Leeds & West Yorkshire

Rock Against Racism exhibition opens in Bradford

Specials fans, Potternewton Park, Leeds, 1981 Image copyright Syd Shelton, courtesy Autograph ABP
Image caption Photographer Syd Shelton captured pictures from across the UK including this image of Specials fans at Leeds' Potternewton Park in 1981

Photographs capturing some of the most important moments and inspirational figures of the Rock Against Racism movement are to go on show in Bradford.

The images, taken by Syd Shelton, from Pontefract, include pictures of The Clash, Misty in Roots and The Specials.

The collection also features photos taken at the Rock Against Racism Carnival at Victoria Park, Hackney, which attracted a crowd of 100,000.

The show runs from Friday to 3 September at the Impression Gallery.

Image copyright Syd Shelton, courtesy Autograph ABP
Image caption Dambala and Misty in Roots with Tom Robinson in 1979
Image copyright Syd Shelton, courtesy Autograph ABP
Image caption Militant Entertainment tour, West Runton Pavilion, Cromer, Norfolk, 1979

The Rock Against Racism (RAR) movement formed in response to controversial remarks made by Eric Clapton in 1976.

In the following years, RAR staged marches, festivals and more than 500 concerts in the UK in a bid to fight racism through music.

Shelton, who studied Fine Art in Leeds and Wakefield, said he became involved with the movement after returning to the UK from America in 1976.

He said: "I was appalled at the state of race relations in Britain, in particular things like the Black and White Minstrel Show and the signs I saw in some windows saying 'No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish'.

"It was a pretty serious situation and I always loved music and very quickly hooked up with the people that had set up RAR.

Image copyright Syd Shelton, courtesy Autograph ABP
Image caption Paul Simonon, The Clash, Victoria Park 30 April, 1978

"It was a bizarre mixture of people, photographers, graphic designers, writers, actors and, of course, musicians.

"We were very lucky in the sense that we tuned in to that explosion of punk and UK reggae and brought the two together. That said more about what RAR was about than any of the slogans we may have shouted from the stage."

He added: "I hope the exhibition shows that you can change things and you can actually take a stand, even in the most difficult of situations.

"If it inspires people to be photographers that would be great but I hope it will also inspire people to fight against racism and inequality."

Image copyright Syd Shelton, courtesy Autograph ABP
Image caption (Left) Bengali youths, London, 1978, and (Right) Hackney, East London, 1980

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