARAC supporter and volunteer writes on her experience:
Reading an email received from BARAC one morning caught me off guard as I had been talking to my housemate only the day before about feeling regretful that at my age I’d never been to a festival.  The horror stories of the toilet situation had I have to say, always put me off attending such an event despite hearing how much fun they were!  The email was seeking volunteers to fundraise with the Workers Beer Company on behalf of BARAC.  Being a supporter of BARAC and acknowledging that I’m neither time or money rich, this was an ideal opportunity to attend a festival, have ‘staff’ camping, toilets, showers, two meals a day and drinks when you finish your shift was a perfect introduction to a festival.  Perfect, I wasn’t going to have to pay to attend either.  All in exchange for working between 5-7 hours per day which meant I had between 17 to 19 hours remaining to enjoy the bands, HOT showers, a subsidised bar at the staff camping site and appreciate clean toilets all whilst earning money for BARAC – a Win-Win!

We were invited to be on site the day prior to the Festival starting and off on our adventure we went.  A small team of three packed into a small car with the same number of tents, sleeping bags, deck chairs, camping stove and food and off we went!  The staff camping area was very well organised and we were instantly welcomed and given our ID badges. 


 The shift patterns were posted each afternoon for the following day which allowed us time to plan which bands we wanted to see.  There were approximately 40 staff per bar and there was a great sense of camaraderie amongst the teams.  Beer and cider were poured ready at the back of the bar for us to serve and small selections of spirits were also available.  Nothing too complicated and definitely not the scene for a fancy cocktail (which was a relief).  We were given a barcode for each drink and a small ‘zapper’ gun to scan upon serving so we didn’t even have to add up!!
We were fortunate enough to be given one five hour shift and two six hour shifts so there were lots of opportunities for us to do our own thing.  Prior to our first shift we were given an induction and there was a huge emphasis about being certain we weren’t serving anyone younger than 18.  There were also a number of dodgy twenty pound notes in circulation therefore vigilance was the highest priority.  We agreed as a team that we would also donate our tips to the fundraising pot so there was a real sense of satisfaction that went hand in hand with our hard work.

My advice to anyone considering volunteering to work and represent BARAC at a festival is:  DO IT!  Take wellies and waterproof coat, warm sleeping bag, a sense of humour and a certainty to arrive on time for your shift; also remembering that your conduct when working or staying at the staff campsite does represent BARAC and a good attitude will ensure we get invited to work at the festivals in the future.

Sharon qualified as a social worker in 1999 and in her free time has spent over 17 years working overseas typically in varying areas of Africa, with a particular interest in child protection and in South America working with non-government organisations to reduce the trafficking and sexual slavery of children. During this time Sharon has been able to work with both human services departments and non-government organisations to provide teaching of social work principles in local universities and consultation around varying areas of child protection.

Sharon is a social worker specialising with children and families and also offers consultation to local authorities and NGO’s.
If you are interested in volunteering festivals in 2014 please contact for further information and to register: Donna Guthrie 

Monday, 29 September 2014


 Written by Zita Holbourne for The Morning Star  - the truth about the Boycott the Human Zoo campaign. . First published in The Morning Star here
When Prejudice, Power & Privilege Join Forces, Resistance is Necessary 
Monday 29th

posted by Morning Star in Features

The protest that led to the cancellation of the Barbican’s Human Zoo exhibition was not anti-art – it was anti-racist, writes ZITA HOLBOURNE

FOR the past month I have campaigned with a broad range of black community organisations, anti-racist organisations and trade unions, forming the Boycott the Human Zoo Campaign.

Exhibit B is an internationally acclaimed “art” exhibition, by white South African playwright Brett Bailey.  

It replicates human zoos of the Victorian age, using black actors to re-enact scenes of abuse and torture that African people were subjected to during enslavement and colonial rule.  

Actors in the exhibition, who must remain silent, are blacked up, placed in cages and iron masks and shackled.
There is no narrative on the resistance by African people and no acknowledgment of our history before or after these events. 

In some other countries there have been protests, petitions and written complaints, but the Barbican and Bailey had not anticipated the level of resistance from black communities bringing it to London would attract.  

During the campaign, it became very apparent that the Barbican has no expertise in race equality and no diversity in its own organisation, with one single black member on its board. 

When we initially wrote to the Barbican with our concerns in August they replied, stating that Exhibit B was empowering and educational, trying to tell those of us that have a lived experience of the legacy of historical and current racism that we need to be educated on racism by them — a nearly all-white institution.  

How the Barbican could believe an exhibition which objectifies black people in a degrading and offensive way, repeating horrific acts of racist abuse could be empowering to us is beyond me. 

