Colonising The Whitworth Art Gallery: Dedicated to Carolan Lockett Her Life Celebration Is On Tuesday

The gimmick was we were supposed to be greeted by Lati. 'I know your farda.' 5-55pm, 5 minutes to go, on the big screen at the entrance, Lati's projection freezes. Took Vance and the Whitworth technician Jim, 30 minutes to get it going again. Laughing now.

Photo by Karen Rangeley

Vance Taylor edited, prepared and executed all 8 interior projections. Amazing. The Whitworth technician is wiring the projectors into the lights. I have insisted they are wired into the lights, not taped across the floor, to make the installation look neat. The 8 projectors, worth £5200, were bought with your £10 entrance fee into the excavation, celebration 28th October. 

Photo by Karen Rangeley.

Me making sticky labels for the back of each projector remote.

We've got it all under control.

5:55pm, 5 minutes to go, we realise, now the blasted projectors are wired into the lights, which I have insisted on, we can't turn the lights off.


Therefore our teen photos, mixed with the memorial photos, projected the entire length of the stair wall behind me, in the photo above, aren't crystal clear and well defined.


Lesson to be learnt somewhere.

But, we, as teens, are displayed in the Whitworth, no matter how blurred. Our memoirs boom out, obliterating their 18th century art work, downstairs, that is so precious they have had to cover it with layers of tissue to protect it from the projectors’ light. I feel proper anarchic. Upstairs our memoirs are splashed across their modern art. Set off at different times like Frere Jacque in school. None of it as huge I would like.

Our rough draft excavation footage, edited by John Lloyd, is huge though, covering the entire Whitworth exterior back wall. Would you credit it? Our artefacts displayed and labled in real artefact cases by Whitworth's senior curator Sam Lackey, assisted by Nikita Gill, are making people look because they now look prestigious. The artefacts are in the way, though, of people seeing John’s film properly. Karen Rangeley's excavation photo montage, opposite on the interior brick walls, are blurred and way too small. Fuck it.

I’m blurred. We’re in the big room that looks over the park, pissed. The room is blurred as I cha cha with Stan Finni to Persian licking ‘All The Way’. No one can believe how punk it all is. Dancing in the Whitworth.

Pissed in bed together that night my daugher Rachel admits: ‘I was just listening to you, nodding my head all these months, but you smashed it mum you’ve fucking smashed it.’ My proudest moment. And her arts world friends can’t believe it either.

And then Big Hands, which for me was more Reno than the marquees. Intimate. Me, Rachel, Susie Prouse, and Dionne Richardson have found a little stage, a set of steps to shout our favourite tunes back to our crowd, in a way we would never as kids. Or maybe we would, but we’ve gone fucking wild, we have each other now, this is our private time. Boy, is Triggy feeling it. And me, and Jane Lyons rip Prince's Girlfriend up. Pan's People, Hot Gossip, Madonna's backing dancers ain't got nothing on us. 


Photo by Karen Rangeley 

Photo by Karen Rangeley 

But like the 7th of October 2016 test dig this was just a draft.

And like the 15 attendees at 14th of October 2106 tea party, this was just a new beginning. 

And like the half full 16th of December 2016 Xmas party, a year ago tomorrow, became the marquee 28th of October 2017 where you couldn’t squeeze in, the Whitworth will morph into something huge, something super classy too. Oddly the bloody lights couldn’t be turned off either in the café in the park,

Two sets of nuisance bright lights set me off thinking about the way I still can’t 100% demand what I want from the white middle class.  I ask for a debrief at The Whitworth Art Gallery.

Find out they loved us. Ed Watts, the engagement manager, who I have been liaising with: ‘In the 8 years since I’ve worked here, I can count a handful of times when there has been anything close to that energy. It was so punk rock.’

The door staff loved us, the technicians loved us, the curators loved us, the next day Denise Bowler the youth engagment officer, my first Whitworth contact, tells me how much she's heard about them all loving us. They all want us back.

They need what we have to offer. I need, we need, what they can teach us too. For one, how to plan, prepare, rehearse, and ensure the lights can be turned off, and if not, feel entitled to demand that a solution is found now, immediately.

Been on this journey for 18 months, blind. Propelled 7 years ago when the white  middle class director exiled me from my own rehearsal and threatened me with the police.  Woke up at 2am with the a one word insight, triggered by Barbara Bell’s post about not losing momentum, and Phil Collins calling for a Reno social Club.

Dispossessed. The Reno was our cultural home when we were teenagers. Demolished in our mid 20s. Since then we have had nowhere to go. Important, as we are first generation mixed race born in the 50s when it was basically a sin for a black man to shag a white woman. If not half caste, most of us are kids of immigrants, Jamaican, Irish, even Welsh. Don’t want the Triggs to get me.

Dispossessed makes sense of the second half of my, our, journey that is just about to begin. In the first half we excavated the Reno and colonized the Whitworth Art gallery with our memoirs, artifacts, excavation film. Now they aren’t wary of us; and we aren’t wary of them. 

We can use this relationship to plan and maintain a new home, a social club, where we can recount our stories, and share our life’s wisdom since we were dispersed, stay in touch, and support each other. And as Helen McClardie pointed out at Tony Cole's funeral: ‘get to know each other’s kids.’

And the Whitworth can potentially use us as a blue print to learn how to organically interact with a community that do not usually engage with the arts, [an Art’s Council term.] The Whitworth has agreed in principal.

It is too early in the game to spout my mouth off about details. But we have begun talks to continue the Reno's relationship with the Whitworth. 

When we were teenagers, who'd have ever thought we'd be dancing in the Whitworth Art Gallery surrounded by our Reno exhibition.

The first true artistic collaboration with our photographer Karen Rangeley, looking for our photographic book’s narrative, was very fruitful. Both of us had been worried about the other’s approach but we hit upon a way of using our 18 months relationship, and our different backgrounds to inform our edit in a really exciting way.

Sourced a business/marketing graduate at an hourly rate to brand our website and marketing campaign, in preparation for our 2 photo books.  Mine, and Karen’s book will concentrate on people. The other photographic book will concentrates on the artefacts. These, and our documentary edited by me, and John Lloyd, will have a spectacular weekend launch, 2018, again too early to elaborate.

Phil Collins, who originally suggested the Reno social club, will be the chair of the monthly meetings in the Whitworth if all goes to plan. We agreed the first 90 days’ goal is defining the Reno social club’s goals

Quoting Phil Collins Snr: ‘Obviously the infrastructure of the social club would have to be organized in a democratic way ...with a committee and chairperson ...and specific roles for committee members...only very early days...and very near to Xmas Barbara...but early January would be a good time for interested people to meet up and start building some kind framework ie ; Venue, Funds, Objectives, Members and a name ? ...Reno Social Club ?...goes without saying that music will play a part but there are many other social activities that can be made available...that include arts and craft, healthy eating, sport, languages and culture , Hopefully like minded people can put there head's together and get the ball rolling ...Have a lovely day B...x’

Fitting that today is dedicated to Caz, sorry she ain’t here to be part of it too. With all her wonderful artistry and care for others she’d have made a wonderful member. Let’s make the most of the time we have left.


Doing an interview on Deutschlandfunk Kultur the German equivalent of BBC on Monday. Will be transmitted on Thursday at 1-15. Will keep you posted. They read about us in the Guardian. They’re only sorry they missed the actual excavation. They, too, love us.

Photo by Suzy Mousah

Photo by Suzy Mousah

Thank you all for turning up and conjuring magic.

Happy Xmas 

Read more about:


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