Mobo Awards for music of black origin to be held in Sheffield Arena

<span>Photograph: Cofiant Images/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Cofiant Images/Alamy

Sheffield will be rolling out the red carpet for the Mobo Award for the first time, the Guardian can reveal.

The awards for music of black origin are set to be held at Sheffield Arena on 7 February, featuring as yet unnamed famous faces and some “surprises”.

The Yorkshire city will host top artists from genres created by black people and originating from black communities, such as garage, grime, hip-hop, drill, R&B, soul, gospel and reggae.

The Mobo Awards said young people in Sheffield would be given an opportunity to attend the awards and that it would be holding talks and classes for aspiring musicians.

Over the awards’ 25-year history, the Mobos have been the first to recognise artists who are now household names, including Stormzy, Little Simz, Tinie Tempah, Dave, Estelle, Ms Dynamite, Craig David and Laura Mvula.

Kanya King, founder of the awards, said there seemed to be a north-south divide in funding and exposure, which was why the awards were being held in the northern city.

She said: “What makes Sheffield unique is that there is a rich underground scene with talent yet to break through, and with the community outreach the Mobo Awards always does, the hope is to engage with and elevate that underground scene.”

Tom Hunt, leader of Sheffield city council, said the city was “thrilled” to welcome the awards and “cannot wait to roll out the red carpet”.

“With Sheffield’s rich musical history and our reputation for hosting major events, we’re proud to recognise and honour exceptional British and international talent across a range of genres,” he said.

“Music runs through our blood, and this partnership with Mobo and Utilita Arena Sheffield is another example of our ambition for this city and an opportunity for us to celebrate our diverse music and culture.”

Founded in 1996, the awards were held in venues around London until 2009, when it was held in Glasgow. Since then, different cities have taken turns at hosting the event, including Liverpool, Coventry and Leeds.

King said: “Our desire to bring Mobo to different cities across the UK has always been rooted in the desire to unite massive talent from a local and global level, as well as fans, to deliver an iconic music experience rooted in celebrating black music’s present and future, as well as elevating the culture and being a driving force for social change.”

Looking into the future, King said the music she was most enthusiastic about was fusion tunes coming out of Africa, with UK artists experimenting with afrobeats.

“The return of garage, drum’n’bass and jungle is really exciting as well because it is being interpreted in a new way by a new generation of artists. It’s impossible not to feel slightly nostalgic when I hear it because it reminds me of the early days of the Mobo Awards in the 90s with Goldie, then Ms Dynamite and later Katy B, and so many others who have soundtracked the club scene for years.

“The underground goes overground,” she said.

Highlights of the 2024 awards will be televised on BBC One, along with a behind-the-scenes programme, and will be streamed live on YouTube.