A Riot of Our Own: a reflection on agency

Carol Tulloch


The article is a reflection on the exhibition A Riot of Our Own, an archival narrative on the Rock Against Racism Movement (RAR) that ran between 1976 and 1981. This was told through the exhibition-making collaboration between Syd Shelton, Ruth Gregory and Carol Tulloch. The exhibition drew solely on the RAR personal archive of Shelton and Gregory who were RAR (London) committee members, key contributors to the graphic design of RAR and Shelton took photographs of the movement’s events and contextual material. The exhibition was first shown in 2008 at the CHELSEA Space Gallery, London, and went on tour to venues in London and Croatia. The paper traces the tenacious pursuit of anti-racist agency of RAR that has not lost its historical relevancy in the twenty-first century.

What is discussed here is the black and white dynamic of difference as unity against the intolerance of difference that marked Britain during this period; why and how the exhibition A Riot of Our Own was produced in response to an open invitation from CHELSEA Space; the critical, curatorial and auto/biographical frameworks that informed this instance of exhibition-making. As a reflective article by the co-curator and collaborator of the exhibition, the writing of this article is an opportunity to look back on how the exhibition-making process produced new forces – the need to exercise agency as a connecting thread between the impetus of experimentation, the concept of ‘the edge’ and exhibition-making as a liminal space. The article contributes to the developing area of study in histories of exhibitions and ‘design activism’.



Rock Against Racism, activism, agency, curating, difference, personal archives, reflection, experimentation, curatorial voice, quotation

Full text: Tulloch_p.25-59 (PDF 2,932 KB)

DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.5456/issn.2050-3679/2014s12ct

Biographical note

Carol Tulloch is Professor of Dress, Diaspora and Transnationalism at the University of the Arts London, where she is based at the Chelsea College of Art and Design and is a member of the Transnational Arts, Identity and Nation Research Centre (TrAIN). She is also the TrAIN/V&A Fellow at the V&A Museum. Carol trained as design historian at the Royal College of Art/Victoria and Albert Museum. As a curator and writer Carol has explored a range of issues on dress and black identities, style narratives, making, cross cultural and transnational relations, cultural heritage, auto/biography and personal archives.

An earlier version of this material was presented on the occasion of the project conference ‘Disturbing Pasts: Memories, Controversies and Creativity’ (20 -22 November 2012, Museum of Ethnology/Weltmuseum Wien, Vienna). To view the film footage on the Open Arts Archive, http://www.openartsarchive.org, follow this link: http://www.openartsarchive.org/oaa/content/disturbing-pasts-memories-controversies-and-creativity-conference-19