Scarlett Crawford was selected as artist in residence for the First Waves project. She’s young, she’s mixed race, she’s a mum and she’s from Brixton, in south London.
Her intimate collection of photographs and personal testimonies from across the UK show a variety of views and experiences of people affected by the 1965, 1968 and 1976 Race Relations Acts.
The introduction of the Race Relations Act of 1965 is the focal point of the exhibition in Westminster Hall, in the Houses of Parliament, and participants shared how the legislation touched their day-to-day lives.
“Since graduating I have worked on topics of race and class, the kind that affects me particularly. So when this opportunity came up in Parliament, I was like wow, this is a really good opportunity,” says Crawford.
For Crawford, the fact she isn’t a stereotypical artist, is exactly why having her art displayed in the heart of Westminster was important.
“Brixton has traditionally been a politicised area, so growing up I always felt that I could have an impact on politics.
“I used to write letters to John Major when I was a kid because he was also from Brixton. But then the focus was finding a way you could talk about politics and help your community.”
The project led Crawford to travel across the UK to hear and meet different ethnic minority communities that often get overlooked.
“I was nervous because I had only worked within my community. So for me, it was great to leave south London, leave Brixton, and go to other places.
“As people of colour or BAME people, how has it been Cardiff, how is it in Glasgow in comparison to London? If I’ve grown up in London and I’ve experienced some form of racism if you go to communities where there is less of a presence how does that feel for you?”
For the exhibition, Crawford used objects instead of words to symbolise how the subjects felt. The light bulb represents light, optimism and hope. The red ribbon represents blood ties, community and unity. The parchment represents law, legislation and government and finally, the pen represents education, action and protest.
Crawford hopes this exhibition can educate people to understand the cultural history of the UK.
“It’s about the whole of Britain understanding why we have such a diverse culture and why we have a multicultural society. We as a community know, but I think a lot of people still don’t.”
It is indisputable that since the Act, race and race relations within the UK have improved. However, issues of equal pay and equal opportunities still trouble society today.
“I think it’s important we have keep having projects like this, where we actually take Parliament into communities outside of London and then bring it back in,” says Crawford.
“I think keeping that engagement and keeping that dialogue open is important for people to recognise Parliament isn’t this far away building you have nothing to do with, you can actually be involved.”
First Waves artworks will be on display at the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Hall, London, until 13 February.