White students shut down BME Open Mic Night
Students complained they didn’t enjoy the BME performances
The Newnham x Robinson BME Open Mic Night held in the college bar on February 10th at 8pm was shut down by bar staff due to white students complaining that they did not enjoy the performances.
Students were forced to move out of the bar they had booked and were forced to move to the 'nearby JCR' and 'powered through' with the night. They 'did not take no for an answer, and still made it OUR night – despite the booming Taylor Swift and Nickelback from the bar, where those who watched as we were kicked out continued to have a good time.'
Sara Poursafar, BME officer at Newnham and one of the organisers of the event, and Michelle Wong, explain the events in a statement on the FLY website. Having booked the bar, the organisers arrived to discover that the Robinson Beer Festival, scheduled to run all day, took up most of the space cornering off the BME students and performers 'to occupy a small fragment of the bar room' whilst the bar was 'filled with drunken white people dancing and signing.'
Performers pushed through 'the uncomfortableness of the situation' and performed songs and stand up routines. The attendees then 'took a short 30 minute break in the JCR to deal with technical difficulties and to allow everyone to socialize.'
Upon returning to the bar they were told by staff they needed to leave as 'the Bar is a business' so 'we could not leave it empty, and that other students were complaining that "the performers in the first half weren't good and people said they didn't like it so were leaving."' They were told to reschedule their booked event.
The reason for their removal was complaints from white students at the content of the stand-up comedies, which explored issues of racism. Their break was used as an excuse to remove the performers and attendees from the bar. The statement points out that 'the Bar Manager never told the BME officers that breaks were not allowed when we met them prior to the event to confirm all the details' and they had 'announced that we would be returning shortly.'
Poursafar and Wong went onto say:
'literally and metaphorically, the BME open mic night was created as a space for BME students to be heard- to give them an opportunity to vent about the everyday and celebrate the talent of our community. However, the message that was sent was clear- white comfort is more important than BME voices.'
The intentions for the night were clear; 'We are not trying to segregate white people and BME people any further', with organisers expressing 'gratitude to the white students who joined and supported the BME performers. Furthermore, the event itself was open to non-BME performers wishing to perform something by a BME artist 'in the spirit of inclusivity and celebrating diversity.'
Teddy Mack, Robinson's BME officer and one of the organisers of the event told The Tab:
'We are very disappointed that this does not send the message of togetherness through diversity which was our aim, however we hope to be able to host a more successful night in the near future.' He also expressed 'gratitude to all the talented people who came to perform as well as those who came to support our wonderful acts and who continued their support as we resolved to continue the event in the more intimate setting of the JCR.'