When Brixton Went On Fire: 40 Years After

This project commemorated 40 years since the Brixton Riots in 1981. It included four exhibitions at the Carnegie Library, Morley College Gallery, Harrow Arts Centre and Streatham Library, plus a series of children’s workshops, a school tour, opening and music events. These exhibitions capture the riots in Brixton 40 years on through black and white photographs which document this period in British history.

Carnegie Library Exhibition: 1st – 29th September 2021 


“Great exhibition to remind people of the histories of racism and resistance in Brixton.”

“Very moving photographs, Valuable historical documents”

Carnegie Library Fete, T-Shirt Painting 12th September 2021 1-3pm

12 children painted Peace T-shirts during the Fete and commented that it was “All fun” and that they “Liked making patterns and a pattern of hearts”.

School Tour, Carnegie Library 25th September 2021

Two sets of Year 5 pupils from Hill Mead School in Brixton attended an educational tour of the Carnegie Library exhibition. In all there were 28 pupils in the first group and 29 in the second, making it a total of 57 pupils.


“A fantastic exhibition. The children have been learning about equality and inequality. This was a great opportunity for them to see the pictures up close and learn about the story of the riots”.  

“Pupils gained greater insight into the past historical events of Brixton. Very useful information provided and the opportunity given to children to write about the photo images which had an impact on them”.

Morley College Exhibition: 4th – 29th October 2021

This exhibition incorporated a number of black and white photographs from the Lambeth Archives, photo journalist David Hoffman and the online archive Report Digital.


“It’s really interesting to see all these images; as I remember this time really well. I was 16 years old in 1981 and remember the way black youths were feeling and the awful sus laws.”

“Powerful Imagery! Amazing exhibition. So glad the issues around this event are being kept alive.”

“As a person born and bred in Brixton it is interesting to see how far we have come and how far we need to go”

Performance and Seminar Event “Reggae as Resistance”: 21st October 2021, 6-8pm

As part of Black History Month, and to accompany the exhibition, a discussion and performance event titled: “Reggae as Resistance: The sounds of 1981 and beyond” on was held on Thursday 21st October 2021. The event, which included music, discussions and some song performances, explored how Reggae sound-tracked an era of upheaval in the 1980s and, in doing so, changed British musical history forever.

There were 60 in attendance.

Harrow Arts Centre Exhibition: 30th March – 14th April 2022

During 2022, the exhibition again toured to the Harrow Arts Centre, where it had 107 visitors from the 30 March until 14 April 2022.

Brixton Riots Walking Tour: 17th September 2022, 11am-1pm

On the 17th September 2022 a sold-out walking tour around Brixton was organised that led a group of 20 people through the various landmarks of the Brixton Riots explaining how they shaped the Brixton of today. The tour was led by Angela Morgan, an official Blue Badge Tourist Guide.

The tour touched upon the history of the African and Caribbean community in the UK, the Windrush Generation, the music of Dub Poet Linton Kwesi Johnson as a form of resistance, and the economic, societal, and political history of Brixton that led to the riots.


“I really enjoyed this tour of Brixton with Angela. She has the ability to take you back in time to another Brixton. She has such amazing energy and I feel I know so much more about the area I live in. Thank you Angela and Learning Through the Arts”.

“Great insight into a world I knew nothing about. Inclusive, interesting and insightful! Thank you for educating us”.

“What an amazing tour! I have spent a lot of time in Brixton but now see it with a new perspective. 10/10!”.

“Really useful and thought provoking. Learnt lots that I didn’t know!”.

Streatham Library Exhibition: 1st – 29th September 2022

The final exhibition tour took place at the Streatham Library during September 2022.  This exhibition was specifically designed to coincide with the walking tour. 


“I was caught up in the riots on the fateful 1st day and night. These images have brought the memories flooding back. Evocative, stunning and a timely reminder of how quickly the table can turn. Engage more schools and colleges.”

Supported by the heritage fund.