Changing the Story: Photographs of British Life in Black and White, 1917-1962

Last edited by Alison Wright on 4 January 2022

Venue, Timing and Cost

The North Wall Arts Centre
Monday, 10 January 2022 to Saturday, 29 January 2022
Mon - Fri 10am - 4pm, Sat 12pm - 4pm, closed Sundays

Changing the Story brings to light a neglected strand in British history,
through a series of striking photographs dating from 1917 to 1962, interpreted by
award-winning writer and performer Rommi Smith during her time as the inaugural
writer-in-residence at leading photographic agency TopFoto. Thirty-four of these
revelatory photographs will go on public display for the first time alongside new
writing by Smith which responds directly to the photographs. Changing the Story
runs at the North Wall from 10 until 29 January 2022 and admission is free.

Commissioned to delve into the archive at TopFoto, Smith was struck by how many
of the fleeting moments captured by photographers such as Ken Russell and Roger
Bamber disrupt monoculturalist ideas of Britishness as white. The photographs
include West Indian Naval officers and sailors heading off to war in 1917; excited
flag-waving school children in 1938; myth-busting shots of mixed-heritage families
onboard the Empire Windrush in 1948; groups of Jamaican men accommodated in
underground bunkers known as the ‘Clapham Deep’; carefree children playing on the
streets of 1950s Notting Hill; and the only known face-on photograph of jazz singer
Judy Johnson in Soho’s A&A Club in the early 1950s.

Describing the finds as ‘electrifying’, Smith has created a series of eight written
responses - new poetry, monologues and lyrics inspired by the voices and stories in
the photographs – which feature in the exhibition. They are accompanied by audio
recordings accessible via QR codes, with music by Christella Litras (Windrush
Movement of the People), performed by actor Lladel Bryant (DCI Banks, Intergalactic,
People Like Us).

Visitors will be invited to contribute their own creative responses within the

Further Information

Contact Details: 

The North Wall Arts Centre, South Parade, Oxford OX2 7JN
01865 319 450 | | | @TheNorthWall

Visual Arts
Written and Spoken Word

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