Art at Brixton Tube marks 2011 riot

poet with placard outside startion
Haroon Khan at Brixton Tube

Brixton Tube station was the setting for an art event inspired by and to mark the spontaneous uprisings in London ten years ago after police shot and killed Mark Duggan in Tottenham.

It was one of four events. The others were also at stations –Tottenham Hale, Hackney Central and East Croydon.

They were organised by ESB – Empire Strikes Back, and Louder Than Words, funded by Arts Council England.

ESB brings together artists and educators to challenge oppressive social structures in colonies and former colonies of the British Empire.

It organised an event to celebrate Brixton rapper Ty, after he passed away as a result of Covid.

Louder Than Words is a non-profit organisation which has programmed and publicised landmark events encouraging diversity in the arts for young people across the UK.

Launched in 2011 – a year of social and political unrest – it has worked with leading cultural figures and organisations to amplify the voices of disenfranchised young people and communities.

poet with placard outside startion

Brixton photographer Neil Kenlock – official photographer of the British Black Panthers – and Emory Douglas, who was the US Black Panthers’ minister of culture, worked on the London stations project.

It saw six young artists supported by ESB and Louder Than Words take part in workshops with Greg Bunbury, award-winning Black Outdoor Art curator, and Carolyne Hill, a graphic designer, who grew up in Brixton Hill and is owner of the Chillcreate label from Brixton, as well as Kenlock and Douglas.

Emory Douglas said: “When Louder Than Words asked me to support ESB this year, I didn’t think twice.

“My work in creating art for the Black Panther Party has always been about creative collaborative expression and using art for activism.

“I’m honoured to pass inspiration down to the next generation of art activists.

“This incredible project cuts to the heart of the story. A story of inequality, pain, oppression and self-determination, using art to inform, enlighten and educate, to bring change.”

Poet Haroon Khan took part in the art activation in Brixton, performing his poem Silence Isn’t An Option.

Each of the four art protests was amplified in real time by an AdWagon video van, which projected on screen audio-visual content linked to each performance.

artists with placards outside shop
Haroon Khan and volunteer helpers outside Foot Locker in Brixton. The 2011 Foot Locker store in Brixton was burnt out in the riots

Louder Than Words founder Myvanwy Evans said the project had “enabled our artists to create something truly unique and we hope to disrupt London in a peaceful, yet profound way.

“As Martin Luther King said: ‘Riots are the language of the unheard’.”

Greg Bunbury, who is also host of the Design For People podcast, said: “It has been humbling to take part in the workshops … they have created a deep connection for Londoners to peacefully and thoughtfully re-experience the uprisings of 10 years ago through multiple art forms.

“ESB is about decolonising the creative process across diasporas, it’s powerful and important work that must be protected at all costs.”

Beverly Bossanga, who took part in the project at Tottenham Hale, said it had been an experience she would never forget.

Her performance was inspired both by the work of Emory Douglas and the 2011 riots.

“The purpose of my piece was to give voice to the 2011 uprisings,” she said. “I was overwhelmed by the conversations that came from this piece.

“Speaking with Emory Douglas gave me the push I needed to complete my piece as well as all the reasons why the uprisings are still relevant till this day.” 

Watch Beverly Bossanga’s spoken word video Silent

An ESB film by Socialize Media will showcase each art activation at a major art gallery.

Louder Than Words will publish the artworks in an ESB zine as a limited edition hardback book.

How the Blog reported the events in Brixton 10 years ago