A criticism levied against us by the Barbican and others is that we had not seen the exhibition so how could we be against it? 

But you don’t wait until you have been racially abused to point out that racism exists. 

When we asked the Barbican board and management if they had seen it, only one single member had. So if they were arguing we couldn’t conclude it was racist because we hadn’t seen it, how could the Barbican management say it was not racist when they had not seen it either? 

For us seeing the images and videos of the exhibition were horrific enough. 

Over and over, in meetings, at protests and lobbies and in writing we explained to the Barbican why we found Exhibit B to be racist and we were told that it was not racist because the Barbican did not believe it was — completely disregarding the impact on us.
Some 23,000 people signed an online petition started by Birmingham activist Sara Myers.  

The organisations making up the campaign, including my own union, PCS and Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (Barac) UK represent over one million members. 

PCS culture sector group president Clara Paillard, representing workers in museums and galleries, said: “We supported the boycott because we believe that art should not be used to disguise or promote racism.”

The campaign was also supported by Unite which represents members in the City of London Corporation branch which covers the Barbican. 
Action for Southern Africa, the successor organisation to the Anti-Apartheid Movement, wrote to the director of the Barbican raising its concerns. 

“To challenge racism requires a sustained commitment, not a one-off production, and there needs to be the active involvement and engagement of those who continue to experience racism.
“To stage a production that is clearly offensive to many — who view it as a re-enactment of racism, demeaning and patronising — indicates a Barbican that is not sensitive to the views of black people, black organisations and those actively campaigning against racism.” 

Despite ongoing attempts at dialogue with the Barbican, where we pointed out that black communities should have been consulted, it was not prepared to consider our concerns let alone the hurt, pain and anger we felt. 

Director of arts Louise Jeffreys outraged audience members over a last-minute “damage limitation” event, when she stated they did not consult black communities because they did not know who black communities were. 

The meeting we had with the Barbican board came about because I wrote an open letter to the City of London Corporation chief executive and elected council after it failed to respond to my second letter.  

Yet Barbican director Sir Nicholas Kenyon told the Sunday Times yesterday: “He was taken by surprise” and “when we heard a couple of weeks ago that a petition was being organised against the show, we invited them in. 
 “They came to see us, including one of our board members, Trevor Phillips, who is of course black.
“We heard their concerns, but pointed out they had misunderstood the work. They went away promising there would simply be a peaceful protest. But on the evening of the planned first night, it turned nasty. Frankly, I feel we were used.”  

Following that meeting we organised a march and rally outside the Barbican and a further petition hand-in demo because the Barbican failed to provide a senior member of staff as promised to receive our petition the first time round.
On the opening night Kenyon stopped to greet me on his way into the exhibition. Hardly a nasty atmosphere. 

The Vaults venue sought to shift responsibility responding to my letter by saying: “The Vaults is a neutral space, we are just hiring the space to the Barbican.”   

As I pointed out to them, if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
On the opening night of the exhibition, 200 protesters gathered at the Vaults, which is in a narrow underground tunnel.  

The protest was noisy but peaceful. Protesters closed the entrance doors and drummers lined up in front of the entrance. The organisers called the police, suggesting there had been a fight — which there had not.  

We subsequently learned that riot police had been deployed to the Barbican, mistakenly believing the exhibition was taking place there and that they arrived way before the time of our planned protest so not in response to any concerns, which is disgraceful. 

Subsequently the venue announced that it was closing for the night and protesters started to leave.   
It then issued a formal statement that the entire London show was cancelled. 
 We departed, pleased with this news, if frustrated that it had taken until the opening night for it to happen. 

What followed was a vicious attack on black activists and communities opposing the exhibition. 

The Barbican put out a statement accusing us of stopping freedom of expression.   
It also said: “Last night as Exhibit B was opening at the Vaults it became impossible for us to continue with the show because of the extreme nature of the protest and the serious threat to the safety of performers, audiences and staff.
“Given that protests are scheduled for future performances of Exhibit B we have had no choice but to cancel all performances of the piece.” 

This statement was irresponsible and cowardly. Police have confirmed publicly that there were no arrests, no damage to property and no injuries. Yet the Barbican intentionally used the terms “extreme” and “threat.” 

The venue was in an underground tunnel. It would have been easy for police to cordon off the area for subsequent nights, only allowing those with tickets to enter.
The truth is that the Barbican had underestimated the strength of feeling and resistance. 

There was nothing extreme about the protest, yet supporters of Bailey, “defenders” of art and sections of the media reported that we brandished placards and drums and acted threateningly by singing and blowing brightly coloured whistles. 

