Last week, a survey revealed that Britons know “shockingly little” about Black British history, with 53 per cent unable to name a single Black British historical figure, despite their fundamental contributions to contemporary music, art, science, politics and law. Against this backdrop, the V&A has announced a landmark exhibition that aims to shine a light on Black British culture via its beat-making icons, and their broader impact on fashion, art, and nightlife.
Titled The Music Is Black: A British Story, the immersive show is set to launch at the museum’s new Stratford base in 2025, spanning over 125 years (from 1900 to present day) and various locations at the heart of Black British music, from Carnival and MC battles, to recording studios, basements, dancefloors, and club nights.
With a focus on Black excellence, struggle, resilience, and joy, it will guide visitors through an often-overlooked story that begins with music pioneers in the early 20th century and runs all the way through to today’s groundbreaking names: Stormzy, Sampha, Little Simz, Jorja Smith, and FKA twigs, to name just a few.
Needless to say, international music has played a big part in the evolution of British culture as well. In The Music IsBlack this won’t go overlooked, addressed in a conversation about how worldwide beats have been intertwined with the nation’s social, historical, and cultural context to produce fresh genres from Afrobeats to dubstep and UK drill.
Continuing this synthesis between the past and present of Black British culture is an accompanying film commissioned by V&A East and produced by Meeks and Frost (AKA the creatives behind visuals for J Hus, Pa Salieu, and more). Featuring imagery from the BBC archives, as well as original photography, the trailer for the film is available to watch below.
The Music Is Black: A British Story will open at V&A East Museum in 2025.