Exploring Brent – London's next Borough of Culture

Thursday 01 January 1970

The stories, art and emotions that hold Brent together are set to be explored through a series of creative events as it becomes London’s next Borough of Culture. Brent 2020 promises to be a year-long celebration of culture that recognises the people, places and innovations that have helped put the borough on the map. It follows on from Waltham Forest in 2019, which was the first borough selected to take part in the Mayor of London’s new initiative.

Steel pan player for Brent London Borough of Culture 2020. Credit Brent London Borough of Culture 2020 and Lauren Butcher (Bolton & Quinn)

Brent is not just a Borough of Culture, but a Borough of Cultures. As the home of football at Wembley Stadium, and of football icons including Cyrille Regis and Rachel Yankey, the borough in north-west London has a strong sporting pedigree. It’s renowned in the music world too and was once home to the reggae icon Bob Marley, The Who drummer Keith Moon, singer-superstar George Michael and reggae vocalist Janet Kay, to name but a few.

The year-long programme of events revolves around a set of core questions that delve into what Brent is all about, what elements of the borough’s past are important, what daily life there is like, and what the future will hold. Developed by the Blueprint Collective, a set of 100 young people from across the borough, here are a few of the programme’s stand-out events for you to enjoy in 2020…



RISE Brent London Borough of Culture 2020 opening ceremony. Credit Brent London Borough of Culture 2020 and Lauren Butcher (Bolton & Quinn)

The official launch of Brent 2020 on 18 January, RISE will see hundreds of Brent residents telling the story of the borough through dance, film, music and large-scale projections along the length of Olympic Way. Charting how Brent has shaped music, sport, activism and beyond, the opening spectacle hosted by Wembley Park will be curated by Southpaw Dance Company, featuring choreographer Andrea Queens.

The Anthem

Celebrating the borough’s diverse community, The Anthem will be a song for London, told by the people of Brent. Set to be performed at live events in the borough throughout 2020, including at the SSE Arena Wembley in July, the anthem was written as a collaboration between singer-songwriter Rahel Debebe-Dessalegne and Young People’s Laureate for London Momtaza Mehri. The pair have worked with young people from across Brent to ensure the lyrics reflect the many stories that the borough has to tell. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Brent Music Service will also produce an orchestral recording of the anthem, to premiere in July, which features the voices of 4,000 Brent schoolchildren.

Museum of All Brent life

Delving into the memories, stories and myths from Brent, the Museum of All Brent Life will be a living museum in ten libraries across the borough on 15 May. Each library has identified a person, object or story with ties to the area and has commissioned artists to explore it further. It will see a huge mural of George Michael created by painter Dawn Mellor in Kingsbury, while at Wembley Library, artist Dan Mitchell will produce a visual installation using quotes from novelist JG Ballard. London-based artist Ruth Beale will also host a forum for young people at Kilburn Library, called a ‘think-tank for the commons’. Other locations include Barham Community Library, Cricklewood Library, Ealing Road Library, Harlesden Library, Kensal Rise Library, Preston Community Library and The Library at Willesden Green.

The Kilburn High

Brent London Borough of Culture 2020. Credit Brent London Borough of Culture 2020 and Jason Hawkes

London’s oldest road runs through the centre of Brent and will be the scene of a mile-long street party ahead of the UEFA Euro 2020 final in July. The Kilburn High will see Kilburn High Road closed to traffic from Kilburn Station to Kilburn High Road Station as the borough celebrates what made the ‘Music Mile’ famous. Get ready to enjoy a host of different music stages, DJs and impressive sound systems on 11 July, alongside a wealth of tasty food and drink stalls offering cuisine from all around the world. It promises to be one big party before the focus shifts to the football at Wembley the following day.

Arena Takeover

Wembley Area, Brent London Borough of Culture 2020. Credit Brent London Borough of Culture 2020 and Lauren Butcher (Bolton & Quinn)

Held at the SSE Arena Wembley on 5 September, this eclectic showcase of sounds will feature a number of leading artists, all curated by the Brent Blueprint Collective with Metropolis Music. Acts are still to be announced for the affordable Arena Takeover mega gig, although a competition will mean several lucky acts from the local community get the chance to kick-off the concert in style.

No Bass Like Home

Exploring Brent’s contribution to British music, No Bass Like Home will reveal how reggae, Harlesden and the Trojan Records label transformed the music scene. Although many of the studios and stories may now be a thing of the past, The Bass Weekender on 3-4 October will reignite interest in the borough’s rich reggae heritage. Expect a takeover of bars, shops and community centres across Harlesden by a host of musical legends, from Don Letts to Big Zeeks and Janet Kay. No Bass Like Home will also seek to document Brent’s musical history in an online archive, helping to make the sounds of the past available for a new generation.

MOBO Awards

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the MOBO Awards, the hugely influential music award ceremony will return to the home of its founder, Brent-born Kanya King CBE, in 2020. The SSE Arena Wembley will host the celebration of British and global musical talent from the reggae, hip-hop, RnB, grime, jazz and African music genres on 12 November.

Zadie Smith: The Wife of Willesden

Brent’s very own internationally-acclaimed author Zadie Smith, renowned for her depictions of life in contemporary London, has reimagined one of the works of the great poet Geoffrey Chaucer for Brent 2020. Her work, The Wife of Willesden, will be performed at the Kiln Theatre on Kilburn High Road in December. Providing a modern take on The Wife of Bath’s Tale – some 630 years after it was first written – it promises to address a number of important questions about the place of women in society.

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