In Conversation: Rudy Loewe & Perry Blankson

Unattributable Briefs: Act Two, 18 March 2023, Orleans House Gallery

Rudy Loewe, installation view of Unattributable Briefs: Act Two, 2023.
Orleans House Gallery. Photography by Eleni Parousi.


Thank you everyone for coming out with all the transport chaos and everything. So,
yeah, it's just a real pleasure to be here and share this work with you all, and also
just be in conversation with Perry today.

So, a few things. Yeah, so I'm Rudy Loewe, and I am a visual artist and PhD student.
Just to describe myself, I am a light-skinned, non-binary Black person with short Afro
hair, gold glasses, a white denim jacket and a green outfit. I'm a they/them, and

So, this exhibition is the second part of an ongoing body of work, which is my PhD
work, looking at Britain's suppression of Black Power organising in the English-
speaking Caribbean during the 1960s and 70s. Yeah, I'm looking at these records
from The National Archives that have only just started being released from 2019.
And that's kind of going to be some of the focus of our conversation today. Yeah, it’s
an ongoing work, so hopefully there will be an Act Three at some point. Yeah, and it
feels... you know, it feels really important that this work is happening now as well,
kind of thinking about the fact that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the
assassination of Maurice Bishop, who was the Prime Minister of Grenada, and kind
of that being a part of this history; kind of at the other end of this era.

So, I'm going to introduce now Perry Blankson. So, Perry Blankson is a Tribune
columnist and a project coordinator at the Young Historians Project, working to
encourage the development of young historians of African and Caribbean descent.
He's also a member of the Editorial Working Group for the History Matters Journal.
Thank you Perry for being here today. And I am also really happy to introduce
Deborah McCloud, who is going to be doing BSL interpreting for our conversation

So, the format is going to be that... it’s going to be quite relaxed. I've got some
questions for Perry. Also, yeah, I can talk a bit about the work, and then we can open
up for questions from the audience, including the online audience. So, first of all,
Perry, I just wanted to ask if you can tell us a bit about your work with the Young
Historians Project.

Yeah, absolutely. So, the Young Historians Project, as you said, we're a collective of
young people of African and Caribbean descent. And we're about age 16 to 25,
probably leaning more towards the 25 end of the spectrum. But that's about the age
group that we cater for. And the way we work is that we run a number of projects. So
historically, the first project we did was in 2015, and that was on the history of the
Black Liberation Front. They were a very prominent Black Power organisation in
Britain. That was our first project. That was the first history... first recorded history of
the BLF. We made a documentary, which I'm sure I can share with people at some

Yes, please.

It would be really good to get people to see that because it's a brilliant documentary.
And following that, our project was on... it was entitled ‘A Hidden History: African
Women and the British Health Service’. And that was looking at the contribution of
historical and contemporary African women in the British health care service. The
narrative today tends to focus on... well, in our research leading up to that, we found
that the narrative tends to focus more on the Caribbean element of the contribution
to the NHS and the British health service. So we tried to... we wanted to expand it
out to include African women as well.

And then currently what we're looking at... we've got two projects running side by
side, which is a bit tricky, but it's something that we've always wanted to do. So, the
first one is looking at the history of Black British history. So, looking at how the
discipline came into development, some of the prominent individuals involved in
advocating for Black British history to be taught in schools, that sort of thing. And the
second projects that we're looking to be running, is looking at housing in Black
Britain. So, the sort of history of how, you know, living in a racist society like Britain,
Black people managed to come together and form communities and things like
housing associations, for example, which enabled them to find housing in a very
hostile environment. Especially when you look at the 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond. So,
yeah, that's some of the stuff that we're doing now in the background.

We also do school workshops. So, we go into schools and we just give the students
a flavour of what we're up to. We asked them about, you know, their current
curriculum and try to sort of pick holes at what they’re learning. Why are you learning
about Martin Luther King? You know, you should be learning about his British
compatriots. So, that's the kind of stuff that we do in the Young Historians Projects, and obviously,
we're an entirely volunteer organisation, and we're run by young people. Obviously,
we have consultations from Hakim Addi, who is our consultant historian and also one
of our founders. So yeah, that's a bit about us. I hope I haven’t droned on for too
long, but yeah, that’s a little flavour of what we’ve been up to.

