Community members from Leeds work with UK Parliament Artist in Residence

A new exhibition opening on 13 December at the University of Leeds will explore the impact of race relations legislation in the UK.

Part of a wider project initiated by the UK Parliament and led by artist in residence Scarlett Crawford, First Waves: Exploring the impact of race relations legislation in the UK aims to highlight and evaluate the impact of the Race Relations Act 1968  fifty years after the law was enacted.

The exhibition has been curated by a group of students from the MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies and MA Arts Management and Heritage Studies courses at the University of Leeds, alongside colleagues in the School of Law. Visitors to the exhibition will be encouraged to critically engage with the displays and reflect on how race, anti-discrimination law and racism may have impacted on their own lives.

In October 2018, Scarlett Crawford delivered a series of workshops in the Leeds area, collaborating with community members to record their stories through creative exercises. The artworks on display were created with these participants and reflect their personal experiences of race and racism. Displayed in the gallery are five portraits that use symbolic props to reflect stories of race and equality, an installation of objects and an audio soundscape.

Professor Iyiola Solanke, Chair in EU Law and Social Justice at the School of Law, University of Leeds, and Academic Bencher at Inner Temple, said:

“The workshops were an opportunity to link the generations who created the Race Relations Act with those who should benefit from it. The particular focus on the experience of those in the UK at the time of the Race Relations Act passing in 1965 has generated a valuable record of a seminal epoch in British social and legal life. Art generates conversation and from that conversation the understanding needed to combat the virus of racial discrimination.”

Photograph of cover of Race Relations Act 1968

Leeds is the final city to be involved in the nation-wide First Waves project, with previous exhibitions in Cardiff, Thamesmead, Glasgow, Swansea, Nottingham and Liverpool.

Following the close of the Leeds exhibition in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies on 21 December, the work will be displayed in the School of Law at the University of Leeds. A major exhibition bringing together work created across the whole of the First Waves project will open at the House of Commons in Westminster Hall in January 2019. The exhibition will be open to all and free to enter during Parliament sitting times.

Speaking about the First Waves project, Alison McGovern MP, Chair, Speaker’s Committee for Works of Art, commented:

“We hope in some small way the First Waves project honours those people  parliamentarians, lobbyists, lawyers, campaigners but, more importantly, the ordinary people who through their strength and tireless commitment to equality and a better life, provided the foundations for the liberties that we enjoy today.”

The exhibition launches on Thursday 13 December from 2pm to 7pm in the Project Space at the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies. Visitors can attend a free seminar discussing the impact of the Race Relations Acts in Room G.04 until 4pm, after which drinks and refreshments will be served in the Common Room. See here for more information.

The First Waves exhibition will then run from 14 to 21 December, weekdays from 10am to 5pm. Both the opening launch and exhibition are free and open to all.

See here for more information about the First Waves project.

Image credits: Scarlett Crawford, Tracey Pinder, pigment print, Leeds, 2018. Reproduced here courtesy of Scarlett Crawford; Race Relations Act 1968. Courtesy of UK Parliament.