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V&A East to open with exhibit celebrating Black British music

'The Music is Black: A British Story' will open at the new Stratford site in 2025.

By Will Richards

Aces Club, Count Shelly Sound System, Hackney in 1974. (Picture: Dennis Morris/V&A)

An exhibition celebrating the history of Black British music will be the first major exhibit at the new V&A East museum in Stratford, London.

In 2025, the exhibit titled The Music is Black: A British Story will open at the new site and honour the past and present of Black musicians in the UK for the last 125 years.

Exhibition curator Jacqueline Springer explained: “Music is the soundtrack to our lives, and one of the most powerful tools of unification. It brings collective and individual joy as we recite song lyrics at festivals and gigs, recall dance moves perfected in childhood bedrooms, and mime to guitar breaks, bassline drops and instrumental flourishes with glee.

“Set against a backdrop of British colonialism and evolving social, political, and cultural landscapes, we will celebrate the richness and versality of Black and Black British music as instruments of protest, affirmation, and creativity, and reveal the untold stories behind some of the world’s most popular music of all time.”

A new trailer for a film from Meeks & Frost – the duo behind music videos from J Hus, Kojey Radical and more – has also been shared to mark the announcement. You can watch it below.

Of the exhibition, Trevor Nelson added: “There are so many different colours and shades of Black music, and so many eclectic styles that have emerged from the UK. The fact that we haven’t had a national exhibition on Black British music is quite surprising to me. I feel it needs to be documented. But more importantly, to tell the stories that are untold.”

Discussing V&A East, museum director Gus Casely-Hayford said: “V&A East is dedicated to opening up new creative opportunities for all. The Music Is Black: A British Story will be a landmark show foregrounding multiple perspectives to tell a long-overdue story about the creation of our national sound and its impact on culture around the world.

“I’m delighted the exhibition will inspire a major season of creative programmes across East Bank. I’m enormously grateful to our East Bank partners, including the BBC who have opened up their archives to us, in helping us take the exhibition beyond our building and into the wider world.”