Rock Against Racism
1 June - 2 August 2016
In partnership with Tiketti Galleria, our acclaimed exhibition Syd Shelton: Rock Against Racism is touring to Finland.
Syd Shelton’s photographs capturing one of the most intriguing and contradictory political periods in British post war history. Between 1976 and 1981, the movement Rock Against Racism (RAR) confronted racist ideology in the streets, parks and town halls of Britain. RAR was formed by a collective of musicians and political activists to fight fascism and racism through music.
Under the slogan 'Love Music, Hate Racism', it showcased reggae and punk bands on the same stage, attracting large multicultural audiences. At a time when the fascist attitudes of the National Front were gaining support, RAR marked the rising resistance to violent and institutionalised racism.
Syd Shelton’s photographs document the volatility of a country divided across race, class and gender. They expose the ferocity of cultural difference being hammered out on Britain’s streets through the late 1970s, at a time when racist skinheads danced to Jamaican ska, punks embraced reggae and black kids reached out to punk. Shelton photographed performers such as The Clash, Elvis Costello, Misty in Roots, Tom Robinson, Au Pairs and The Specials as well as the audiences at RAR gigs and carnivals across England. He captured the history-making RAR Carnival 1 at Victoria Park, London in 1978, and demonstrations such as the Anti National Front Demonstration in Lewisham in 1977. Shelton also took contextual social and cultural images that informed the politics of the movement across England and Ireland.
Rock Against Racism revisits the energy of RAR, the creative entanglement of black and white musicians, designers, writers, actors, performers and supporters who produced effective counter-narratives to whiteness as superior and blackness as alienated. Shelton’s photographs remind us that RAR was a particular treatise on belonging in Britain.
Syd Shelton: Rock Against Racism was first exhibited at Autograph ABP in London.
About Syd Shelton
Syd Shelton is a British photographer and graphic designer. He has worked in Europe, Australia and the United States. He co-edited and was art director of a series of photographic books: 24 Hours in Los Angeles (1984), the award winning Day in the Life of London (1984) and Ireland: A Week in the Life of a Nation (1986).
His work was recently included in the exhibition Words, Sound and Power: Reggae Changed My Life at The British Music Experience: Britain’s Museum of Popular Music, O2 Arena, London (2012) and The Photographer’s Gallery exhibition The World in London.
Press acclaim for Syd Shelton: Rock Against Racism at Autograph ABP, London
The Telegraph : The best photography exhibitions on now
British Journal of Photography: ' Rock Against Racism – how an artistic movement took on the National Front'
Artforum: 'At a time when right-wing media attacks on the black community in southeast London were common and discriminatory policing was taking a toll on that community, Rock Against Racism brought together antiracist activists from across the country.'
Rock Against Racism is curated by Mark Sealy at Autograph ABP, in collaboration with guest curator Carol Tulloch.
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