News Published 27 September 2013

Paul Robeson is Pretty Interesting, Right?

‘Art is a Weapon Festival’ at Tristan Bates in Covent Garden

Daniel B. Yates

Like other civil rights revolutionaries, Paul Robeson was plenty more interesting than the way we look back on him would care to admit.  Famous for his rendition of Ol’ Man River while performing in the original London cast and film of Show Boat, he went on to a prestigious stage and film career. When over the years he would become progressively too radical and outspoken for the establishment’s liking, he was branded a traitor to his country, harassed, and denied opportunities to perform or travel.

‘The Paul Robeson Art is a Weapon Festival’ will be at Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden from the 30th of September to 26th of October. Tony Benn, Jackie Kay, Ava Vidal, the Guardian’s Gary Younge and other performers, historians and commentators from Canada, South Africa, Nigeria and around the UK gather over four weeks, celebrating the life of one of the most censored and prominent victims of McCarthyism, and working out what he means for us today.

At the centre of the festival is Tayo Aluko’s multi-award winning play Call Mr. Robeson. The journey through his life and career highlights how his radical activism caused his downfall, and features his most famous songs and speeches. The play has been performed in the UK, Canada, Jamaica, Nigeria and in the USA, including New York’s Carnegie Hall in 2012.

It looks properly interesting, here the Tristan Bates page for you to go and check it out.


Daniel B. Yates

Educated by the state, at LSE and Goldsmiths, Daniel co-founded Exeunt in late 2010. The Guardian has characterised his work as “breaking with critical tradition” while his writing on live culture &c has appeared in TimeOut London, i-D Magazine, Vice Magazine, and elsewhere. He lives and works in London E8, and is pleasant.