Black Modernism: Historical geographies of cosmopolitan lives in interwar London

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

Black Modernism: historical geographies of cosmopolitan lives in interwar London will highlight and share with broad and inclusive audiences the research findings of the pioneering AHRC-funded project Drawing over the Colour Line: geographies of art and cosmopolitan politics in London 1919 - 1939, which was carried out by The Equiano Centre, Department of Geography, University College London between 2012 and 2013. This 22 month project explored the Black presence in London in relation to the interwar art world, exploring themes including the life experiences and public reception of artists and artist models of African and Asian heritage, and spaces of the London art world in relation to political and anti-colonial activity, gender, sexuality, and race and identity. The research focused on recovering and recording two main strands of these geographies. First, the artworks created during the period of Black people in London, and second, artworks created by African and Asian artists while they were studying, working or travelling through interwar London. Within these strands we focused our research on locating and investigating artists and sitters, along with the social and political networks surrounding these individuals. The results of these searches were compiled into a publicly accessible database with over 600 entries relating to the fields artists, sitters, artworks, and exhibitions.

The aim of this aspect of the project is to engage the public, particularly BME and queer audiences with the many historical geographies recovered as part of Drawing Over the Colour Line. This will be done in two key ways. Firstly with an exhibition at Tate Britain 'Spaces of Black Modernism' will enable tens of thousands of visitors - perhaps more - to view, for free, material not previously accessible to the public. Accompanying public events will include a 'show and tell' of archival materials at Tate Library and Archives and two self-guided tours of Pimlico and Chelsea to add to the tours of Black Bloomsbury and Soho already created for Drawing Over the Colour Line. Secondly we will be engaging community groups with the empirical findings of Drawing Over the Colour Line through the project's database completed as part of our research project, and through workshops curated in partnership with museums including the Black Cultural Archives in the year it officially opens.

Dr Gemma Romain will be Black Modernism's Research Associate, and with Dr Caroline Bressey will curate the public programme and with Dr Emma Chambers co-write and co-curate the Tate Display as well as organising the development of public events based at University College London.

Planned Impact

There are three main groups who will benefit from this follow-on project: members of BME and queer community groups; the wider general public; third sector heritage institutions and their practitioners especially those working for and with art museums and galleries in Britain.

Spaces of Black Modernism*: The most high profile aspect of the 'Black Modernism' public programme will the be the formal collaboration between the UCL Equiano Centre and Tate Britain in creating the spotlight display at Tate Britain to open in autumn 2014. Tate Britain received over 1.5 million visitors in 2012 and will bring a sizeable new audience to the research recovered during the Drawing over the Colour Line project. For Tate Britain 'Spaces of Black Modernism' will represent an opportunity to increase the diversity of visitors to Tate Britain's galleries and its library and archive, while also introducing 'core' regular visitors to the diversity of the Tate's collections, bringing material out of the Tate archive that not previously seen on public display. The spotlight display will also utilize curatorial methods developed in the heritage sector that seek to ensure a diversity of collections and voices are represented at heritage sites and evaluations of these with be conducted through discussions with an advisory group, evaluation questionnaires and interviews with visitors.

Online outreach: During the period of follow-on funding the project aims to attract at least 30 000 unique hits on the project's website. To engage a range of users with the project's findings a series of new collaborative activities will be created including the commissioning of themed essays and blogs on material from the Drawing over the Colour Line database, inviting artists and art students to respond to the visual material collated in the database and the uploading of their responses as artworks or blog postings. Linking with online, media and press resources at Tate Britain and the Black Cultural Archives in addition to the creation of a film for the UCL Youtube channel, press releases, and flyers will be created to highlight and promote the project to local, national and international audiences.

Timescales: There will be both immediate and long-term time-scales for benefits of the project. Immediate benefits will come through a curated programme of events taking place during and after the Spotlight display. The curated programme of events will include public lectures, seminars, public workshops and a symposium. In addition two downloadable self- guided walking tours of Chelsea and Pimlico will introduce the Black Historical geographies of these spaces. Though most public activities will be held in London, a workshop with the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds is proposed to ensure that outreach activities that are not online are not solely restricted to London.