Also, I have upside-down brain, so I forgot to say, could you do a description of what
you look like and your pronouns?

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So, I'm a Black male. I'm wearing a very lovely fluffy jumper
with some black... I think we could describe these as cargo pants, yeah? I've got on
some trainers, and I go by he/him.

Great, thank you. And also, I’d like to say that this exhibition is supported by the Arts
Council and TrAIN, which is a research centre at UAL. So, you have to forgive me.
My brain is very upside down today, so we’re just going to... we’re going to move
with it.

Yeah, so the reason why I was really interested in having this conversation with
Perry is because we were both researching these records from the Information
Research Department, which is a... if you haven’t read anything about the exhibition,
it was a secret department within the British government, basically responsible for
creating propaganda about many places in the world, and kind of relating to many
different political histories. So yeah, I was kind of interested in if you could talk about
how it was that you came to researching those records in particular?

Yeah, absolutely! It's an interesting one because initially, when I was doing my
undergraduate dissertation, I was looking at the domestic surveillance of Kwame
Nkrumah. So for those who don't know, Kwame Nkrumah was the first Prime
Minister of Ghana. It was previously called the Gold Coast, and he spent a lot of his
time in Britain. And during that time he was under surveillance from a whole host of
different government entities. So, MI5 and also the Metropolitan Police, Special
Branch. And that was where I kind of got my I did my toe in the water, so to speak
when it came to looking at histories of surveillance.

And then that led me on to my Master's dissertation and that was looking at the surveillance
not only of Caribbean Black Power organisations but domestic British Black Power organisations as well.
And it’s a weird one because obviously the IRD, or the Information Research
Department, is... was a wide-reaching and not just domestic organisation, but looked
abroad as well. So, yeah, when it came to looking for IRD files, the first ones I found
were of sort of correspondence leading up to the Black Power Conference in
Bermuda in 1968. And from there, it kind of opened a whole doorway into activities
going on across the Caribbean. So not just Bermuda, but all the other Caribbean islands as well.
So yeah, that's kind of where I started. I started with Kwame Nkrumah, and I ended up
all the way in the Caribbean.

Yeah, it's so interesting because I feel like I didn't even know that those records were
there, and I stumbled across them by accident basically. Being an artist, not an
archivist – or like a formally trained archivist anyway – I often would go to archives
and just search in the catalogue, just trying out different terms. And I tried ‘Black
Power’, just not knowing what I was going to find. And then all of these records
started coming up, and I was like, okay, actually, there's something here.
And then, as I started to look more and more of those records, I realised that the
ones which were just coming out were from the Information Research Department,
and it was just this really strange synchronicity that it was 2019, and they just started
coming out in 2019. So being like, oh, actually one of the first people to be looking at them, you know,
once had been released, and just feeling like there was something really powerful in
them and being like, does anyone else know that these are here? So I just stumbled
across Perry's article and was like, someone else knows they’re here! I need to talk
to this person because not enough people are talking about it.

Which article was that out of interest?

It was... first of all, it was the Bermuda one. So yeah, the first regional Black Power
Conference, which happened in 1969.
Yeah, I was like... you know, there was only, I think, maybe one other person who I
knew who had written about this, which was Quito Swan. He's written this really
incredible book: ‘Black Power in Bermuda: The Struggle for Decolonization’. But
apart from that, there was not really any other material about it.

Yeah, no, I mean, for me, how I came to that... it goes back to Nkrumah again. But
I'm not sure if you’ve heard of this organisation, they’re called the Special Branch
Files project?


Yeah, yeah, absolutely! So for those of you who don't know the Special Branch Files
project, they are a collective of researchers, journalists, academics and what they do
is they basically fight to get classified files declassified, and that's largely through
Freedom of Information requests. And it takes a long, long time to get even a sliver
of information when it comes to these information requests. So they initially
published a digitised version of some IRD correspondence leading up to the Black
Power Conference in Bermuda. And that's how basically I got to it.

Yeah, it's a really fantastic project, actually. I really recommend looking up what
they've been doing. And also on the topic of, like, Freedom of Information requests,
as a part of this work, I've been making requests to see... within the IRD records,
there are records that are like fully accessible, then there are some which are like
partially redacted, and then there's some which are completely closed. So I've been
making requests to access ones that are partially or completely closed.

