The Power of Pop Mixer

24th April 2024

On Friday 12th April 2024, we were proud to host the Power of Pop Mixer, a reception bringing together incredible social justice practitioners, artists, academics, funders, friends and colleagues interested in the potential of pop culture as a tool for racial and migrant justice. Advertising the event just two and a half weeks ahead, we were overwhelmed by the amount of interest. The event was oversubscribed with 77 people registering their attendance! Throughout the life of the Power of Pop Fund we have been encouraged by the level of curiosity and engagement from people, from our Community Council application process to the Power of Pop Mixer. This highly promising, signifying the strong potential of this new approach to racial and migrant justice.

The event opened with a welcome address by Maxine Thomas-Asante. She shared the progress and journey of the programme, our hopes for the future and the research we have conducted to ground our work so far. We were excited to launch our newly createdPop Culture for Social Justice: A Foundational Framework(opens in new window).

Following the welcome address, the Power of Pop Fund Community Council hosted a panel where they discussed the radical potential of pop culture and subcultures as a tool and catalyst for racial justice. The Community Council, made up of five creative industry experts who have lived experience of racial justice, act as a strategic advisory board to the Power of Pop Fund. They emphasised the vast possibilities for entertainment, arts and culture to engage the public and advance justice in an innovative way. They also shared reflections on the importance of the funding sector in supporting this work.

Following the panel discussion was the Open Reception, which was split into four key zones. Zone One brought those interested in funding into direct conversation with our Community Council. We asked participants in Zone One to reflect on the following questions:

  • What unique contribution is your organisation making to the racial justice and migrant justice fields?

  • How would further investment allow you to scale your work?

  • How could you support other organisations in the Power of Pop Community?

  • What piece of work, event or contribution are you most proud of?

  • What is your mantra when it comes to social justice?

  • If you had to communicate the work you are doing as a contribution to the wider field, what contribution would you say you are making?

Ultimately, one of the main motivations for the Mixer was to mitigate some of the inadvertent harms of traditional practices in funding application and selection approaches. Broadly speaking there are two key approaches in funding: open calls or closed calls. Both have their pros and cons. The Power of Pop is fundamentally concerned with how we can adapt conventional approaches of the funding sector, so that more and different types of organisations are welcomed into funding communities and relationships. This requires us to think about the barriers to access and how we can dismantle said barriers. The hope was that hosting a physical event would personalise the process and create the opportunity for people to bring their work to life. Reflecting on the event, one participant shared the following:

‘Thank you, what a beneficial space to be in. It’s the first like this I have been to. We need more of this for us. Really powerful’

Within the Open Reception, Zone Two brought together people interested in exploring innovative and dynamic approaches to racial and migrant justice. Conversations were based on a number of prompts:

  • Who has inspired you in the racial justice and migrant justice spaces?

  • What piece of reading has prompted you most in the last year (or beyond)?

  • What does a racially just world look like?

  • At its best, what contribution can arts and entertainment make to racial justice?

  • What support would most benefit those working in the racial and migrant justice spaces?

Zone Three welcomed people who were particularly interested in collaborations, such as those willing to volunteer with organisations in need of support and volunteering. We hoped that those in need of resources, volunteers, and/or physical spaces would be able to engage and find solutions to obstacles preventing the manifestation of ideas. We encouraged those in Zone Three to reflect on the following topics:

  • Is there an idea that you would love to see come to fruition?

  • What might you need to make that idea a reality?

  • Would you like to support the vision of someone else, what skills and insights would you bring?

  • How can we foster more collaboration between organisations and individuals in this ecosystem?

As the Power of Pop Fund centres art, creativity and entertainment, it was critical that our event was grounded in creativity. As such, we exhibited works of art at the event. Zone Four was constituted of a photography exhibition with works by Zec Luhana(opens in new window). We are also grateful to have been able to exhibit Windows, a soundscape by Derick Armah and Ivan d’Avoine.

Racial justice and migrant justice can feel distant and complex. We were glad to receive feedback about how accessible the conversation was made through the event:

‘As someone who enjoys art and who is on the peripherals of social justice work, this event was so insightful and inspiring! The power of pop fund should definitely invest in more events and spaces like this – to ultimately make community and social justice more TANGIBLE. Again, thank you so much. Keep doing the work!’

Throughout the event, we facilitated a MEL Zone, which allowed our Learning Coordinator to collect live feedback during the event. We were also very excited to read entries into our guest book that shared:

‘It was such a special and important space… and a much needed physical congregation! It was also so lovely to be able to connect to so many brilliant individuals and organisations.‘

The event was still in full swing with attendees reluctant to leave at the ending time. With some warm encouragement from the venue hosts, the crowds eased out from the hall into the street, continuing lively debate and conversation. As the group began to depart, we were asked repeatedly, ‘when might we be able to attend such an event again?’

By Maxine Thomas-Asante