Local Heroes on show at the Tate Library Brixton

The ‘Local Heroes’ banner is the very definition of community art. Made collaboratively by members of the community, it commemorates and celebrates the life and works of community figures who are no longer with us. And it’s on show in a community space.

The Local Heroes Initiative was launched in 2017 by Friends of the Tate Library – part of the Brixton Society – as a project which “aims to ensure that the Brixton community recognises and learns to appreciate individuals among us who, during their lifetime, served the community and still contribute through serving as role models for children and young people”

Fourteen local artists and craftspeople worked together over the pandemic to create the banner. Learning and using a range of textile-based skills – embroidery, appliqué, fabric painting – each crafter made a portrait of one or two local heroes drawn from a list based on a public consultation. 

The sixteen heroes whose portraits are on the banner are from diverse backgrounds and reflect the wide range of people who helped build Brixton’s community and reputation. Celebrated anti-racist campaigners such as Darcus Howe and CLR James therefore sit alongside Lloyd Newton who established the Pegasus Opera company to encourage and provide opportunities for young Black singers. Olive Morris who fought tirelessly for decent housing for the people of Brixton and Pearl Alcock who fought for equal rights for LGBTQ+ people, sit alongside artists Nellie Roberts and Teri Bullen, the politician Tessa Jowell and the musician David Bowie.  

Each hero has contributed something special to Brixton and the banner is a great way to celebrate them and to keep their work alive. 

The full list of local heroes is: Lloyd Newton, Norma Williamson, Cherry Groce,  Nellie Roberts, Dame Tessa Jowell, Teri Bullen, CLR James, Olive Morris, Claudia Jones, Darcus Howe, Sam King, Peter Mansfield, David Bowie, Jimmy Rogers, Pearl Alcock and Jon Daniel.

The crafters are: Val Augier, Annick Alet, Tawieu Balogun, Malin Brown, Rachel Heywood, Marian Lacan, Miriam Lewison, Swinda Mark, Delmay Parker, Fitzroyal Pulinskii, Marilyn Rogers, Violet Rosling, Nina Smith and Cecilia Washburn.

The ‘Local Heroes’ banner is on show in the Tate Library Brixton until 15 September. For opening hours go to https://beta.lambeth.gov.uk/libraries-0/brixton-tate-library