A NEW public artwork commemorating the 1977 Battle of Lewisham was formally unveiled at Goldsmiths, University of London last month.
On August 13 1977, an estimated 500 National Front marchers were met by 4,000 counter-protestors as they attempted to march from New Cross to Lewisham, south east London, resulting in violent clashes.
The Battle of Lewisham, as it became known, marked the first time a National Front march was prevented from reaching its destination, and also saw the first deployment of riot shields by police on the UK mainland.
The mural was created in collaboration with local community groups and graphic designer Ted Low, a Goldsmiths graduate, and is formed from a collage of images by five photographers who captured the events of 13 August 1977.
The mural has been installed on the wall of the Rutherford Building (housing the Goldsmiths Library) facing onto Lewisham Way in New Cross.
In a statement on the Goldsmiths website, they said: “The artwork was been created with bold colours capturing the anti-fascist reggae and punk-led spirit of the era and the smoke grenades used by protestors and counter-protestors.
“It gives prominence to key figures and community leaders among the counter-protestors, including civil liberties campaigner Darcus Howe; the then Bishop of Southwark; and members of the All Lewisham Campaign Against Racism and Fascism and Anti-Racist / Anti-Fascist Co-ordinating Committee.”
The permanent mural is accompanied by detailed interpretation boards installed alongside the public footpath in front of the mural on Lewisham Way.
Dr John Price, Head of the Department of History at Goldsmiths, said: “This vivid public artwork, commemorating an important event in the history of anti-fascism and anti-racism in the UK, will stand as a permanent reminder of what can be achieved when communities come together to resist and oppose bigotry in all its forms. The Battle of Lewisham was south London’s Battle of Cable Street and it is fitting that both events are now marked with commemorative plaques and major pieces of public art.”
New Cross Labour Councillor Brenda Dacres commented: “I am very pleased that New Cross will have this dynamic artwork commemorating the 1977 Battle of Lewisham. It is important that we remember that as a diverse community we must continue to come together to stand up, and speak out against racism, xenophobia and bigotry. This will be a prominent reminder to all. If we know our past we can build a better future together.”
Damien Egan, Mayor of Lewisham, added: “Lewisham has a proud history of standing up to racism. The Battle of Lewisham was a significant moment in our borough’s history that saw the community come together to resist the far right. I want to thank everyone who helped bring this mural to life, whose message of celebrating our diversity and standing up to racism is just as relevant as it was more than forty years ago.”
The artwork unveiling marked the end of a series of Black History Month events hosted by Goldsmiths and Goldsmiths Students Union.
Visit Goldsmiths’ Battle of Lewisham artwork web page for more information on the Battle of Lewisham and the mural development process.