Rock Against Racism: Photographs From a Unique Moment in 1970s Britain
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 racism and fascism 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.
RAR did not have an official photographer but Syd Shelton has produced the largest collection of images on the movement. 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. RAR organised five carnivals and some 500 gigs across Britain.
Shelton photographed performers such as The Clash, Elvis Costello, Misty in Roots, Tom Robinson, Au Pairs and The Specials and their audience, as well as taking contextual social and cultural images that informed the politics of the movement across England and Ireland. This traveling exhibition produced by Autograph revisits the energy of RAR and the creative alliances of black and white musicians, designers, writers, actors, performers and supporters towards a common goal.