Following the publication of the London Mayor's Commission on African and Asian Heritage report 'Delivering Shared Heritage' in 2005, the heritage sector's response 'Embedding Shared Heritage' (GLA/MLA, 2009:18) acknowledged that "Diversifying collections is not a project. It doesn't have a finite beginning or end. It is a question of achieving a lasting and widespread change of attitudes, values, practices and priorities throughout the sector." Black Modernism will contribute to this long-term process through two peer reviewed papers co-written by Caroline Bressey, Gemma Romain and Emma Chambers, one peer reviewed and one for a professional policy publication. The papers will be written in 2015 reflecting on interviews with visitors to Black Modernism and the impact of the co-production curatorial process on Tate revisiting its collections.

Mayor's Commission on African and Asian Heritage, 2009, 'Embedding Shared Heritage: The Heritage Diversity Task Force Report', GLA/MLA.

* In 'Black Modernism' the term 'Black' refers to men and women of both the African and Asian diasporas.

Publications

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Title Spaces of Black Modernism: London 1919-39 
Description Spaces of Black Modernism: London 1919-39 explored the experiences and interactions of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds in London's art world between the wars and was on show at Tate Britain from October 2014 - October 2015. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact The display was reviewed in national and international press, on social media and blogs and we spoke about the exhibition at the Stuart Hall Library in London and at the Ben Uri Gallery. The display was used in a Art and Language workshop focusing on teaching art in the classroom this workshop with artist Evan Ifekoya and Uvanney Maylor, Professor of Education at the University of Bedfordshire, explored the ideas around race and cultural difference using the display at Tate Britain as a starting point. There was also an international symposium held at the Tate, The Black Subject: Ancient to Modern in February 2015. 
URL http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/display/bp-spotlight-spaces-black-modernism-london-1919...
 
Title Zine: Drawing black lives in the East End / contributors: Adam Headley, Parmveer Singh, Gemma Romain, Rachel Tam, Rudy Loewe. 
Description "During July 2015 The Equiano Centre in collaboration with Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archive ran a history and art summer school entitled Drawing Black Lives in the East End as part of the AHRC funded Spaces of Black Modernism project. Young people from ages 14-21 took part in a workshop where they: * Learnt about the black presence in East London's history * Explored black history exhibitions and archives * Created their own black history comic Over four days the group explored different stories and experiences of black people who lived in the East End of London during the 1920s to 1950s. In addition to relevant material from the archival collections at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives, the group also had a guided tour of the display Spaces of Black Modernism at Tate Britain with its co-curator Dr Gemma Romain. Visual artist Rudy Loewe led a creative workshop in which each participant designed and produced a comic about one of the people, events or themes they came across in this historical research. All of the comics were published together in a booklet, and presented at a special launch event at Idea Store Whitechapel during the Writeidea Festival in November 2015." https://www.ucl.ac.uk/equianocentre/projects/drawingblacklives 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact N/A 
URL https://www.ucl.ac.uk/equianocentre/projects/drawingblacklives
 
Description This follow-on funding award enabled our project Drawing Over the Colour Line (AH/M003469/1) to be brought to a broader public through a series of events and public engagement projects through Black Modernism: Historical geographies of cosmopolitan lives in interwar London ( AH/M003469/1). The aim of this aspect of the project was to engage primarily the general public along with specialist academic and community scholars interested in art and cosmopolitan spaces of the 'jazz age', the 'roaring thirties', queer history, Pan-Africanism, anti-fascism and anti-colonialism through the connections our project found between these spaces.

We curated a programme of workshops, talks and events to highlight the many and diverse findings of the project. The major output was a display at Tate Britain in Spaces of Black Modernism, which opened in autumn 2014 with an accompanying series of public events including a film and symposium event The Black Subject: Ancient to Modern, co-organised with Tate Public Programmes, a 'show and tell' at Tate Library and Archives, Queer Black Spaces 2, Queer Black Spaces 3, an evening at the Ben Uri Gallery, a comic book commission and a collaborative summer school, Drawing Black Lives in the East End, working with Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archive. As a result of this work in May 2015 we won the UCL Cultural Project of the Year awarded by the UCL Communications and Culture Awards. Links to the projects can be accessed via the Equiano Centre website: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/equianocentre/projects/sbm
Exploitation Route We know that the Spaces of Black Modernism display was used in an Art and Language workshop for teachers. Focusing on teaching art in the classroom this workshop with artist Evan Ifekoya and Uvanney Maylor, Professor of Education at the University of Bedfordshire, explored the ideas around race and cultural difference using the display at Tate Britain as a starting point. http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/courses-and-workshops/art-and-language

We also know the Tower Hamlets workshop inspired young people to visit the National Archives with project leaders to find out more about archives.

