Featuring RAR-RAP commissioned filmed interviews by SCSQ with contributions from the Bass Culture Archive.
Rock Against Racism (1976-82) was the most vibrant grassroots cultural movement of the 20th century. Uniting music lovers to fight against racism and fascism, RAR harnessed the power of the imagination – thrilling music, electric graphic-art and witty, subversive polemic – along with a DIY ethos which enabled supporters to organise gigs and events within their local area, as part of a national and international collective effort.
Hundreds of local as well as established bands played RAR clubs, gigs and carnivals across Britain and the world.
The result was a movement which raised the consciousness of a generation.
RAR-MET:2022 captures the excitement of the moment and the thirst for change which has contemporary resonance. We showcase RAR’s punky-reggae aesthetic through posters, badges, stickers, leaflets, letters from young fans across the world, as well as striking graphics from the legendary RAR fanzine, Temporary Hoarding. Articles, montages and interviews range from abortion rights to anti-colonial struggles around the world.
The energy of this unique cultural/political moment in British music history is documented by photographers including Caroline Coon, Henry Grant, Peter Marlow, Neil Martinson, Red Saunders, John Sturrock, Paul Trevor, Virginia Turbett and Val Wilmer and material from associated campaigns including Rock Against Sexism, the Anti-Nazi League, Asian Youth and Gay Rights.
*OPENING AND CLOSING EVENTS TO BE ANNOUNCED SOON*
ABOUT Rock Against Racism (RAR)
RAR emerged in the late 1970s in reaction to an alarming rise in racist attacks on the streets, and support for the neo-Nazi National Front at the ballot box. Mainstays of the UK pop scene such as Eric Clapton and David Bowie – white musicians capitalising on black music – made statements that further inflamed racial tension. A letter to the music press, signed by a group of fans, voicing their horror at such hypocrisy, quickly gained widespread support.
The first RAR gig took place in 1976, with black and white musicians performing together, and soon people were organising their own local RAR gigs and clubs throughout the country. The RAR magazine, Temporary Hoarding, justly famed for its provocative articles, memorable photos and ground-breaking design, joined the dots between radical politics and culture. Musicians and fans armed only with imagination, courage and tenacity, gave birth to a movement which inspired a generation.
It is hard to imagine now, but mixing up British reggae and punk rock bands and the fans of both genres was a radical idea in 1976. Until RAR formed it was almost unheard of for black and white musicians to share a stage let alone form bands together, Jerry Dammers from the Specials has said that RAR helped to inspire the Two Tone movement. Black artists some of whom were the children of the ‘Windrush Generation’, were routinely undervalued by the major labels. Just as women taking up instruments and forming groups was almost unheard of until Punk and Rock Against Sexism.
RAR-RAP (Rock Against Racism – Research ‘n’ Archive Project) was initiated in 2018 by Lucy Whitman, Kate Webb and Andy Dark to catalogue the unique archives and develop an analysis which acknowledges the vibrant multi-tone nation, Rock Against Racism was embedded in at the time, as a vital component in making change.
RAR-RAP utilises collaborative exhibition making as a research tool to reflect on a collective memory and a collective narrative, appropriate to what RAR was: an example of participatory, organic organisation. This form of horizontal governance has contemporary resonance in movements of today. Using a time-line (drawn up by Wayne Minter) as a map through our archives, RAR-RAP has explored what we did and how we did it – how we communicated in a pre-digital age – what life was like around us and who the other campaigns that we collaborated with were.
RAR-MET:2022 is intentionally locally focused, beginning at St Mary in the Castle, Hastings within the vibrant currents of the South East coast. We intend to stage live music, poetry events, on-line talks and workshops around the exhibition and have commissioned displays by current creative campaigns. As the Tour travels we expect the installation and the events around it to be interactive with the area it visits and co-curated and adapted by local creative activists. Uniting people through music and art, many of whom feel disempowered and marginalised, with no part to play in shaping their own community.
RAR-MET:2022 draws on unique repositories comprising: 1. Archive of the Central RAR office, including over 1,000 original letters; internal papers documenting the organisational structure of RAR; hundreds of leaflets and papers produced autonomously by the RAR movement. Courtesy of Kate Webb. 2. Archive of the Hot Pink Heart graphics studio, documenting the production of Temporary Hoarding and merchandise, including original artworks; photographs; cuttings and an extensive poster collection. Courtesy of Ruth Gregory. 3. Archive of Rock Against Sexism, and archive of fascist and antifascist propaganda and action 1976-1982. Courtesy of Lucy Whitman. 4. Other RAR archives from all over Europe, Ireland, the US and Australia by kind permission of the relevant archivists.
Other contributors include Pervez Bilgrami, Debbie Golt, Robert Galvin, Bob Humm, Sonia Long and Jo Wreford.
South Coast Squared aims to collaborate, share and inform across communities and creative industries alike. Its mission is to engage with multiple audiences, representing and supporting creative practice as well as cultural enterprise, providing global culture on England’s south coast.
ABOUT Larry Achiampong
Larry Achiampong will present a sound piece heard within the exhibition, featuring the voice of Ghanaian author Ama Ata Aidoo speaking powerfully about colonialism and racial injustice. The work forms part of the artist’s on-going, multi-site project Relic Traveller, which addresses issues around migration, displacement and nationhood through sound, film, performance and objects. Combining material that includes lost testimonies, pop-culture and stories of fallen empire, Relic Traveller methodically traces an Afro-centric narrative for the future, built on the dismantling of colonialism. Achiampong says:
“I’m very excited to be making new artworks that consider important histories which are often forgotten or erased. This is an appropriate moment to ponder the symbolic imperatives of Sound and Music, not just from a Diaspora-based perspective, but also, the rooted relationship with the African continent.”