In 2016, the Centre for Research in Race and Rights (part of the Rights and Justice Research Priority Area), and the New Art Exchange joined together to create Nottingham’s first black history mural. The four-month project transformed an old wall in the heart of Hyson Green into a vibrant and inspiring piece of public art. It depicts the diverse histories and potential futures of Nottingham’s Global Quarter, and explores utopia and community activism.
Between April and June 2016, Maxine Davis, Youth Forum Manager, and eight young people (aged 15 to 22) from NG7 Voices Youth Forum/Hyson Green Youth Club worked in collaboration with artists Tim Weeden and Andrew Wright to design the mural. At four of the eight workshops, they were joined by local experts for discussions of Nottingham’s black history. Guest contributors to the project’s learning seminars were Lisa Robinson from Bright Ideas and Black Lives Matter Nottingham; Panya Banjoko and Ioney Smallhorne from Nottingham Black Archives; and Zoe Trodd, Hannah Jeffery and Hannah-Rose Murray from the Centre for Research in Race and Rights.
The mural’s patterns and symbols are designs by the young people who took part in the project. They brought images to the workshops and were particularly interested in African print designs. One of the young people drew a series of links and chains becoming pathways to the future, which forms the main mural pattern.
From history workshops with local experts, the project participants also selected four figures to feature as portraits in the mural:
George Africanus is a Nottingham legend. A former slave, he was one of the first black entrepreneurs of the 18th century.
Winston Murphy is a war hero who served in the merchant navy between 1940 to 1945.
Louise Garvey is a nurse has promoted equality in the health service since the 1960s. She wrote the book Nursing Lives of Black People in Nottingham.
The Black Lives Matter child honours the fact that Nottingham is home to Europe’s first official Black Lives Matter group, and adapts a famous artwork by the Black Panther Emory Douglas, who visited Nottingham and worked with the community in 2011.
In 2016, a humdrum brick wall in Hyson Green, Nottingham, was transformed into a vibrant and inspiring public art mural celebrating Nottingham’s black history and imagining community futures. It was unveiled during a special event on June 17, marking an important moment in local history.
Freelance Community Engagement Consultant Boseda Olawoye explained the significance of creating a mural in Hyson Green: “Hyson Green is one of the most culturally rich areas of Nottingham and this public mural will focus on the Black Histories of the local area and acknowledging those who have played an important role within our society. For the project it was important that the young people had a sense of ownership for the design of the mural. This will be a permanent piece of public art for the participants, their friends, family and local community to enjoy and be inspired.”
At the heart of the project was NG7 Voices – a youth forum set up by Hyson Green Youth Club, neighbouring the mural wall. Led by Maxine Davis, Youth Forum Manager, the forum aims to empower young people (aged 14-25) to make positive change in their community. The muralist Tim Weeden worked closely with young people, nurturing their creativity and incorporating all their ideas into the finished design. The young people have named the mural “Pathways.”
Tim explained his creative process in the mural: “I’m merely the paintbrush, and not the painter. The enthusiasm of the young people was key to the mural. Art is a great medium to explore issues of community identity.”
The young people themselves commented: “To be a part of something like this makes me proud of the community I come from – it shows we all did something to contribute to the community”.
Professor Zoe Trodd, co-director of C3R, commented at the launch: “Nottingham celebrates its history as one of rebellion –from Robin Hood, the Luddite rebellion and the Chartist movement to the rebel writers Lord Byron, DH Lawrence and Alan Sillitoe. Murals are the quintessentially rebellious art form. But until now, there was no colourful community mural narrating the rebel city. C3R is privileged to have been part of creating this important work of art. I particularly like the way the mural represents the new Black Lives Matter movement, acknowledging that Nottingham is home to Europe’s first official Black Lives Matter chapter – something of which the city should be very proud.”
Skinder Hundal, Chief Executive of New Art Exchange, described the importance of the mural at the launch: “Our new mural beautifies, educates, celebrates and symbolises the diversity and cultural memory and contribution in our neighbourhood, and affirms the importance of community-building. It welcomes all, and represents the things that matter in Nottingham’s Global Quarter, Hyson Green – a culturally rich and vibrant place, home to many black and diverse communities. The mural continues NAE’s core mission to champion marginalised voice, and to use art as a way of exploring who we are, why we are here and where we are going, capturing the value of diversity in both art and society.”
Hyson Green’s newest masterpiece was formally unveiled by Councillor Graham Chapman
More information can be found on the Website