From conversations with collaborators and observations on social media the project has opened up avenues of black queer history on the English Heritage Pride of Place project, could effect buying practices at Tate and has inspired people who visited the display in their art practice and personal identities.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.ucl.ac.uk/equianocentre/projects/sbm
 
Description ? Queer Black Spaces event series 2 & 3 taking place in February and October 2015, and Queer Black Lives in May 2015. At all events a public audience engaged with researchers, artists, poets, writers and teachers. ? Spaces of Black Modernism, a Spotlight display at Tate Britain open from October 2014 - October 2015 http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/display/bp-spotlight-spaces-black-modernism-london-1919-39 ? A collaborative project and exhibition between the Equiano Centre and the Petrie Museum on the influence of ancient Egyptian sculpture on modernist artists, including Jacob Epstein and Ronald Moody (two artists from the Drawing Over the Colour Line project). An online Educational Resource linked to AS History and Geography is available at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/equianocentre/education/a-fusion-of-worlds. ? Other project outputs were supported by a follow-on funding grant and can be found under the profile for AH/M003469/1
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Title DOCL 
Description The database highlights sitters, artworks and artists recovered from the project. It can be searched using: keywords, names, locations and art work titles and includes information on materials, dates of production, locations and ownership, exhibitions, relationships and longer biographies. The database is linked to the Equiano Centre website. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The database was relaunched in the spring of 2018 and so we wait to see what impacts will develop. 
URL https://www.ucl.ac.uk/equianocentre/docl-database/index
 
Description Article by Caroline Bressey - Black modernism, racism and the making of popular British culture in the inter-war years 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An article exploring the research undertaken during Drawing over the Colour Line and the Tate Britain display Spaces of Black Modernism
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL https://theconversation.com/black-modernism-racism-and-the-making-of-popular-british-culture-in-the-...
 
Description Article by Gemma Romain, Black Modernisms 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An article on Black queer history in relation to interwar modern art in Britain, focusing on the archives of the Tate and referring to the Spaces of Black Modernism display
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.ucl.ac.uk/equianocentre/projects/qbs/diva
 
Description Caroline Bressey and Gemma Romain talk entitled, 'Spaces of Black Modernism: from application and archive to display' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This session was part of the Understanding British Portraits Annual Seminar at the National Portrait Gallery. In the talk we described the research aims and outcome of the Drawing over the Colour Line project and shared information about our Tate Britain display 'Spaces of Black Modernism'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.britishportraits.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Annual-Seminar-26-November-2014-progra...
 
Description Caroline Bressey and Gemma Romain, talk entitled: 'Spaces of Black Modernism and Refiguring the 50s: London, Ethnicity and Art' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This talk took place at the Ben Uri Gallery. In the talk we focused on examining our Tate Britain Spaces of Black Modernism display and the Ben Uri exhibition, in the process exploring the histories of artists and artist models in relation to identity, race, migration and sexuality
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Gemma Romain and Caroline Bressey talk entitled 'Spaces of Black Modernism' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This talk shared our research and curation process relating to the Tate Britain Spaces of Black Modernism display. It was a part of a Stuart Hall Library Research Network Meeting (speakers: Caroline Bressey, Gemma Romain,and Helen Couchman) at Iniva, Rivington Place, 16 October 2014
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Queer Black Spaces 2 & 3 and Queer Black Lives 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact These events present an evening of literature, poetry and research exploring Black British LGBTQ histories. Audiences come together for an evening showcasing different expressions and histories of Black queer lives. The events includes fiction readings, poetry, and talks exploring current research on Black LGBTQ lives from the early twentieth century to contemporary Britain. The speakers and audience explore themes including queer black poetry and theatre;letter writing, film, archives, and teaching queer black lives.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.ucl.ac.uk/equianocentre/projects/qbs
 
Description Summer School (Tower Hamlets Libary and Archive) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Young people from ages 14-21 took part in a workshop where they:
* Learnt about the black presence in East London's history
* Explored black history exhibitions and archives
* Created their own black history comic
Over four days the group explored different stories and experiences of black people who lived in the East End of London during the 1920s to 1950s. In addition to relevant material from the archival collections at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives, the group also had a guided tour of the display Spaces of Black Modernism at Tate Britain with its co-curator Dr Gemma Romain.

Visual artist Rudy Loewe led a creative workshop in which each participant designed and produced a comic about one of the people, events or themes they came across in this historical research. All of the comics were published together in a booklet, and presented at a special launch event at Idea Store Whitechapel during the Writeidea Festival in November 2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.ucl.ac.uk/equianocentre/projects/drawingblacklives