18th August 2016 – Rock Against Racism ‘Feed Your Mind’ with Paul Furness

It seems evident that Rock Against Racism was and still remains to be a crucial movement within the UK that aims to stand up against racism. From 1976 to 1981, the movement was gaining more popularity by the second and punk/reggae music was becoming widespread across the UK. But what was interesting to note is how Rock Against Racism had a strong northern following, and the Leeds RAR club was one of the most important and long-lasting. Now this is where Feed Your Mind comes in as Paul Furness, who was significant in running Rock Against Racism in Leeds, talks more about his experience within the movement and also what Rock Against Racism was like in Leeds.

Many people attended the event and for some of the visitors, it was almost as if they were reliving their experience of Rock Against Racism in Leeds as some of them told us how they remember going to the gigs and clubs in Leeds.

What made this event even more special was that the talk was being broadcast live on BCB radio, so that all the local listeners could tune in and listen to Paul’s talk. I was amazed to hear Paul speak about the movement in Leeds as I almost couldn’t believe that this movement had such a big impact on Yorkshire. It was reassuring to know that the Yorkshire people got into the spirit of Rock Against Racism and stood up against racism. But from what Paul had told us, it wasn’t an easy journey. He recalled how Leeds Rock Against Racism were in a constant battle against the National Front and racists and how some of their gigs and clubs would be trashed by members of the National Front. He also spoke about how people who wore the Rock Against Racism badges were in danger from Nazi groups as they would be hassled or even beaten up for wearing the badges – most of them had to take them off for their own safety. It shocked me how Leeds was quite hostile during the 70s and how it was a bit of a scary place to be in. (That’s the complete opposite now.) But despite their struggle against racism, it is impressive that they remained strong and carried on with the gigs and clubs.

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Taking a closer look at some of the memorabilia that Paul has lent, he explained how some of the posters were made by professional graphic designers such as Syd Shelton and others were made by hand by the members. Looking at the posters that were made professionally, graphic designer David King was responsible for the creation of some of the iconic posters for the Anti Nazi League. I know it shouldn’t baffle me when I learn that well-known artists were involved with Rock Against Racism, but it still does. Just to drop in a few more names that might sound familiar, Paul remembered how some of the teenagers who came to the RAR events grew up to do remarkable things. These were individuals such as Damien Hirst and Marc Almond. I can imagine that it must be strange to say that you met these artists when they were younger and were involved in a grassroots movement.

If you’re reading this and you’re wondering what the gigs at Leeds Rock Against Racism looked like, then fear not for Syd came to Leeds and took some photos of the concerts, which can be seen in the exhibition. It is definitely a sight to see such a diverse group of people coming together and Paul explained how there were so many fans pouring out of the countless buses. I suppose one of the many reasons that the eager fans flocked together in Leeds was due to the fact that bands such as Skully Roots, The Specials, The Au Pairs and Piranhas would be there. I still think that it’s amazing but strange that this was happening in Yorkshire.

The talk was concluded with a Q&A and there were some interesting questions being asked. For instance, someone asked Paul what he thought about punk/reggae music and why he got into Rock Against Racism. His answer to the first question was that punk is like a breath of fresh air, wiping away all the stale and pompous music that dominated everything. (I thought that was a great answer!) For the second question, he answered that he joined the movement because he wanted to fight back against racism and to this day he can’t understand who benefits from racism, and I thought this was a really good because racism is just another aggressive form of bullying, and nothing is really gained from it.

One question, which I thought was really interesting was when someone asked Paul if we are seeing a similar rise of racism like the UK did during the 1970s and this individual also commented on how young people nowadays aren’t as passionate as they were during Rock Against Racism, that they’re not as willing to stand up against racism. This is a question that is almost asked frequently at the gallery from passing visitors as they comment on the situation with the EU and how it is uncanny that Rock Against Racism almost mimics what has happened now. (Hopefully we’re not seeing a repeat of the 1970s.) Paul’s response to this was that racism hasn’t really vanished, it’s just morphed into something different. But despite that, he explains how he feels that Rock Against Racism is such a colourful movement in a monochrome society of racism.

And from a personal point of view, I would argue that us young people are still passionate and would definitely stand up against racism. If they don’t believe me, then they should take a look at the students up at the university.

