Archiving the Inner City London symposium

On Wednesday 15 June, Archiving the City (in conjunction with the Brixton Project) hosted a symposium in the heart of Brixton, London titled Archiving the Inner City: How is Brixton remembered? What is preserved and what is lost?

(Left: Damali Ibreck, Monique Perry and Eddy Anael)

The symposium was divided into three discussions. The first, titled ‘How can we archive a city? How is the city an archive?’, featured Dr Sam Burgum (Birmingham City University), Jon Newman (Lambeth Archives), Rhoda Boateng (Black Cultural Archives) and Vanessa Ansa (London Unseen). Among the topics discussed were: how can / should we decide what should be archived? What makes something an item ‘of interest’ to the city archive? What is the ‘division of labour’ between archives in the city and could this be improved? What is the relation between formal archives and individual / amateur collectors? In what ways is the city itself an archive and how seriously should we take this idea?

 After the first discussion, Nile Thomas, a local historian and member of 81 Acts of Exuberant Defiance, led speakers and guests on a walking tour of Brixton.

(Right: Vanessa Ansa and Jon Newman)

The second discussion asked ‘How is Brixton being remembered?’ and featured Dr Sireita Mullings-Lawrence (University of Bedfordshire), Nile Thomas and Thor McIntyre-Birnie (artist, Aswarm) as speakers. Issues covered included why is there so much ‘memory work’ and so many cultural projects in Brixton? What makes this work so urgent now? What kinds of support (financial or otherwise) are required to carry out such projects? Who controls the narrative of memory work? In what ways are such projects political as well as cultural?

(Left: Nile Thomas and Sireita Mullings-Lawrence)

The final discussion of the day was titled ‘Archiving the Inner City: What is preserved and what is lost?’ The panel was comprised of Stella Dadzie (educationalist, activist and historian), Binki Taylor and Charlie Waterhouse (The Brixton Project), Damali Ibreck (London Unseen) and Rita Gayle (Decolonising the Archive). Questions discussed were what, from Brixton’s (and London’s) past, is being preserved, ‘heritagised’ and committed to memory? Who drives this agenda? How could it be more democratic? What, from Brixton’s past is being forgotten, obscured or even erased? Does an obsession with the past obscure contemporary issues or problems? How can Brixton and London’s other inner cities retain a contemporary vibrancy whilst also being respectful of historical importance? Are there any places or examples that Brixton can learn from?

Accompanying the discussions was a photography exhibition, including the  ‘inner city’ photography of Thabo Jaiyesimi (London), Monique Perry (Philadelphia) and Eddy Anael (Paris).

All three discussions were recorded and will be released as separate podcasts in 2024.

(Right: Gareth Millington, Charlie Waterhouse, Binki Taylor and Stella Dadzie)