Black Cultural Archives: Staying Power

The summer of 2014 saw the successful opening of Black Cultural Archives (BCA) where over 3,000 people filled Windrush Square in Brixton. With nearly 20,000 visitors since the opening the venue has programmed an exciting array of exhibitions, talks, workshops, walks, lectures, and a pioneering schools programme. The reading room, reference library and archive collection has attracted many visitors from all over the UK and beyond. Artists and entertainers have also performed and hosted a series of special events as part of Café Club Late, the most recent hosted by award-winning poet and playwright Inua Ellams.

Following the triumph of the first exhibition Re-imagine: Black Women in Britain, BCA is proud to present Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience, 1950-1990s from Thursday 15 January – Tuesday 30 June 2015. This brand new exhibition is the culmination of a seven year collaborative project between Black Cultural Archives and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to acquire a collection of photographs that increases the representation of Black photographers and subjects within the V&A’s photographs collection and to develop broader audiences for arts and heritage. The V&A will also present an exhibition of the same title drawn from the new collection of photographs from Monday 16 February – Sunday 24 May 2015.

Staying Power explores the work of a selection of photographers who were documenting Black experience from mass migration following the arrival of the Windrush in 1948 to the late 1990s and features 14 photographers: Raphael Albert, Norman ‘Normski’ Anderson, Jenny Baptiste, Pogus Cesar, Armet Francis, Colin Jones, Dennis Morris, Charlie Phillips, Ingrid Pollard, Al Vandenberg and Gavin Watson. Highlights include James Barnor’s – Mike Eghan Piccadilly Circus (1967) Neil Kenlocks – Keep Britain White (1974) and Syd Shelton’s – Specials fans, Leeds Carnival Against the Nazis, (1981).

Alongside the photographs there will also be a collection of oral histories from a range of subjects including the photographers themselves, their relatives and the people depicted in the images.

The curator of Staying Power is Dr Kimberly F. Keith. She has worked in museums for fifteen years both in the UK and USA, including the Children’s Museum of Seattle and the Museum of Glass: International Centre for Contemporary Art in Tacoma. She has developed educational programmes for at-risk youth and diverse audiences. Kimberley earned her PhD in Sociology at Goldsmiths from University of London, researching how US and UK museum practitioners develop and engage diverse audiences in relation to disparate organisational cultures and strategic policies.

The photographs in the Staying Power exhibition gives us insight into the politics and cultural interests that shaped the Black British experience in the latter half of the 20th Century. When we see the photographs, listen to the oral histories and read the archival material on display, we gain a deeper understanding of how the past has shaped how we live in contemporary times. When we make the links between historical and contemporary issues we can begin to create strategies to combat discrimination and work towards social change. Black history is all our history and photographs of experiences in Black history are a powerful tool to promote dialogue in the community. I look forward to being part of the conversation.’
Dr Kimberly F. Keith, Staying Power Curator & BCA Trustee

‘‘This is a tremendously important exhibition showing incredible photographs from highly talented photographers. Our seven year partnership with the Victoria and Albert Museum working closely with a range of heritage professionals and artists, has been invaluable. Dr Kimberly F. Keith has been instrumental throughout our partnership, her invaluable work on this project is very special to Black Cultural Archives.’
Paul Reid, Black Cultural Archives, Director

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