11th August 2016 – Maggie Glover exhibition at The Peace Museum: ‘Painter of Honest Portraits’

In hearing about the official opening of ‘Painter of Honest Portraits’ by Maggie Glover at The Peace Museum, Jennifer, Pippa, myself and two New Focus members; Sonal and Danielle decided to attend the event, as there would be some never before seen items on display. I felt that this exhibition opening was the perfect opportunity for Danielle and Sonal to see what The Peace Museum is all about and to see what objects they put on display, as it was their first time in visiting the museum.

When we arrived at the museum there were already so many people present, the rooms were just filled with eagerness and curiosity about the exhibition. From a personal perspective, it was great to see familiar faces like Shannen Lang as I used to volunteer at The Peace Museum and help out with events. It was also great to revisit the space and to see the new items that they’ve added.

Shortly after we arrived there was a short introductory talk by the Chair of the Board of Trustees. He briefly spoke about the journey that The Peace Museum has been on and his amazement at how they have access to Maggie Glover’s art, as he never imagined that they would have direct access to her work.

Following the introductory talk, Shannen Lang, the Learning and Administration Officer then began to take a closer look at Maggie Glover and to talk a bit more about her work as both an artist and a peace activist. I think it’s amazing how Maggie Glover combined her passion of art and peace to create some amazing pieces that now serve as records of peace activism. Shannen then focused on some of Maggie’s sketches and she made an interesting point of how there’s a great sense of urgency in each piece, as she wanted to capture the moment. I really enjoyed the variety of art within the exhibition, as it was a mixture of peace related art to an ordinary sketch of Sir Ian McKellen.

After the talk was finished, we were able to take a closer look at the exhibition. The evening was definitely a new experience for Sonal and Danielle but I feel that they now have a better idea of the type of work that The Peace Museum does. As a whole, it was an enjoyable evening in being able to celebrate the life and work of Maggie Glover.

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15th July 2016 – WOW (Women of the World) Think in at Kala Sangam

The WOW festival is certainly something to go wow over as it is celebrating women all over the world from different backgrounds for their achievements. It is usually held in Southbank Centre in London but recently it has been on the move around the world. This time round, it’ll be held in Bradford for the next three years, and this year it will take place in November 11 to 13. To mark the official beginning of WOW in Bradford, Impressions Gallery had the honour of hosting the event, which attracted more than 100 people from different organisations and backgrounds.

In getting ready for the festival in Bradford, WOW are holding ‘think in’ sessions where women and men are welcome to attend and to share their opinions and ideas with other organisations. The main aim with these sessions is to bring together some amazing ideas that could shape some incredible events for the festival.

From seeing how successful the official launch event of WOW was at Impressions Gallery, myself and Jane Hiley wanted to attend the ‘think in’ session so that we could get a better idea of what organisations would be involved and also to see what the session would be like (neither of us have been to a session like this before.) It was held at Kala Sangam and it was hosted by Evie Manning, who also participated in Citizens of the Word. It was great to see so many women attend from different organisations and they provided some really insightful opinions and ideas for the WOW festival.

For instance, we met a community group called ‘Womenszone’ and they run a variation of activities for women to participate in and to help women who are struggling with the language barrier. It was amazing to hear how women who have been depressed or alone felt welcomed in this community group and it was reassuring to know that there are groups like this out there in Bradford.

By the end of the session, the room was just brimming with so many ideas for the festival, I just hope that Evie will be able to remember them all. This definitely made me feel very excited for the festival, can’t wait to see what it will bring when November comes.

14th July 2016 – Meeting with Graham, Congreve about the publication for ‘No Man’s Land’ by Asiya Hussain

Today, Pippa and I were meeting up with Graham Congreve, Director of Evolutionprint and this meeting would be mainly to see the different publications he’s made and which one would capture our attention.

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Just to explain why we were having this meeting in the first place, New Focus is working on a project called No Man’s Land and throughout the project, we’ll be visiting different archives and unearthing some interesting and hidden facts about women during World War One. Hopefully, by the end of the project we will have created a publication, which will be filled with all the different things we’ve learned and will be accessible for young people to read. This meeting was mainly to give us a better idea of what layout and design would be suitable for the publication.

I’ve never really been at these meetings when you get to meet the brains behind the layout and design of publications so this was exciting for me.

He brought over a box full of publications, big and small, so that made me even more curious to see what he brought. And I have to say, there was A LOT of publications of all shapes and sizes. There were two A3 sized magazines that looked like old fashioned newspapers, which I thought looked really good and there was also a leaflet that had been shaped to look like a mountain, so that when you unfold it each page has a section of the mountain head. (That really impressed me.)

