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  • Dave, Steel City Snapper

A Long Overdue Steel City Welcome: The MOBO Awards Come To Sheffield

Sheffield is a city known around the world for its rich musical heritage, so it seems only right that the UK’s biggest celebration of Black music and culture is coming to the Steel City this month. The Music of Black Origin (MOBO) Awards Show is being held at the Utilita Arena Sheffield on Wednesday 7th February. This is the first time the prestigious award ceremony has been held in Sheffield and three days of fringe events are taking place in the city centre to mark the occasion.

For 26 years now MOBO has been proudly celebrating and supporting British Black music, both at home and globally, in the fields of Rap, Hip-Hop, R&B, Soul, Grime, Drill, Gospel, Jazz, Reggae, African music, Electronic/Dance, Alternative music, and more. The MOBO Organisation was founded by Kanya King and the first award ceremony was held in 1996 at the Connaught Rooms in London. Since then they have been held in venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, Wembley Arena, the O2 Arena, and Leeds First Direct Arena.

It was announced on 18th January that Indiyah Polack and Babatunde Aléshé are the hosts of this year's MOBO Awards in Sheffield. Indiya is a presenter, podcaster, and ex-Love Islander, while Babatunde is an actor, comedian and former I'm A Celeb campmate.

Little Simz and Stormzy lead the way at this years’ awards with four nominations each, while Central Cee, PinkPantheress, J Hus and Raye have all received three nominations each. It has also been confirmed that pop superstars Sugababes will be the 26th recipient of the MOBO Awards Impact Award, alongside a special performance from the girl group.

Dancehall star Byron Messia will be performing at the award ceremony, with DJ Spoony and two-time Grammy winners Soul II Soul also due to perform. Previous awards performers have included such megastars as Janet Jackson, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Sade, Lionel Richie, Beyoncé, Jay Z, Diddy, Lauryn Hill, Amy Winehouse, Usher, and Rihanna. 

Utilita Arena Sheffield is an ideal venue to host the MOBO Awards having hosted the International Indian Film Academy Awards in 2007, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards in 2009, and is the home of Gladiators, currently being broadcast on Saturday nights on BBC One.

But it’s not all about the awards at Sheffield Arena! “MOBO Awards Sheffield - The Fringe” is a three day festival that will take place ahead of the awards show itself and has been organised by Sheffield City Council in collaboration with MOBO and members of the local community. It will feature workshops, a market, a talent showcase at the Crucible Theatre and expert panel discussions, all celebrating the Black, African and Caribbean culture of Sheffield.

Kanya King, founder of the MOBO Awards, said: “MOBO Awards Sheffield – The Fringe is more than an event – it's the start of a movement to foster community spirit and shine a spotlight on the rich cultural tapestry of Sheffield."

The Fringe events begin at the Crucible Theatre on Monday 5th February with “Showcase”. Hosted by Pattern + Push and Slambarz, this will see Sheffield-based artists, DJs and local dance groups take to the stage, while an original song, written to celebrate the MOBO Awards in Sheffield, will also be performed.

Tuesday 6th February will see the Fringe events continue at Sheffield City Hall with “It's Time to MOBILISE”. Up and coming artists and those with a passion for music will hear from the people leading the way in the UK Black music scene at this expert panel event hosted by Zeze Millz. 

The panel lineup comprises Glyn Aikins, co-founder and co-president of Sony Music UK; Jaz Karis, a MOBO Awards 2024 nominee for Best R&B and Soul Act; Richard Castillo, a Senior Vice President of A&R at EMI Records and Universal Music UK; Shanice Edwards A&R at Sony Music UK; and Austin Daboh, Executive Vice President of Atlantic Records UK, and Warner Music UK. The panel will be giving their insights into the music industry and offering their advice on how to develop a career in the music industry in 2024.

As well as the panel discussion, there will also be performances from Sheffield-based singer songwriter Josie Wray and Sheffield-based rap duo Motion Boy.

On the day of the awards themselves there will be “Sheffield Spotlight in the Winter Garden”, a celebration of Sheffield's Black culture, with more than 25 stalls and music acts. It will be free to attend, with a line up of live music and cultural performances throughout the day, 10am - 4pm, hosted by Nigel Lowan. Acts performing including DJ Winston Hazel, African drummer Tongesayi, young rap artist Leah McLean, R&B and soul singer Josie Wray, one of Sheffield’s most successful house music singer-songwriters Steve Edwards, and many more.

Local schools will also be joining in the celebrations and exploring the impact of Black music and culture through a range of educational activities that aim to inspire the next generation of musicians. Primary and secondary schools in Sheffield have signed up to learn and perform “Blinded By Your Grace”, a song by MOBO nominee Stormzy. The performances will be used to create a short film by The Sheffield Music Hub.

Councillor Martin Smith, Chair of the Economic Development and Skills Committee at Sheffield City Council, said: “This is more than just a festival of events, this is a celebration of unity and diversity. It will see the city embrace both the beats and flavours of Africa and the Caribbean and is a testament to the power of the music and culture on offer in our city. MOBO Awards Sheffield – The Fringe is going to be an unforgettable experience for Sheffield and our communities, and I hope everyone is able to get involved and enjoy what’s on offer.”

The 26th Annual MOBO Awards: Access All Areas will be available to watch on BBC One on Friday 9th February at 11:30pm. Tickets for the award ceremony itself at Utilita Arena Sheffield are still available via the MOBO website, so snap them up early for what promises to a celebration to behold in the Steel City.


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