Skip to Main Content

This is part of a series of reflections on Creative Civic Change, Local Trust’s experimental funding programme that supported 15 communities across England to shape, lead and commission arts and creative interventions, to make positive social change where they lived.

Claudine Ecclestone, an artist involved in Goodstuff in St Leonards, talks about how the Playing the Race Card project became a vehicle to amplify the voices of Black artists.

Good Stuff in St Leonards, a Creative Civic Change project based in East Sussex, provided a space for us when there was none. We were well supported and quietly guided by Home Live Arts. Meeting with and being among local people from the other projects who danced, sang, ran workshops and did all manner of things was indeed good stuff.

The Playing the Race Card (PtRC) project was launched in October 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic but before the second lockdown, inviting Black people to create and submit a response to this negative term. The result was an online exhibition and, although we were happy with what we’d achieved, we felt we had so much more to share and realise.

We were delighted when the opportunity came to showcase this amazing body of work in the real world with the help of funders who believed in us and allowed us to tell our story.

The Playing the Race Card working group began by transforming the Home Live Art office, studio and workspace into a place worthy of the quality of the submissions. The exhibition preparation was driven, dragged and nurtured with the help of our unstoppable project manager, Lorna Hamilton-Brown, who was able to have some difficult conversations with everyone we dealt with while still bringing them along with us.

The Playing the Race Card exhibition was able to create a safe place to have some difficult conversations around themes of racism while showcasing 25 artists who had risen to the task and submitted some incredible and often challenging artwork.

The project also featured a workshop for young people as well as a very successful panel discussion, featuring three high-profile artists, Dorcas Magbadelo, Sarah Gwonyoma, Femi Dawkins, and hosted by local artist Maggie Scott. Attended by around 80 people, some of the questions that emerged were:

  • How do we care for each other as artists?
  • Will we be touring the exhibition and project?
  • Will there be a Playing the Race Card exhibition each year or next year?

We were overwhelmed with the positive response to this project, with many Black artists wanting to get involved in future events. The project and exhibition at times became a meeting room for local (Black) creatives to network, join up and make future plans. Additionally, they came far and wide to share the Playing the Race Card experience – one couple came from Northamptonshire and was so captivated that they gave us a donation.

Playing the Race Card became a vehicle to amplify the voices of Black artists, both professionals and enthusiasts, who defied the term that continues to be used to silence us and to hinder any conversations that move us collectively towards equity.

Through this project, we grew our network, forged friendships and crafted enduring relationships.

The exhibition was viewed by over 600 people, several children and babies as well as several dogs. There were smiles, puzzled expressions, moments of tears and a determination to continue along this road.