Joint partnership to create much-needed access for Black talent to the Cannes Lions Festival and associated industries

Cephas Williams, founder of the Black British Network and Simon Cook, CEO of LIONS, announce the launch of Black Out 2023, a new campaign to drive Black representation at Cannes Lions.

Black Out 2023 is a callout to organisations connected to the marketing and creative industries to ensure the presence of Black talent at the largest industry gathering in the world.

The programme will secure attendance for up to 50 people from the Black community at this year’s festival through a campaign focused on driving investment from leading organisations. Cannes Lions will provide the Festival passes and the Black British Network will lead an investment campaign to cover flights, accommodation and associated costs. Any additional funds raised will be used to support the ongoing work of the Black British Network to achieve equity and inclusion across the industry.

The campaign is focused on improving accessibility authentically, from the ground up, and is open to Black talent at any stage of their career, from those who have been in the industry for many years, to those seeking a point of entry to the industry. Applications are now open on the Black British Network website and the Crowdfunder is now live.

Black Out 2023 is an evolution of Cephas in Cannes, an independent campaign launched by Williams in 2022 to see a greater level of Black representation at the Festival. In the lead-up to the Festival, Williams committed £20,000 of his own money to bring Black talent with him, and invited the industry to take action on their commitment to inclusion and invest alongside him. Williams’ own initial investment was more than tripled by the ensuing campaign and secured fully-funded access to Cannes Lions for six people.

Williams’ enduring ability to spot opportunities that uplift and develop Black individuals has inspired Cannes Lions to formally collaborate with the Black British Network on a joint talent programme. Whilst industry leaders are collectively vocal about the need for greater diversity, Black talent continues to be underrepresented and undervalued at all levels.

Black Out 2023 offers these leaders and their organisations an opportunity to publicly and internally demonstrate their commitment to action and take a tangible step to increase access to the industry, while investing in making the industry more conducive to Black talent. Organisations and individuals wanting to contribute should get in touch at

Cephas Williams, Founder of the Black British Network said:

Black Out is an important output for the Black British Network. Collaborating with Cannes Lions, the biggest creative marketing event in the world, allows us to meaningfully drive Black representation in this area on a global stage.

It ensures that Black talent is authentically visible and involved at the heart of the industry and not just a quota or at surface level. There is a famous quote, “Diversity is inviting people to the party, inclusion is allowing them to dance”. I say real inclusion is providing them the platform to play the music they want to dance to, and a step further would be to co-create the ecosystem for us to create our own parties. Real representation starts with proximity and parity, not the accessibility that sees us only able to be ourselves behind closed doors.

Black Out gives Black talent the authentic proximity they need to develop themselves personally and within the industry, building meaningful relationships while connecting with a community of people on a similar mission. The meeting of the world’s biggest brands and most influential media and marketing leaders is an unmissable opportunity to leverage social and economic currency to create long lasting change.

Simon Cook, CEO of LIONS, said:

Cannes Lions is committed to driving equity within our industry, and we are pleased to be partnering with Cephas to launch Black Out as part of our commitment to actively combatting underrepresentation.

Our industry recognises the importance of supporting Black talent and removing barriers to progression, and Black Out enables organisations to show their support.

We’re grateful for the opportunity to partner with Cephas to provide more opportunities and access to the Festival.

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