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40th Anniversary Events

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Crowd gathered for the unveiling of the Plaque on Clifton Rise

Marking the 40th anniversary

To mark the 40th anniversary of the events of 13 August 1977, Goldsmiths historian Dr John Price embarked on a range of public engagement activities to initiate inclusive dialogues with different publics on how the ‘Battle of Lewisham’ should be remembered and its contemporary relevance.

A collaboration with Goldsmiths public engagement team, the project culminated in the unveiling of a permanent monument to the ‘Battle of Lewisham’ and a community festival hosted at the Albany in Deptford.

Partnerships with Lewisham Council, Lewisham Libraries, Love Music Hate Racism, the Albany, and a host of community organisations helped the project directly engage thousands, while millions more were reached by one of Goldsmiths most successful press and social media campaigns.

Activities including art workshops, a public consultation, live music, poetry, exhibitions of contemporary art and photography, screenings, panel discussions and history walks engaged a range of publics with a largely forgotten aspect of local history, shaping perceptions of the borough and reaffirming its centrality to the history of race relations in the UK.

The project also uncovered documents and footage of the ‘Battle’ long thought lost, as well as gathering the testimonies of many who were there and wanted to share their memories. This new evidence has complicated the established narrative while confirming many of the more contested claims about the historical importance of the ‘Battle’.

This new evidence will not only lead to new research, but has the potential to inform how black history is taught in the borough, and hopefully further afield.

Consulting the public

In June 2016 the idea emerged for a permanent, public commemorative plaque to be installed to coincide with the 40th anniversary. 

Following an initial public consultation on the proposal at Lewisham People’s Day 2016, it was decided that a Lewisham Council Maroon Plaque located on Clifton Rise would to be a fitting commemoration.

Across April 2017, the public were consulted on the wording of the plaque through a social media campaign, articles in the local press, and voting stations at six prominent local community spaces.

Nearly 500 people expressed their views on the wording and following a further round of consultation with community stakeholders, a final version of the text was agreed.

Crowd gathered for the unveiling of the Lewisham Council plaque, 13 August 2017
Dr John Price addressing the crowd on the 40th Anniversary of the Battle of Lewisham
Amongst the crowds on Clifton Rise
The plaque is unveiled
Members of Lewisham Council are photographed by the plaque
The Festival held following the unveiling at The Albany (1/2)
The Festival held following the unveiling at The Albany (2/2)
Dr John Price leads
The panel of filmmakers engage with the audience as part of
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What Are You Taking Pictures For?

This exhibition of iconic images of the Battle of Lewisham brought together work by some of the most important photographers documenting life in Britain in the late 70s.

Curated by Dr John Price and Will Cenci, and in response to a special issue of 70s radical photography journal Camerawork, the exhibition not only included traditionally framed photographs, but also large prints of spreads from Camerawork and a range of ephemera and archive material relating to Battle and the wider political moment of the late 70s anti-fascist / anti-racist movement.

The project drew together work held by the Four Corners Archive, The Art of Regeneration and London Metropolitan Archives. It was supported by Goldsmiths’ Annual Fund.

It is estimated that approximately 1000 people attended the exhibition, which was originally scheduled to run across August, but was later extended to close in mid-September 2017. It was featured on the BBC News homepage and generated over 100 feedback responses from visitors.

“Brilliant exhibition about an important event I knew little about, despite begin brought up in Peckham in the 80s. Interesting to see the mainstream media’s manipulation and distortion of events. Thank you!”

“This was one of the best exhibitions, I as a local (SE Ldn) journalist have ever seen [...] This is incredibly more rare and fantastically valuable, not only as part of our local heritage, but our national journalistic heritage. Please tour this exhibition!!”

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Spirit of '77: Protest poetry and song

A night of protest music and poetry kicking off the weekend of events to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1977 Battle of Lewisham. Featuring Attila the Stockbroker, Robb Johnson, Mark ‘Mr T’ Thompson and Zena Edwards.