Out of interest, how is that working out for you? [Both laughing]

You can see some of the redacted responses from the Foreign, Commonwealth &
Development Office, but it's been the same response for everything. And so, for me
as an artist, my interest is also in how can I include these communications with the
government back into the work?
Because I feel like that's sort of the next layer of it, that on paper, it seems like
everything is accessible. You know, if you speak to The National Archives, they'll
say, “Oh, the records were migrated between 2018 and 2019, and they're publicly
available now”. But then it's like, but no, because I think there’s about 8000 records
and 2000 of them are closed or have parts that are closed, so...

Or the ones that are available are like that. [Points to one of Rudy’s works on the
gallery wall]

Yeah. So exactly. It's like, what, can we actually research. Yeah, so the responses
that I've had from them have been the exact same response every time, which is that
the reason that they can't make it accessible is a matter of national security. And
they'll be like, you can't even put it to a public interest test or anything. So... and it's
just the same thing again and again.

Yeah, I've had similar issues. I've tried to...Me and another historian called Marika
Sherwood, we've tried to access documents on George Padmore in The National
Archives, and the response has been the same. You know, the national security
element, which is like, you know, the guy's been dead for about 50 years. I wonder
what the issue is. But it’s not really surprising, especially when, obviously, you hear
about things like the... is it a 50-year rule or is it 80 years now? I’m not sure.

So it's the... there was a 30-year rule and now it's actually been moved to a 20-year
rule, which... yeah, this means that after, you know, the records have been acquired
by The National Archives, there’s supposed to be this lapse in time before they’re
publicly available. But the records we're talking about are over 50 years old.


And the fact that even, you know, 53 years later, they're still having this document
closed, and you’re like, what's in that document? You know, what is it that you don't
want us to know? And there are records that are related to other parts of the world
from the same time period as well that have become available now.
Like, the ones that I always mention are, like, to do in Indonesia because
the government were making pamphlets... the British government were making
pamphlets that journalists have said incited anti-communists in Indonesia to kill the
Foreign minister.

So I'm like, if that record is now available, why is this other record about this other
part of the world in the same time period not available? Is there something worse in
there, or is it because of the communities in the UK, here – you know, Caribbean
communities in particular here – that might, you know, have more of a reaction to
that record being opened up? So I feel like there's so many different layers to it.

Yeah, Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it's a tricky one as well because there's only so
many times you can keep sort of banging your head against the brick wall when it
comes to trying to get these documents from the government. And I think... and
obviously – and you might ask me this later – but that for young researchers, I think
that could be quite a barrier. Just, you know, before you even got started, you’re
already at a loss because half of the primary source material that you’re looking to
use is being withheld from you. So, yeah, I think that's something that really needs to
be looked at in terms of how we want to write history in the future and trying to tackle
these boundaries put up by the government.

Yeah. And I wanted to ask you – just go back to this sort of history of Black Power in
the Caribbean - how aware of that history were you? You mentioned Nkrumah, but,
you know, in terms of what was happening in Trinidad and Tobago. Yeah, different
parts of the Caribbean.

It was only really tangential because my focus has largely been on Black Power in
Britain. And luckily for me, Black Power activists in Britain had very strong links to
the Caribbean. So it was just a case of me just sort of making the extra jump, so to
speak. But I wouldn't say I was fully informed. It was very much of an abstract idea to
me. It was like I knew it was happening, but I didn't know the extent and I didn’t know
the finer details.

And yeah, in terms of accessing these records at The National Archives, what's it
been like in your experience of being in that space?
Which I'd like to also say, if you don't know The National Archives, it's down the road
in Richmond, which was also part of the reason why I really wanted to do this
exhibition here. That it has... they're over there, you can go and have a look.
But yeah, I’d love to hear more.

Yeah. So the first time I went to The National Archives was [during] my undergrad.
And as an undergraduate, it's really intimidating, obviously, going to the biggest
archive in the country. But I will say that it was actually quite a positive experience in
that the staff, they were really helpful, and sort of pointing me to wherever I needed
to go. Obviously, if you want to go to The National Archives, you need to sign up and
get a reader’s card, and that wasn't really an issue.