Comments were even made about our hair — “many of them had dreadlocks.” We were branded racists, fascists and extremists.  

But to be racist we would have to have power. Racism occurs when prejudice, privilege and power join forces.
Tellingly, journalists who were there reported that our protest was welcoming and peaceful, but those who had not been there described us as an angry threatening mob, relying on the Barbican’s statement. Some even incorrectly reported that our protest took place outside the Barbican. 

We have been accused of censoring art and stopping freedom of expression. We were told that we have done a terrible thing to art. 

But our boycott campaign in fact involved a wide range of artists — visual artists, musicians, rappers and poets.
As a visual and performance artist myself, I am passionate about art — but if my work greatly offended hundreds of thousands of people I would act responsibly and acknowledge this.  

I am an artist but I am also a human rights and anti-racism campaigner and I don’t see the rights of people as being lesser than objects of art.  
People are outraged that art has been treated this way, but the same people were not outraged by the pain, offence, hurt and anger we experienced because of the Human Zoo exhibition.
They are not offended by the institutional racism that black communities experience today.  

The reason we came together in a short space of time to oppose the Human Zoo is because we have had enough of racism, criminalisation of our communities, the disproportionate impact of cuts on our families, the scapegoating, scaremongering and demonisation.  

As racism deepens, the last thing we need to see is acts of historical racism promoted and celebrated as art while those involved profit from the £20 entrance fee. 

The Barbican has told us repeatedly that Exhibit B is important work. When we asked who it is important for they couldn’t answer. 

The truth is that Exhibit B was never for us. The entrance fee alone would prohibit most austerity-stricken black (and white) working-class families from attending. 

If it was really supposed to be educational it would have been free and open to many more people.
If Bailey really wanted white people to know what racism feels like he would have put white people in the cage, mask and shackles.  

There are many other ways to educate on the horrors of historic racism, but any such project must also seek to address the racism we face today. They should be inclusive not exclusive.

Dr Richard Benjamin, who heads up the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, wrote to me saying: “Congratulations to you and your colleagues for making your voices heard. For me there is nothing more important than the culture sector being subject to such scrutiny. The International Slavery Museum has a very clear ethos, we are a campaigning museum and as such use the museum and its content to challenge views/actions/ideologies that persist today.”

The response to Exhibit B by black communities in London must send a message to British arts and culture institutions that they must practice equality — they must consult the diverse communities they serve and nurture the artistic talents that exist in those communities.  

The institutional racism that exists in the sector must be addressed. My decision to try and tour an exhibition showcasing the talents of young black artists despite having no budget, funding or sponsorship is exactly because young black artists do not get the opportunities that white privileged artists like Bailey get. 

Barac UK and others see a need for a new black arts movement to nurture talent in our communities because we know we can’t rely on the institutions.
Zita Holbourne is an award-winning trade union and community activist, poet, visual artist and curator. She is co-founder of Barac UK and has been elected to the PCS NEC, TUC race relations committee and ACTSA NEC.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014



After a month of campaigning against the degrading offensive racist human zoo  exhibition - known as Exhibit B, hosted by the Barbican, the 'boycott the human zoo' campaign has succeeded in closing it down on the opening night of the exhibition.  

This is a victory not just for the team of campaigners  which BARAC UK was proud to be a part of and who worked tirelessly, several behind the scenes, but the 22,500 people who signed Sara Myers' (who led the campaign) petition calling on the Barbican to withdraw the exhibition. Plus all the organisations that formed the campaign, representing over 1 million members as well as every individual who took part in the campaign.

We sent a clear message to The Barbican and to all institutions that are racist that black communities in the UK will not stand back and be disrespected. 

We have succeeded in stopping the human zoo in London but it is due to go to other countries, so a global response is needed.  Here in the UK a public inquiry and serious measures to address the deep rooted institutional racism that exists in the arts and culture industry  which is amplified by austerity and cuts to arts funding is needed. 

Drummers line the entrance to The Vaults

A fuller update will follow including details of a victory party. Please note and pass on that, as a result of the the entire London show being cancelled the planned protests outside the vaults for the rest of the week are also cancelled.
Celebrating our Victory with some of the organisers of the campaign
Zita Holbourne, co-chair of BARAC UK with letter from the Vaults confirming the cancellation of the entire show

Protestors outside The Vaults Entrance (boycott the human zoo art)


Sara Myers who started the campaign and petition with Co-Chair of BARAC UK, Lee Jasper & letter confirming cancellation of the show

Protestors block the entrance

Donna Guthrie, BARAC Women's Officer who handled the campaigns social networking

Thank you for your participation in this campaign. People Power! Collective Action! Unity!