The Black-E is an artist led project, and it is natural for the commitments and enthusiasms of the artists to contribute to the shape of the programme. Formative to Bill Harpe’s development as a dancer, choreographer and director were his encounters with African and African-American dance companies in London and Liverpool, and his experience as Artistic Director of a Festival welcoming dancers and musicians from Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierre Leone, Tanazania, Trinidad, and Uganda. Immediately prior to the creation of The Black-E Bill travelled to Africa to direct a version of a Greek tragedy (Aeschylus’ ‘Oresteia’) with Zambian musicians and dancers.
When the group of artists, led by Bill and Wendy (Harpe), came together in 1968 the youth of Liverpool 1 & 8 ventured into the newly-founded Great Georges Community Arts Project (then known locally as ‘The Black Church’ and later to become ‘The Blackie’). Having checked it out, they decided to make it their home. Liverpool 1 & 8 were then the home areas for the City’s established African and Caribbean communities, and the youngsters were eager to explore what the Project offered, including activities which celebrated their cultural roots.
With Bill’s enthusiasms and the youngsters’ roots, the creation of an African-Caribbean dance and music programme was a natural, organic, living development.
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