Roots Revolution; Terry Grimley Hears about a City Centre Photography Exhibition Chronicling the History of Reggae in Birmingham

The Birmingham Post (England), October 27, 2004 | Go to article overview

Roots Revolution; Terry Grimley Hears about a City Centre Photography Exhibition Chronicling the History of Reggae in Birmingham


Byline: Terry Grimley

Over the next few days there's a final chance to see Symphony Hall's photography exhibition Echoes from the Frontline, documenting two generations of reggae music in Birmingham. The exhibition juxtaposes photographs by Vanley Burke, mainly from the 70s and 80s but some more recent, with specially commissioned portraits from the contemporary scene by Andrew Jackson.

Vanley, who pioneered documentary photography among the city's black population from the 1960s, has a vast archive from which to select.

'I have a lot more. We had to keep saying this is by no means the whole story and I'd like to see this as the start of a project,' he says. 'Personally I enjoyed working with Andrew because we needed a different contemporary perspective.'

'It was difficult at first to decide how it was going to connect together,' adds Andrew.

'Mine was a look at the contemporary scene, but because of time limits it was difficult to include everybody you would like to include. But it's a start, and it's a project I'd like to carry on with.'

He adds: 'Reggae music in Birmingham comes from that second generation feeling of being disqualified, between not being British or Jamaican. It comes from a certain sense of sadness: I wanted some images which had some element of sadness in them.'

The subjects of Andrew's portraits include Michael and Dennis from Musical Youth, Junior Terror, whose music he describes as 'fusion, really, with elements of reggae and hip hop', Ron Thompson, who runs Earth Music, a community-based recording studio and training centre based in Lozells, and Gloria, proprietress of a legendary cafeteria on Chapel Street.

Vanley points out a detail in one of Andrew's pictures which is indicative of changing times: a small Union Jack has been assimilated into Rastafarian regalia: 'You would never have seen that a few years ago,' he says. …

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