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Free Darcus Howe Protest

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    Notting Hill (photographed)

  • Date:

    08/1977 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Phillips, Charlie , born 1944 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gelatin silver print

  • Credit Line:

    Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

  • Museum number:

    E.265-2011

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case SP, shelf 4

Photographer Charlie Phillips moved to London from Jamaica in 1956 and began to document life in his local community. His photographs of people and places associated with Notting Hill depict both significant and everyday moments in the area’s history, particularly in relation to its growing black population.

Born in Trinidad in 1943, Darcus Howe became a key figure in black British activism during the 1970s, especially within the Notting Hill community. In 1977 Howe was tried and controversially imprisoned on charges of assault following an altercation at Notting Hill Gate tube station. There was strong support for Howe’s release, including a picket line outside the Royal Courts of Justice. Dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson, who was involved in the British Black Panther movement with Howe, created the campaign song ‘Man Free (For Darcus Howe)’. The lyrics describe the demonstration: ‘so we step it up the Strand to make our stand, we step it up the Strand to the Courts of Justice.’ Howe’s supporters were successful and he was released after a week in jail.

The V&A acquired ten photographs by Charlie Phillips as part of the Staying Power project. Staying Power is a five year partnership between the V&A and Black Cultural Archives. The project aims to explore black British experience from the 1950s to the 1990s through photographs acquired by the V&A and oral histories conducted by Black Cultural Archives. A photograph by Syd Shelton, which depicts Darcus Howe rallying opposition to a National Front march in Lewisham, was also acquired as part of Staying Power. A photograph of Linton Kwesi Johnson taken by Dennis Morris was acquired as well.

Physical description

A black and white photograph of a group of five protestors holding placards standing in a line in front of the Royal Courts of Justice in London. The protestors range in ages, race and gender, including two young children. There is a policeman standing to the right of the protestors with his arms folded. A photographer can also be seen on the right-hand side of the image taking a photograph of the scene. The placards read ‘SELF DEFENCE IS NO OFFENCE FREE DARCUS HOWE’, ‘RENEGADES TRINIDAD SAY “LET IM GO OR ELSE”’ and 'you can't keep a GOOD MAN DOWN' among others.

Place of Origin

Notting Hill (photographed)

Date

08/1977 (photographed)

Artist/maker

Phillips, Charlie , born 1944 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Gelatin silver print

Dimensions

Width: 255 mm image size, Height: 203 mm image size, Width: 399 mm paper size, Height: 302 mm paper size

Object history note

The V&A acquired this photograph as part of the Staying Power project. Staying Power is a five year partnership between the V&A and Black Cultural Archives. The project aims to explore black British experience from the 1950s to the 1990s through photographs acquired by the V&A and oral histories conducted by Black Cultural Archives.

Descriptive line

Photograph by Charlie Phillips, 'Free Darcus Howe Protest', gelatin silver print, London, 1977

Materials

Photographic paper

Techniques

Gelatin silver process; Photography

Subjects depicted

Protest; Court; Children; Placards; Photographers; Police; Racial politics

Categories

Photographs; Politics; Black History; African Diaspora

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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