Published on October 29, 2013 | by Karma Symington

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LCC skinheads exhibition attracts criticism

Image from the Where have all the bootboys gone? exhibition at LCC

The exhibition has been criticised for being “insensitive”. [Seren Jenkins]

Controversy has surrounded the LCC exhibition Where Have All The Bootboys Gone?, which features photography and memorabilia from the skinhead subculture.

College head Natalie Brett has received complaints from some students and staff who say the content of the exhibition is “unsympathetic and insensitive” as it coincides with UAL’s celebration of Black History Month.

One LCC student, who chose to remain anonymous, said: “It just feels like a step back. It’s not nice to feel as though something which used to promote racist ideals is being promoted at my university.”

Russell Bestley, course director for MA Graphic Design, has defended the items on display and is adamant that those labelling the exhibition as racist are merely not “looking” or taking time to understand its content.

Discuss

“The intention of this exhibition is not to promote or to criticise, but rather to discuss the cultural origins and development of the skinhead subculture and its graphic and stylistic identity – from its 1960s roots, influenced by Mod & West Indian culture to contemporary global interpretations of the subculture,” he said.

Bestley acknowledged that “the skinhead movement – along with a number of other youth subcultures including punk and reggae – did become embroiled in some serious issues regarding race, ideology and politics.”

The course director added: “It is not our intention to hide away from these issues, nor is it our intention to promote a particular agenda, though we are sensitive to the issue of racism and have sought to contextualise the debate in an appropriate fashion.”

“As an African-American, it made my blood boil and offended my sense of honour.”
Queenie Creole

He urged exhibition visitors to look closely and realise that there are elements where different ethnicities “merged and intersected with white working class English youth in the late 1960s over a shared love of music, dance, fashion and lifestyle – a theme that would continue at the heart of British skinhead identity over subsequent years.”

Disturbing

Richard Chorley, a self-proclaimed original “skinhead” has attacked the exhibition, believing it focused too much on the ‘second wave’, particularly on the racist/neo-Nazi elements.

He said: “If I’d have organised this, Black History Month wouldn’t have been involved … the Skrewdriver images are disturbing and has no in-depth relation to skinhead culture.”

Queenie Creole, a guest at the exhibition, also condemned the exhibition for prominently displaying information about the band Skrewdriver, who evolved into the one of the first neo-Nazi punk bands during the 1980s.

“As an African-American, it made my blood boil and offended my sense of honour,” she said. “[The exhibition] lacks explanation or commentary of their true cultural significance; almost single-handedly starting the ’80s international Neo-Nazi/White Power movement.”

However some students have not been upset by the exhibition.

“It’s not offensive, it is merely displaying a lifestyle and a time where skinhead and punk culture was at the height of its power,” said an anonymous student. “It is not racist to display. Walt Disney was racist, that doesn’t stop us from watching his films.”

Where Have All The Bootboys Gone? closes on November 2.

 

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