Black Out 2023 | Cannes Lions Festival

by Cephas Williams in London, Greater London, United Kingdom

We did it
On 26th June 2023 we successfully raised £193,261 with 38 supporters in 112 days

Taking Black talent connected to the creative industry or interested in it to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

by Cephas Williams in London, Greater London, United Kingdom

 New stretch target

- If you would like the chance to go to Cannes with Cephas, please visit our website here to submit your application. We will be shortlisting everyone and the deadline to complete your application is Sunday 19th March 2023 11:59pm. (2 weeks)

- If you are an organisation and would like your Black staff members to join Cephas and the team in Cannes, please email us directly at [email protected]. (Please note that due to the number of applicants and our capacity at this time, we can not reply to emails about the application process or applications, we can only take on emails from companies looking to support the program).


The Story

In 2022, Cephas Williams initially committed £10,000 of his own money on a mission to take 3 people from the Black community with him to Cannes. He launched this through his campaign ‘Cephas In Cannes’. After raising over £62,000 and alongside an overwhelming amount of interest / applications, Cephas invested a further £10,000 enabling him to take a group of 6 people alongside a working team to the festival.

The purpose was to take Black talent connected to the creative industry to the Cannes Lions International Festival. Born from his first experience of Cannes a number of years ago, feeling like one of the only Black people out he knew he had to do something personally to contribute to the change he wanted to see. 

Also inspired by his commitment to change as detailed in Letter to Zion, after the murder of George Floyd. The letter outlined the changes he hoped would take place during Zion’s lifetime and invited leaders from his network and prominent UK organisations to pledge their support through the Black British Network.

When it came to the advertising and media industry, he felt that a significant way to activate change within this space would be through one of Ascential’s products ‘Cannes Lions Festival’ at the zeitgeist of its industry globally. In 2022 Cephas put a public call out to the industry, a handful of companies and people such as Idris Elba, alongside members of the Black community and allies, put their money toward this mission. Supporting companies included Tesco, Lucky Generals, Oliver, McCann, BBH, Salesforce, Dentsu Creative, Clear Channel, Talon and Soho House. Their support enabled Cephas to take 6 people with him alongside a working team and raise just over £72,000 in total to make this happen.


The Mission

This year Cephas would like to build on from last year’s success in a bid to increase representation and genuine inclusion at forums like this. As such is working with the Cannes Lion team in partnership with the Black British Network to take a larger amount of Black talent with him this year connected to the industry. The target is 50 people, some of which will form the working team who will also be getting experience from being involved in the planning and delivery of the program.

Black Out 2023 is a space for Black people across the world to connect and develop within their area of interest and for us to amplify the purpose and reason for change across the industry and on a global stage such as this.

If you would personally like to join Cephas on this mission and contribute financially, please feel free to support this crowdfunder. If you are an organisation and would like to contribute or would like your Black staff members to join Cephas and the team in Cannes, please email us directly at [email protected].

The Black Out 2023 program aims to give people a greater sense of belonging, community and programming engineered to support career growth and personal development. We will be shortlisting everyone and the deadline to complete your application is Sunday 19th March 2023 11:59pm.


About Cephas Williams

Cephas is the photographer and creator behind the ground-breaking 56 Black Men campaign, Portrait of Black Britain exhibition and the founder of the Black British Network. 

Since launching the 56 Black campaign in December 2018, it has had both a local and global impact and has since been featured in both local and global news outlets. 

Over the years Cephas has been successful in galvanising support for his businesses from key partners and industry leaders, and more recently through his open letter to his son, Letter to Zion used as an introduction to the Black British Network. 

Since its release in 2020, Letter to Zion has been signed by a number of executives who have committed to collectively driving towards systemic change for Black people throughout the UK. Cephas and his team have engaged and onboarded 20 corporate member organisations to the BBN including Tesco, EY, Alfa Systems, Publicis Groupe, Clear Channel, Virgin Media O2, Lucky Generals, AMVBBDO, The Co-Op Group, Dechert LLP, Sainsbury’s, Facebook (Meta), Mother, Accenture, Salesforce, Unilever, Ascential as well as friends/allies in leadership roles, such as Paul Polman (Ex CEO of Unilever) and Simon Pegg.

In 2021, Cephas launched Portrait of Black Britain. A series co-commissioned by Manchester International Festival and later supported by Landsec. Cephas showcased the initial 116 portraits with the aim to amplify and recognise contributions made by Black people living in the UK, giving a holistic picture of the various roles Black people play in society and providing visibility for future generations in a centralised way that speaks to legacy. 

With the mission to reach 1,000 portraits, the Portrait of Black Britain series has gone from strength to strength and has since grown to 219 portraits with coverage in the BBC, ITV News, The Drum and other trade publications. You can read more about Portrait of Black Britain and see the entire collection of images and exhibitions to date here.

Cephas is focused on raising social consciousness, with a current focus on issues Black people face and how we dismantle systemic racism through the Black British Network, with things such as Roundtable Conversations, The Black Conference and this program to see more Black talent at Cannes.


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