Over the weekend I was fortunate enough to head across to The Hospital Club in Covent Garden to check out the Rudeboy Salon, a follow up to last year’s hugely successful ‘Return of the Rudeboy’ exhibiton. The collaborative project by photographer Dean Chalkley and Creative Director Harris Elliot explores the oft-overlooked rudeboy subculture that originated in Jamaica and has since made indelible marks upon the British identity throughout the second half of the twentieth and into the twenty-first century.
The exhibition made its return to mark the release of an accompanying 128-page book, as well as displaying a new collaborative sound installation with Goodmans that used 90 original Goodmans radios and artwork by Andrew Ibi to reinforce the movement’s deep roots in music and soundsystem culture.
The new Return of the Rudeboy book features all the photos from the original exhibition as well as a number of brand new images that document the enduring effect of rudeboy culture on British style and sensibilities, particularly within the black community. Subjects of all ages within the book demonstrate how the rudeboy style has evolved and spread over the decades to influence a wide range of individuals whilst retaining its original spirit.
I ended up having a real interesting conversation with Dean Chalkley that morning about different experiences of community and forming identity as a young person in Britain and how empowering the Internet has become in enabling groups of people formerly separated by geography and other factors to connect with each other and create community structures. He made a great point about how so much of the original knowledge he had acquired and held so valuable rested on word of mouth and cultural tidbits, knowing which club or bar was the place to be and so on.
To some degree I can understand or identify with the idea of being slightly different from the whole community around you on a cultural sense or in terms of interests. One of the best things about this book is that it demonstrates how in the modern age it’s actually possible for such a wide range of unique and interesting people to be brought together and united through a common thread that has empowered their identity.
The photographs are brilliant and feature everyone from original style pioneers like Don Letts, Eddie Prendergrast and Pauline Black to key figures of the new generation like Ayishat Akanbi, Olivier Geraghty and Akinola Davis (who, on a side note, has been doing really great things with London Black Revs and political movements on Just Jam which you should be paying attention to). It’s a visually stunning collection of photographs that’s full of the energy and attitude that any rudeboy-affiliated project should have.
‘Return of the Rudeboy’ is now available from the official Return of the Rudeboy website. I hope you enjoy the images and keep an eye out for future Rudeboy Salon events in the future because they’re bound to be hot. Safe.