Syd Shelton: Rock Against Racism, installation view at Charing Cross Hospital. All images from the series Rock Against Racism, 1977 – 1981/2015 © Syd Shelton. Courtesy of the artist and Autograph, London. Image: Zoë Maxwell
Imperial Health Charity is pleased to present Syd Shelton: Rock Against Racism in collaboration with Autograph, London.
Syd Shelton: Rock Against Racism captures one of the most exciting and turbulent political
periods in British post-war history. Active between 1976 to 1981, Rock Against Racism (RAR)
was a ground-breaking movement formed by a collective of musicians and political activists
to confront racist ideology in the streets, parks, and town halls of Britain through music.
Under the slogan ‘Love Music, Hate Racism’, RAR 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. Legendary performers included The Clash, Misty in Roots, Aswad, XRay Spex, Elvis Costello, Tom Robinson and The Specials, who all played to audiences at RAR
gigs and carnivals across England.
Shelton captured the history-making RAR Carnival at Victoria Park, London in 1978 attended
by 100,000 people and pivotal moments such as the Anti National Front demonstration in
Lewisham in 1977. The images presented here include the social and cultural context that
informed the politics of the RAR movement across England and Ireland
Syd Shelton: Rock Against Racism, installation view at Charing Cross Hospital. rom the series Rock Against Racism, 1977 – 1981/2015 © Syd Shelton. Courtesy of the artist and Autograph, London. Image: ZoëMaxwell
In the five years that RAR operated, the National Front lost support and any hope of winning
an election. Shelton says, “I hope the exhibition shows that you can change things and you
can actually take a stand, even in the most difficult of situations.” A message that is still very
Syd Shelton: Rock Against Racism revisits the energy of RAR, the creative entanglement of
black and white musicians, designers, writers, actors, performers, and supporters who
produced 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.
This display of Rock Against Racism is a collaboration between Imperial Health Charity and
Autograph, London. Established in 1988, Autograph’s mission is to champion the work of
artists who use photography and film to highlight questions of race, representation, human
rights and social justice. The selection of photographs originally formed part of the touring
exhibition Rock Against Racism curated by Mark Sealy, Director of Autograph, and Carol
Tulloch, Professor of Dress, Diaspora and Transnationalism at University of the Arts, London.
Syd Shelton: Rock Against Racism, installation view at Charing Cross Hospital. rom the series Rock Against Racism, 1977 – 1981/2015 © Syd Shelton. Courtesy of the artist and Autograph, London. Image: Zoë Maxwell
For more information about Syd Shelton's works visit his website: www.sydshelton.net
For more information about Autograph, London, visit their website: www.autograph.org.uk
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