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Catch the '13 Dead Nothing Said' exhibition at Goldsmiths

UNITY: All photos taken at the Black People's Day of Action on 2 March 1981 (photo credits for all images: Vron Ware/Autograph ABP)

KINGSTON UNIVERSITY professor Vron Ware captured historical moments in both black British and feminist history during the 1980s as a freelance photographer, including the Black People’s Day of Action (1981) which followed the New Cross fire. The photos will be on public display for the first time in a free exhibition at Goldsmiths University in New Cross, south London until 27 May 2017.

In the early hours of Sunday 18 January 1981, a fire at 439 New Cross Road, moments away from Goldsmiths University, resulted in the deaths of 13 young black Londoners as they were celebrating the 16th birthday of Yvonne Ruddock, one of the victims. One survivor committed suicide nearly two years later, bringing the official death count to 14.

Concerns about the effects of racism had been running high in the area due to the active presence of the National Front. Several racially-motivated arson attacks had already taken place in the London borough of Lewisham. In that climate, it seemed likely that the tragedy had been caused by a firebomb – a theory advanced by the police in the early stages of their investigation.

In the face of a hostile media, indifferent to this tragic loss of young black lives, community activists called a meeting at the local Moonshot Club on 25 January. Hundreds of people, including the late Darcus Howe met to discuss the failure of Britain’s government to acknowledge the tragedy, as well as to protest against the inadequacy and bias of the police investigation. The New Cross Massacre Action Committee was set up and plans were made for a Day of Action on 2 March 1981. The decision was taken to demonstrate on a working day to maximise the impact on London, the sentiment of the people marching anchored by the slogan '13 dead, nothing said'.

The Black People’s Day of Action became a political and cultural turning point, with thousands of people coming together to protest against racist violence and police inaction.

The '13 Dead, Nothing Said' exhibition is taking place at Goldsmiths, University of London, Richard Hoggart Building, Kingsway Corridor, Dixon Road, London, SE14 6YZ until 27 May 2017. Opening hours are: Monday - Saturday, 9am - 9pm and Sunday, 9am - 5pm. Entry is free. The nearest tube and train stations are New Cross Gate and New Cross.

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