 

But we also had to keep in mind that the really complex but pretty publications would be more expensive to make as it would require a lot more time in producing them. This was evident when we took a look at a large book that had different textured papers and some of them had different printing styles done, some being engraved while others had designs made by laser cutting (wow!) I think we instantly fell in love with that book.

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It was amazing to see all the different possible outcomes in making a publication. It doesn’t have to be a traditional text book with a lot of writing and a few images, it can look like a newspaper filled with nothing but images, or it could be concealed within a package or it could even be pocketsize!

I have no doubt that the next time we have a New Focus meeting, they will definitely be excited to hear all the different options for the publication No Man’s Land.

5th May 2016 – Meeting with the Peace Museum by Asiya Hussain

Following from the success of the New Focus meeting in discussing the new project of No Man’s Land and the different approaches that New Focus can take on it, the next step was to meet up with a potential partner in the project, the Peace Museum. The plan was to tell them about the project and see if they would be able to partner up and if they could contribute something towards it.

From a personal point, it was great to revisit the Peace Museum as I had volunteered there 2 to 3 years ago. Quite nostalgic… The members of the museum who greeted us were extremely friendly and very enthusiastic about the project. They were definitely all for New Focus getting involved with the Peace Museum. They want us to use their archive and that sounded really exciting, you never know what amazing object you could find. Their overall aim in allowing us access to their archive is to make archives in museums more welcoming and accessible for public use.

Some of the objects they had in their archives were really incredible. One of the pieces that we were able to see was some sort of stamping block that had the image of a photograph on the base – the photograph was of a women’s peace group. The image was very intricate.

The meeting overall went very well and hopefully we’ll be working closely with the Peace Museum in the near future!

14th April 2016 – New Focus Meeting about ‘No Man’s Land: Women’s Photography and the First World War’ by Asiya Hussain

This meeting was based on discussing the new project No Man’s Land: Women’s Photography and the First World War, which our Head of Programme, Pippa will be curating for next year.

The aim of the exhibition is to explore gender: to consider what we think of as masculine or feminine in relation to war and war photography. Although most histories emphasise the experience of male soldiers, women were fundamentally involved in the war as well.

This project delves into the elements of war that aren’t well known to the public. This should be a really exciting project for New Focus to get their hands on!

With the arrival of some new members to the New Focus team, discussing the new project went better than I expected. Thanks to the introduction of the project from Pippa and Jennifer, everyone was extremely responsive and they were really eager to get started.

We discussed areas such as the barriers this exhibition might have with the younger people and what would interest young people about the exhibition. As soon as the paper came out to make some notes, all the thoughts and ideas just started pouring out from the team.

The project itself sounded really interesting as it contained some intriguing issues that could be explored from different angles. By the end of the meeting, you could tell that everyone left feeling positive and inspired. Can’t wait to get started now!

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The Animated Punk Poster School Challenge

Thursday 30th June 2016 and Friday 1st July 2016 – The Animated Punk Poster School Challenge

As Rock Against Racism is such a fantastic movement that which promotes racial equality through punk and reggae music, it feels crucial that the younger generation of Bradford should be able to connect with the movement in order to get a better idea of how it has influenced society today. One way of doing that is through the power of creativity!

To get the creativity flowing, the gallery invited some schools over to participate in ‘The Animated Punk Poster School Challenge’ and the main aim of this workshop is to show the pupils what it was like back in the 70s in the UK, what it was like to be a graphic designer in the 70s and how racism had become normalized. But instead of simply preaching the message to the pupils, they were given the task of creating their own Rock Against Racism posters, to create posters that reflected on the different meanings of Rock Against Racism and to also reflect on what they have learnt during the workshop.
But wait, there’s more! They’re also able to make a really cool Rock Against Racism photo collage that was brought to life with the help of stop motion animation. The pupils were really thrilled to see their work come alive on the projector screen, I know I’d be thrilled if I were in their shoes.

I was able to help out with two workshops involving Hanson Academy and the Holy Family Catholic School from Keighley and it was really great to see them get into the ‘Rock ‘n’ roll’ spirit. It was also good to see how some of the pupils were already aware about the impact of racism and how it can become mixed up with politics in having an affect on the public. I could see some of these pupils becoming future politicians with how passionate they are about racial equality.

Some of the posters made had some powerful messages and in a way it’s reassuring to know that this is how the younger generation feel about racism. It’s definitely not easy to make a meaningful poster from pieces of newspaper, postcards and magazines.

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