History, Her Story, Their Story, Our Story

A City Voices Partnership Project

Introduction to the Project

“When was the first time you saw a black person?”

How would you answer this question and would your answer match the answer of the people you know?

In this exciting City Voices project, Gloucestershire Archives is working jointly with Fresh Air Foundations, renowned photographer Vanley Burke and local artists, schools and members of the community. Community answers to this question will be used to build Gloucestershire Archives’ black history collections and inspire creativity.

By collecting stories and oral histories and inspiring creative responses by local artists and communities, this project will be an important step in furthering Gloucestershire Archives’ aims to meet the needs of the wider community and continue to grow the trust they have built amongst local people. From the success of previous arts projects such as Kingsholm Looking Up and We See Gloucester (Do you See Me?) (which were both part of the City Voices Programme at 2020 Gloucester History Festival) it’s clear that the arts can be an exciting way to get communities involved in their heritage.

Launched during The Gloucester History Festival Spring Weekend with local creative Rider Shafique interviewing Vanley Burke, the project will culminate in both physical and online exhibitions as well as a Spoken Word event. Project participants will collaborate in the creation of a series of artworks which explore Gloucester’s communities.

Rider Shafique interviews Vanley Burke


Co-curated by Jacqui Grange and Raston Williams; the project involves 4 Gloucestershire artists: Rider Shafique, Thembe Mvula, JPDL and Phil Campbell who will all be mentored by Vanley Burke. The artists will lead school workshops at Sir Thomas Rich’s School and Denmark Road High School and community workshops at The Venture: White City before creating their own work. In addition, each artist will choose a piece from Vanley Burke’s iconic portfolio that relates to their practice, and contributes to the final exhibition & event. The resulting artworks will be shared in community and heritage locations as part of City Voices, during the September 2021 Gloucester History Festival.

History, Her Story, Their Story, Our Story is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Visit the Gloucester Archives Project Page for more information.


Artist Profiles

Vanley Burke

Role in project: Artist & mentor
Artist Website: www.vanley.co.uk

Vanley Burke (born 1951) is a British Jamaican photographer and artist, who has been described as “the Godfather of Black British Photography”, with his body of work “regarded as the greatest photographic record of African Caribbean people in post-war Britain” (Vanley Burke, Desert Island Discs, BBCRadio 4, 9 November 2018.) His first notable exhibition, Handsworth from the Inside, was held at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, and then the Commonwealth Institute in London in 1983. Since then his work has been exhibited extensively at venues including The Light House, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, The Black Arts Gallery in London, Cornerhouse in Manchester and Walsall Museum and Art Gallery, and he has held solo exhibitions abroad in New York City and Mali. He has also purposefully exhibited his work in locations more easily accessible to black audiences such as community centres, clubs, pubs, churches, pool halls and schools. As an avid collector, Vanley continues to connect histories through his substantial archive housed at the Library of Birmingham.

As the lead artist taking part in the History, Her Story, Their Story, Our Story project, he will mentor the four local artists as well as contributing to the final exhibitions and events. Each of the other artists will select one of his works that relates to their practice to contribute to their exhibition or event at the culmination of the project.

Rider Shafique

Role in project: Artist
Artist website: www.facebook.com/ShujaaRiderShafique/

Rider Shafique is a lyricist, poet, MC and recording artist from Gloucester. He is a prolific and versatile MC at both live events and recording, with countless features across dub, dancehall, hip hop, dubstep and drum & bass. He is also a photographer, and has produced the I:Dentity series for City Voices, creating images of BAME communities across Gloucestershire as well as a pair of films detailing the “Firsts” of Gloucester’s Black community. Rider Shafique lends his lyrics and flow to the music of the most well-known producers and record labels in the electronic music scene, including KojeyRadical, D Double E, Kahn, Swindle, Submotion Orchestra, Author, J.Sparrow, Sam Binga, Gantz, O$VMV$M, Ishan Sound, Deep Medi, Critical Music & NavyCut. His work has been described as ‘a clear response to the divisive, race-baiting politics of our times… Shafique presents an ice-cool yet impassioned dissection (of) his thoughts in a rooted, low-key style that resonates with the delivery and impetus of classic dub poetry from Linton Kwesi Johnson andMutubaruka. Highly recommended!”

Rider has delivered the introductory film interview with Vanley Burke, and will lead the participatory project at Sir Thomas Rich’s School. He will share his response to the project, either in spoken word or photography or a combination of both.


Thembe Mvula

Role in Project: Artist
Artist’s Website: www.thembemvula.com

Thembe Mvula is a South African born writer and performance poet who grew up in Gloucester. Her work has been described as having a profound ability to allow readers and listeners to exist in different places at the same time. Thembe was a finalist in The Roundhouse poetry slam competition in 2017 and featured at Latitude festival in 2019 and has performed her poetry across many platforms nationally and internationally, including the TateModern, Uniqlo Tate Lates, Jawdance and the TEDx stage. She also headlined at the OsloAfro Arts Festival in August 2019, and in Women Behind Bars at the GHRYMEFestival in 2020. Her TEDx talk has been translated into different languages including Mandarin and Cantonese . Her prize shortlisted debut poetry pamphlet, We that Wither Beneath,  was self published in March 2019 and listed among the top 52 books of the year by the Poetry School. Thembe is currently completing a Creative Writing MSt at Oxford University.

Thembe will deliver the participatory projects at Denmark Road High School, and will share her response to this and to Vanley’s photographs in spoken word.



Role in Project: Artist
Artist’s website: https://www.facebook.com/jpdl2

JPDL is a local Gloucestershire artist who has spent over ten years working on his craft, over a variety of different platforms from UK rap to spoken word. Whether it’s history or politics, JPDL’s content is socially aware and has stretched throughout a variety of subjects. He has shown this throughout the years with diverse appearances from summer festival shows, working with the BBC for Armistice Day and headlining Cheltenham poetry festival. In 2020 JPDL co-curated Luke Jerram’s “Of Earth and Sky”, a city-wide participatory poetry installation in Gloucester, running school and community poetry workshops as part of this.

 JPDL will co-lead the community participatory project with Phil Campbell. He will share his response to the project in spoken word or poetry.


Phil Campbell

Role in Project: Artist
Artist’s website: https://www.instagram.com/dr_keys_65/ 


Phil Campbell will co-lead the community participatory project with JPDL.

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