Arts Reporter Sophie Gainsley finds love [letters] alive and well in Lambeth
On 25 March 1807, an Act of Parliament passed The Slave Trade Act, abolishing slavery in the United Kingdom. Celebrating this historical date, as well as the lost art of the love letter, a selection of Lambeth’s young writers have come together to show their neighbourhoods some lyrical, rhyming love.
A group of young people of African and Caribbean descent has composed love letters in the form of prose, poetry, song and rap lyrics which have been transformed into a work of art. An Arts Council England project which has been developed by Lambeth-based social enterprise, Louder Than Words, and supported by non-profit Small Green Shoots, the artwork was unveiled by The Mayor of Lambeth, Councillor Clive Bennett, yesterday at Brixton’s Tate Library.
After imagining a red-velvet curtain affair sounded by a crowd, breath held in anticipation, I was somewhat surprised to find the work inside a non-descript cardboard box in between the toilet and the reception desk. A while later however, the cardboard was removed to reveal a patchwork of written works on vibrantly coloured backgrounds next to black and white images of Brixton from the Lambeth Archive.
The photos showed past forces of Brixton such as Olive Morris and philanthropist Henry Tate, together with the revolutionary icon Nelson Mandela. The piece acts as a celebration of Lambeth’s past and current triumphs, from the Clapham Saints struggle to abolish slavery across the world, to the creativity of the authors of the love letters. The canvas is to be hung on the wall above the staircase next week.
The artwork will become a permanent feature of Brixton’s Library, inspiring future creative writers. Talking about the project, Louder Than Words director and Lambeth resident Myvanwy Evans said:
Love Letter to Lambeth is a ground-breaking project bringing together many creative arts in a celebration of the borough, its history and the role it played in bringing about an end to indentured labour. We’re so proud of what the young people have achieved, their letters have been exceptional and the artworks will be a lasting legacy of their work at the newly refurbished library.
Louder than Words held workshops directed by internationally acclaimed spoken work artist and poet Malika Booker. Referencing historical letters such as Marcus Garvey’s Look For Me in the Whirlwind and Linton Kwesi Johnson’s 1979 poem, Sonny’s Lettah, the young writers were shown the powerful rhetoric of the peaceful activists whose dream was finally realised.