© Syd Shelton / Autograph ABP, 1978-1981, Rock Against Racism

In 1976 a collective of musicians and political activists came together to form Rock Against Racism (RAR), to promote racial harmony through music. Under the slogan ‘Love Music, Hate Racism’, it was one of the first organisations that actively showcased reggae and punk bands on the same stage, attracting large multicultural audiences. At a time when the National Front and fascist attitudes were gaining increasing support, RAR marked the rising resistance to institutionalised and violent racism. (+)

If you should wonder why there are skinheads in these pictures: originally, the skinhead subculture wasn’t about politics or race. This has changed when some skinheads aligned themselves with the white nationalist National Front. Nowadays, these brainless white power and neo-Nazi skinheads are thought to be the “original skins”, so when someone says “skinhead” today they often mean e.g. the fascist or racist skins at soccer games.

Here’s a video of Syd Shelton talking about Rock Against Racism:

And here’s a video of Syd Shelton talking about the shooting of the Matumbi portrait (picture at the bottom) here:

» find more photos of famous people here «


How punk and reggae fought back against racism in the 70s

When Syd Shelton returned to London in 1977 after fours years living in Australia, he was shocked at how much things had changed.

“The recession had really hit and the Callaghan government had attacked living standards for working people - very similar to what’s happening right now,” he explains. “Whenever that happens, there’s always a rise of something like the National Front.”

Syd was desperate to fight against the hatred and was lucky to meet one of campaign group Rock Against Racism’s founders, Red Saunders. Before long he was their unofficial photographer and designer for their newspaper/zine Temporary Hoarding.

With an exhibition of his work from that period opening up at Rivington Place next month, we caught up with Syd to hear about some of Britain’s most tribal and transformative times. [Read More]