Bay Dreams director Mitch Lowe 'deeply sorry' for resurfaced blackface photo

One of the directors of the Bay Dreams music festival has issued an apology for a photo of he and his brother wearing blackface to a dress up party nine years ago. 

Mitch Lowe told Newshub he was "young and ultimately stupid" when he wore the costume with a group of young men who appeared to be dressing as the Jackson 5.

He said at the time he and his friends were "unaware" of what blackface was, adding he was "deeply apologised to anyone that may have found it hurtful". 

The picture, featuring the group wearing brightly coloured suits with their faces and bodies painted brown, was spotted on his brother Cam's Facebook page, where it was picked up by a Twitter user and shared online. 

"'New Zealand is not racist' okay luv [sic] but not one black person on that line-up," Twitter user Yungordi wrote earlier this week. 

"And this is the organiser I'll leave this here," they added, along with the image. 

Other commenters have pointed out that the 2021 Bay Dreams line up does feature people of colour, including Māori and Pasifika acts. 

Mitch told Newshub the decision to don the costume was not malicious.

"We innocently thought we were dressing as one of our favourite artists to a themed party. We did not recognise what blackface was, and I now know that blackface isn’t a costume or something to be defended, and I certainly never intended to offend," he said. 

The music promoter said he was passionate about "growing as a person", insisting the photo was not representative of the way he thinks or would behave now. 

"In the decade following, I have hosted hundreds of artists from every background, and I want to represent inclusivity for people from all walks of life. I have worked with, and continue to work with people from every religion, gender, culture, colour and origin." 

Conversely, Mitch's brother Cam staunchly refuted claims the picture was racist, telling commenters on his Facebook page to "get the f**k outta here" when they called it offensive. 

Bay Dreams director Mitch Lowe 'deeply sorry' for resurfaced blackface photo
Photo credit: Facebook

"I'm the most anti racist person around so keep those accusations to yourself," Cam wrote on Facebook, in screenshots supplied to Newshub. 

"I doubt you would have called this photo 'racist' 8 years ago, just like no one else did back then when it was posted to thousands of people." 

In his comments, Cam admitted that blackface "would be wrong today" but insisted it was "a joke" that people were bringing it up now, writing: "It was a dress up part eight years ago when the world wasn't so PC." 

The Bay Dreams line-up has already been subject to criticism in the past week with a slew of fans and local musicians upset about the lack of female representation on the bill. 

Mitch and his co-director Pato Alvarez told Newshub diversity was important to them, saying they "heard the criticism" about the six female artists on the line up not being enough. 

"We agree that more needs to be done to address the imbalance and inequality across the board in music and we are listening."