Ellman raises concerns after Liverpool anti-racism event omits antisemitism debate

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Ellman raises concerns after Liverpool anti-racism event omits antisemitism debate

Dame Louise Ellman has contacted Mayor Joanne Anderson, after programme for Liverpool Against Racism festival appears to ignore anti-Jewish racism

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Dame Louise Ellman, (centre), campaigns at the weekend with Bury Labour councillors Nathan Boroda and Tahir Rafiq ahead of the May 5 local elections
Dame Louise Ellman, (centre), campaigns at the weekend with Bury Labour councillors Nathan Boroda and Tahir Rafiq ahead of the May 5 local elections

A row has broken out ahead of an anti-racism festival in Liverpool this week over the apparent lack of discussion about rising antisemitism.

Jewish News understands that Dame Louise Ellman is amongst those to raise questions with Liverpool mayor Joanne Anderson as to why the Liverpool Against Racism event, which begins this week, fails to include debate on anti-Jewish racism.

Other communal figures in Merseyside have also questioned why there appears to be no acknowledgement of issues around anti-Jewish racism in the programme of events.

Liverpool Against Racism (LAR), includes a series of events across the city – with singer Rebecca Ferguson and groups The Christians and The Farm among the opening acts.

And a conference addressing racism will be held in The Spine in Paddington Village on Tuesday, featuring British historian David Olusoga, the BBC’s interim head of creative diversity Joanna Abeyie and journalist Kevin Powell, who will join the mayor as keynote speakers.

Mayor Anderson said she was proud Liverpool was “taking positive action against social injustice”.

Ellman, the former MP for Liverpool Riverside, is understood to have written to Mayor Anderson last week querying the festival’s programme, asking:”I hope it is not the case that, as David Baddiel would say, ‘Jews don’t count.’”

The anti-racism festival continues throughout the week in the city.

Teenagers will be invited to discuss issues around racism, while stars, including champion boxer Natasha Jonas, will share their stories and offer advice in addressing racial and social inequalities.

One workshop event involves talks around understanding the city’s role in the transatlantic slave trade.

Programme curator Yaw Owusu said:”Music, creativity and debate are incredible outlets for expressing the complex narratives around racism.”

In a statement a Liverpool City Council spokesperson said:”The aim of the Liverpool Against Racism event was to focus on anti-black racism, created as it was in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“However, involvement from all of our diverse communities was actively encouraged. Last December we proactively called out for organisations and groups to contact us and get involved.

“We had an amazing response, which helped shape the music day which featured more than 40 artists, two unique conferences with around 100 participants and the impressive partner event programme, which has seen organisations across the city stage events to complement the Liverpool Against Racism programme.

“Following the call-out, we were contacted by representatives from the Jewish community and they were asked if they would like to be part of a panel event at the main conference. This offer was unfortunately not taken up.

“Mayor Joanne is incredibly proud of the Liverpool Against Racism programme and the fact that the city isn’t shying away from shining a spotlight on discrimination. We hope this inaugural event will pave the way for similar initiatives in the future and that more organisations, including Jewish groups, will join with us.”

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