Ev'rywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy
'Cause summer's here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy...
Hey! Said my name is called disturbance
I'll shout and scream, I'll kill the king, I'll rail at all his servants...
(The Rolling Stones, Street Fighting Man, 1968)
This exhibition takes as its starting point, 1968, the year of rising violence on the streets of Paris and rallies in London. In March 1968 Mick Jagger attended an anti-War demonstration outside London's U.S. embassy, during which mounted police attempted to control a crowd of 25,000. This, along with the rising violence in Paris, encouraged him to write The Rolling Stones most political song, Street Fighting Man.
The Sixties was not just a period of permissiveness filled with new music, fashion and art, it was a decade too of activism, of protests and demonstrations, aimed at overthrowing old prejudices, promoting a new liberalism and championing pacifism. The legacy of this activism can still be felt today.
Demonstrating the power of rock and roll as a focus for rebellion, and the status of rock singers as mouthpieces for radicalism, the exhibition includes a remarkable extended series of photographs charting a riot at a Rolling Stones concert as well as Caroline Coon's celebrated photographs of Punks including The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Slits, The Buzzcocks. Through such series, as much prominence is given to the crowd as to the musicians in order to foreground the wider impact of this music.
To compliment this, the photographs also trace a wider sociological context of street protests that include CND marches, civil unrest in Ireland, inner city riots, and the Poll tax riots. The exhibition coincides with a new wave of national demonstrations, involving both Union activism and student protest against Government economic policy, earlier this year.
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