Exhibition tells truth about Broadwater Farm

September 29, 2011 — Review

Written by Harmit Athwal

An exhibition on the history of the Broadwater Farm estate should be compulsory viewing for all Londoners, young and old.

‘The story of a community, 1967-2010′, tells the history of the Broadwater Farm estate and the Broadwater Farm Youth Association, from their inception and construction to the struggles for better conditions by the black and white communities living on the estate. It shows how the estate turned from a housing solution to a housing nightmare. And it is ironic that, in its early (pre-riot) days, Broadwater Farm was visited by dignitaries from across the world as a model of good community organising.

This exhibition shows that Broadwater Farm has been far more than the scene of riots in 1985 and now 2011, far more than the venue for the killing of PC Keith Blakelock. Beautiful black and white portraits (by Nigel Norie) taken on the estate of local characters show a humanity which can be quite lost if one sees the imposing images of the high-rise estate. The people, who were interviewed by a lone researcher/curator (Odin Biddulph), make the exhibition what it is – a story from the heart of a local community, that has been endlessly demonised by the popular press. The exhibition is a testament to the courage of the people of the Broadwater Farm estate in managing to bring about major change and their struggles to continue to fight for change in the ferocious aftermath of the riot.

There are copies of archive documents, copies of the Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign News, posters advertising public meetings, books and records from the time. There is also very rare footage (provided by one of those interviewed) of a speech given by Bernie Grant and Dolly Kiffin singing ‘We shall overcome’ at the opening of the remembrance garden for PC Keith Blakelock and Cynthia Jarrett (the other and usually forgotten victim of the riots of 1985). Many valuable artefacts and memories have been donated to the exhibition, including a painting ‘Boiling Point’ by Bernette Hall (pictured above), which was used to raise funds for the Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign, (that supported the Tottenham 3 – Winston Silcott, Engin Raghip and Mark Braithwaite).

The panel that explains the history to the 1985 riots could quite easily be an observation on the more recent events in Tottenham following the killing of Mark Duggan. (Read an IRR News story: ‘The spotlight is back on black deaths at the hands of police’.)

The exhibition, after spending six weeks at the community centre on the Broadwater Farm, is currently on show at Bruce Castle Museum in the picturesque Bruce Castle Park. The museum is a repository of local history located in a sixteenth century manor house. And apparently, back in the day, all new Haringey Council employees were inducted into their jobs and the borough’s history at the museum. Sadly, now, due to cut backs this no longer takes place and the museum receives far less footfall than it should. The exhibition and the museum are true hidden gems in London’s past (and future). There will be an official launch of the exhibition on 20 October at the museum, with Clasford Stirling, a founding member of the Broadwater Farm Youth Association in 1981 (who runs one of London’s most successful football academies on the estate) in conversation with a special guest.

Related links

Broadwater Farm exhibition website

Bruce Castle Museum

Bruce Castle Museum is located on Lordship Lane, Tottenham, N17 8NU. Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday 1pm - 5pm.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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