Athletes and poets back event to demand clean air in South London

Local community groups are organising a free one-day event to campaign against air pollution on South London.

Live + Breathe 2022 takes place on Saturday 18 June in Southwark Par from noon to 6pm.

Musicians, community groups, athletes and activists from Lambeth and Southwark have joined forces to host the free event to highlight and oppose the dangers of localised air pollution.

Musician and activist Love Ssega is the host of the event which is designed to raise awareness that people of colour are excessively affected by air pollution and are passionate about campaigning on climate issues.

It is hoped the day will encourage more young people to share their concerns and fears around air pollution.

Air pollution in London is constantly higher than the World Health Organisation’s recommended limits and Lambeth and Southwark have some of the worst levels in the city.

Live + Breathe 2022 is also a celebration of South London’s music community and culture and will offer local people the opportunity to get involved in free arts and culture workshops, take part in a football tournament, and listen to poetry by local writers.

South London groups involved include Peckham BMX Club, Poetic Unity, Peace Ballers, Neon Elevate, Art 4 Space, and CeCeRollerskates.

There will also be performances by ITV’s Peckham’s Finest star, DJ Mark Ashley-Dupé, Born N Bread, Rebel Clash and Shumba Youth.

Love Ssega said that research by the British Lung Foundation estimates that 36,000 people die each year due to air pollution in the UK.

The effects of living with air pollution can cause damage to organs and lead to asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and other long-term health conditions.

The South London resident and founding member of the band Clean Bandit wants local people to come and show their support.

“Live + Breathe 2022 is all about showing power brokers that Black people within Lambeth and Southwark care about climate issues,” she said.

woman speaking to camera in street market
The promotional video for Live and Breathe 2022 opens in Brixton’s Electric Avenue

“Not only that, the communities and groups involved here have come together to use art and culture to highlight an issue such as air pollution, which is shown to affect people of colour the most.

“People in the two areas would rather be doing sport, meeting friends, or training to be future Olympians, but if the air pollution levels are too high, then they are going to come together and make noise about it until the government acts to change it.”

Michael Pusey MBE, founder of Peckham’s BMX Club where Olympic silver medallist Kye Whyte learnt to ride, is calling for the community to get involved to support future generations.

“We have some of the best athletes in the world and our members will be a lot happier with clean air in and around the BMX track.

“We breathe in very hard air if we’re training, and clean air is going to give us the best performance for us to meet the Olympic team.”

Poetic Unity, the Brixton-based charity that provides support to young people across the UK, will have three poets performing their spoken words, inspired by their frustrations around air pollution.

Founder Ryan J. Matthews-Robinson said: “We’re passionate about challenging air pollution as it’s a massive problem where we’re based, and it will affect future generations to come if nothing is done.

“The Live + Breathe campaign fits perfectly with our values by giving young people a voice to tackle this issue.”

CeCe, a roller skate coach, and founder of CeCe Roller Skates, said: “The quality of life is dependent on the air we breathe. This should never be taken for granted.

“It breaks my heart to know that people in my city are unknowingly endangered, whilst enjoying nature and the outdoors because of the poisonous effects of our city’s air pollution.”

Peace Ballers is a social enterprise that creates peace in local communities by developing good identities in young men through football and entrepreneurship. During the event, they will be holding a football tournament.

Peace Ballers director Zion Zachary said: “Having been made more aware of the issue of air pollution in our boroughs and being an enterprise that primarily holds its activities outdoors, we felt it important to support the campaign.

“Most of our members are unaware of these issues, so the event will be an opportunity to educate them further, so they see the significance of such an issue and how it affects them.”

Love Ssega is performing at Billie Ellish’s Happier Than Before UK tour on 16 June at the London O2 Arena as part of a climate seminar “Overheated”.

Visit for more information about the event, the line-up, and the campaign.