The V&A East Museum will launch with an exhibition that celebrates Black British music.
A soundtrack spanning generations alongside an “evocative” set design will be on display at the exhibition, which charts the impact of early 20th century pioneers including Samuel Coleridge-Taylor through to later century stars Sade, Joan Armatrading and Tricky on British music culture.
The V&A East Museum is set to open in 2025 as the latest offshoot of South Kensington’s The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), the world-famous museum founded by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1852.
A 1974 image showing two men inside the Aces Club in Hackney, East London. CREDIT: Dennis Morris, ‘Aces Club, Count Shelly Sound System, Hackney’, 1974 (photographed), 2010 (printed)
© Dennis Morris Courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The V&A has expanded in recent years, with The V&A Dundee having opened recently. Bethnal Green’s The Young V&A also reopened in June.
Its upcoming expansion is in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in an area called the East Bank, which is home to a new arts, innovation and education hub. It’s part of the Mayor of London’s £1.1billion Olympic legacy project.
Little Simz. CREDIT: ‘Little Simz performs at The BRIT Awards 2022 at The O2 Arena on February 08, 2022 in London, England’
Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage
The V&A East Museum will sit across the park close to The V&A East Storehouse, a venue that will offer visitors immersive, behind-the-scenes experiences looking at V&A collections.
Curators for The Music Is Black: A British Story have been given unprecedented access to the BBC’s archive for the exhibition; freedom that has aided the creation of an soundtrack that spans generations and genres from rap and dubstep to afrobeats and grime.
CREDIT: Sam White, ‘Kano and Ghetto, i-D Live, Cargo, March 2005’
© Sam White
Trip-hop pioneer Tricky. CREDIT: Adrian Boot, ‘Tricky’, 2006 © Adrian Boot, urbanimage.tv
The exhibition will address the social, historical and cultural context behind Black music in Britain, exploring how it led to the creation of other UK genres not already mentioned including 2 tone, jungle, ragga, drum’n’bass, trip-hop, UK garage, drill and beyond.
Paintings, prints, playbills, posters, sculpture, TV, fashion, textiles, photography and film will all help tell a broader story of Black British music and its cultural impact beyond sound.
As part of the exhibition, The V&A East has commissioned a new film by Meeks & Frost, the directorial duo behind J Hus, Pa Salieu and Kojey Radical’s music videos, with a new teaser trailer released today (November 1). Watch below.
Also as part of the general launch of The V&A East, the BBC, Sadlers Wells East, UAL’s London College of Fashion and UCL East will join forces to explore the themes of the exhibition with a series of special events and performances held at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Trevor Nelson, legendary music and BBC radio broadcaster, said: “There are so many different colours and shades of Black music, and so many eclectic styles that have emerged from the UK. The fact that we haven’t had a national exhibition on Black British music is quite surprising to me. I feel it needs to be documented. But more importantly, to tell the stories that are untold.”
Jacqueline Springer, Curator of The Music Is Black: A British Story and Curator of Africa and Diaspora Performance at the V&A, said: “Music is the soundtrack to our lives, and one of the most powerful tools of unification. It brings collective and individual joy as we recite song lyrics at festivals and gigs, recall dance moves perfected in childhood bedrooms, and mime to guitar breaks, bassline drops and instrumental flourishes with glee.
“Set against a backdrop of British colonialism and evolving social, political, and cultural landscapes, we will celebrate the richness and versality of Black and Black British music as instruments of protest, affirmation, and creativity, and reveal the untold stories behind some of the world’s most popular music of all time.”
Meanwhile, in 2025 The V&A East Museum will give The V&A’s David Bowie exhibition a permanent home, following the museum obtaining an extensive archive including more than 80,000 items of handwritten lyrics, fashion items, set design and awards.
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