The Southbank in London is a cultural hotspot. The National Theatre sits alongside stunning arts cinemas from the British Film Institute (BFI Southbank). And then there’s the Southbank Centre. This includes an art exhibition space called the Hayward Gallery, the National Poetry Library and three (count ’em) concert halls: the Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the magnificent Royal Festival Hall.
This is the first partnership of its kind for Apple in the U.K., indeed in Europe, and it’s part of the Apple Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI). This has led to the company investing in an investment and learning hub in Atlanta, a developer academy in Detroit and much more.
The Southbank Centre partnership is the latest initiative and will provide training and development programs to overcome barriers Black creatives can face, along with collaborations with local schools to spark a passion for creativity. These programs will operate in three British cities: London, Birmingham and Manchester.
Cook talked to participants in a program called Photo-Fantastic, where 15 Black photographers had put together photo shoots and videos in a week, asking them about their experience and how they’d found the program. As is always the case with Cook, he was attentive, listening carefully and asking deftly searching questions. I’ve seen him do this before, winning over the people he talks to with his sincerity, his genuine interest.
Afterward, I asked Cook about what business a tech company has getting involved in something like the Racial Equity and Justice Initiative. “It’s about values,” he replied, “About making a difference. Apple believes that we should be leaving the world better than we found it, improving people’s lives. We’ve been committed to that that through REJI.”
Apple said it would to spend $100 million when the initiative was first announced in 2020. But since then? “We have blown right past our initial commitment of $100 million, way beyond it,” Cook said. To be specific, the figure is already above $150 million.
Misan Harriman is the chair of the Southbank Centre, and an accomplished photographer who has made important contributions to Black Lives Matter, for instance. He’s also passionate about what programmes like this can achieve. Referring to the photographers, he said, “You’ve just seen how important it is: being seen, doing a show at Southbank and having access to great teachers and photographers. This is just the beginning.”
Cook agreed, saying, “You’ve seen how important a project like this has been for the photographers who took part. Not everybody gets the opportunities they should.”
And when asked what Steve Jobs would have made of this latest partnership and the REJI work, Cook referenced how avid Jobs was about liberating people’s talent. “Steve loved to see people harness their creativity, and he loved helping them to do things they didn’t know they could do and show them their talent.”