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Walking the Battle of Lewisham

On 12 August 2017, Dr John Price led two walking tours exploring sections of the route of Battle of Lewisham. Taking in key locations and flashpoints including Clifton Rise, the tour drew on iconic images and created space for the 100 participants to share first-hand accounts.

I think it is wonderful that Goldsmiths have worked so hard to bring the anniversary events to such a wide audience, especially in these times of such uncertainty again’

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Spirit of '77: Protest Films

In the weeks leading up to the 40th anniversary, Goldsmiths’ London Community Video Archive (LCVA) rediscovered ‘AUG 13’, an amateur documentary on the Battle of Lewisham thought lost for decades.

The film was originally produced by the Albany Video Project and commissioned by the ‘All Lewisham Campaign against Racism and Fascism’ (ALCARAF), for the purpose of challenging the mainstream media narrative around the Battle.

It includes amateur footage of some of the key flash points of the Battle, adding nuance to our understanding of events and corroborating claims of police brutality.

Following this timely rediscovery, plans were made for a collaborative screening event with The London Community Video Archive (LCVA). Taking place on the eve of the 40th anniversary, the event attracted 116 people and ‘premiered’ the restored video alongside ‘The Battle of Lewisham’, a contemporary film responding to the Battle and its wider context by Goldsmiths MA Media Communications student, Nacheal Catnott.

Following the screenings, a panel discussion and Q&A with the filmmakers and contributors to the films was followed by a DJ set by Lezlee Lyrix (Dr William Henry), an academic and participant in the Battle of Lewisham. 

“Superb event!”

“it’s something we should be really proud of here in Lewisham”

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Battle of Lewisham Plaque Unveiling

On the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Lewisham, a permanent memorial was unveiled on Clifton Rise in a public ceremony attracting approximately 300 people.

The Lewisham Maroon Plaque reading ‘Remembering The Battle of Lewisham. Thousands united here against racism and fascism. 13 August 1977’ was unveiled by Councillor Joan Millbank, Lewisham Council's Cabinet member for the Third sector and community.

With short speeches from Dr John Price, John Rees (Stop the War Coalition and People's Assembly), Councillor Brenda Dacres (Labour, New Cross Ward), the ceremony was topped off by a performance of Battle of Lewisham inspired poem ‘Intolerants not welcome here’ by local poet, Mark Thompson.

While the A2 remained open to traffic, a significant crowd of approximately 300 people attended the unveiling. The public unveiling was a significant success and the culmination of close to two years’ work. For such a potentially contentious event in a public space, the atmosphere was remarkably positive.

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Battle of Lewisham 40th Anniversary Community Festival

Following the unveiling of the plaque, members of the public were invited to a free community festival, curated by Goldsmiths in partnership with Love Music Hate Racism and hosted by the Albany in Deptford.

Featuring panel discussions, workshops, a Battle of Lewisham exhibition, DJs, live music, a marketplace of local organisations, local food providers and a bar, over 280 people attended.

The indoor café space featured stands by six local, handpicked organisations, a Battle of Lewisham mural workshop, and fifteen hanging banners featuring iconic images and quotes about the Battle of Lewisham.

The outdoor garden space featured six pull-up displays introducing visitors to the project and exploring the Battle’s history and context. A DJ stage brought music to the event, with sets by Rock Against Racism founder, Roger Huddle, and local dub DJ Soft Wax. Two local food providers and a bar run by the Albany provided refreshments.

There were two panel discussions and Q&As, the first led by Goldsmiths and focusing on the Battle, with the second exploring the legacy of Rock Against Racism. Each generated significant interest, with lively discussions and standing room only for attendees. 

“I’m enjoying every moment of it. Today’s event has been fantastic and so has every single event I have attended.” 

“Goldsmiths has been receiving praise from everybody – this is a different kind of university that engages with the community in a meaningful way, it’s not an ivory tower institution anymore”

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