Seeing the culture from a different angle

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Many years ago, I attended a performance presented by students from the same course I studied at Music College. After the presentation, I had a conversation with one of the course tutors. The main thing I remember from that chat is that we both agreed that there wasn’t much of an avant garde Black culture at that point in time.

In the years that followed, I observed as curators and arts administrators started coaxing some Black artists in the direction of creating counter cultural work. The sequence of events that followed wasn’t always edifying, but things have now evolved to the point that one can see artists of African and Caribbean descent, making art that is unmistakeably alternative in its ethos.

To be fair, the visual artists and film makers were closer to the margins in their aesthetics than the other practitioners. This was probably due to the training they received in the art colleges. In those days, musicians and other performers of colour from the USA would visit the UK and many of us would attend their shows, only to reflect ruefully about the relatively tame output of our scene.

It would be nice to say that our scene is now unfettered and not self conscious, but there is still some distance to go. Obviously our cousins across the pond have larger potential audiences, due to the vast difference in population between the US and the UK. This does not mean that we should hide, using British restraint as an excuse for expressing ideas without passion or vitality.

Remarkable work doesn’t have to be aimed at the popular culture, to be successful.