When it became time to actually look at the documents, I think that's where the issue
came. And obviously we've spoken about it before, but dealing with things like
redactions, pages missing and some documents being closed. I think while obviously
it is an obstacle, I think it doesn't make the documents useless. I think the redactions
can also speak for themselves, if that makes sense.

And so, I would say that, yeah, it has a mixed experience dealing with The National
Archives. Obviously, I think that the way it's run for research is quite good, but in
terms of actually dealing with the government and trying to get the documents...
Yeah, I think it's a bit tricky on that front.

Yeah, I feel like also there's... I don't know if people in general fully understand what
The National Archives is, in terms of it being the archive of the Government. So it's
government departments rather than, you know, individual people, apart from when
those people hold some relevance to the Government. You know, which is gonna
then mean a very specific kind of reason why someone is referenced there.

But I think... yeah, just you know, where it is, or like just for me, this sort of, like,
psychological experience of going into that space is quite specific. And what
happens when you come into that space, especially if you come into that space as a
Black person, if you come into that space of someone who, for any reason, is not
expected to be there. But there's a sort of like, “Oh, do you know what you're doing
here? Do you know how this works?” [Perry laughing] Yes, I know, you know? And
so, that adds a whole other layer to your experience of being in that space.

And so, I think for me doing this PhD work, a part of that has been: how do we take
Black history out of the archives? How do we translate that into ways that are going
to be in some way more accessible to different kinds of people that... you know, a lot
of these documents are text-based, so... and some of them include, like, handwriting
and being able to read people's handwriting.

Ah, don’t even get me started, man! Some of the handwriting is, like, worse than
doctors' notes, like you can’t even... [Rudy laughing] But yeah, that's a big deal,
actually, that I didn’t mention. A lot of the really important stuff is... will be like a little
scribbled, handwritten note on the back of like a 50 page file. And, you know, I had to
get like three people to read... to try to read some of the handwriting. So, yeah, that’s
a really important point you brought up.

Yeah, and I feel like, you know, sometimes, even if you can read it, you might not
realise the importance of what you're looking at. But I mean, for me, looking at the
IRD records – I've looked at over a hundred of these records. You know, one record
might have two pages in it, but it might also have like 300 pages. And so you’re
reading all of this stuff, and then, you know, you might be 70 records down the line
before you’re like, “Oh, that thing that I read before is actually...” You know, so I feel
like it's just being able to actually understand what is contained in there…

Yeah, actually, now that you've mentioned that... Do you know about Box 500?

Oh! I'm act-... okay, this is going into nerdy territory but yeah, please.

[Laughing] Yeah, so for those of you who don't know, Box 500 is the postal code or
the shorthand for MI5. And it was something that I kept coming across, like over and
over, in the IRD files. I kept seeing, like, little scribbled bits saying ‘Box 500’ and I
was like, what does that mean? I just kept seeing it and kept seeing it, and it took me
until I came across the Special Branch Files Project, where they... I think it was one
of the Mangrove Nine files had Box 500 attached to it, and it was the one time that
they didn’t redact it. Yeah, it was there in plain text: Box 500. And they clearly sort of
found the link between Box 500 and MI5, which I just had no idea I was looking at.
And I've looked at so many documents, and it had been redacted. It had been there
sort of scribbled at the back. And yeah, that was really... it just blew my whole
research wide open because then, once I was able to find that link, it made things
make a lot more sense.

Yeah, and I love that also because, for me, that's like... it’s human, there’s a person
who has redacted all of these files, and you just need them to make one...

[Simultaneously] one little mistake. Yeah, exactly!

Rudy time, and then that can mean, you know, accessing a whole other kind of
information. And I have had those similar kind of experiences where you're like this...
they didn't mean to leave that little kernel, but there it is, and you're just going to
have to run with it.

And I think also it's really interesting to see.... You know, because you mentioned the
Mangrove Nine as well, it’s really interesting to see how some of these records are
being referenced now in different kinds of creative projects. You know, I'm thinking
about Steve McQueen's Small Axe series and, you know, these... Basically, these
photographs which in The National Archives are within the Special Branch collection
that... you know, that at the time, it was police surveillance of activists. And now that
is a resource for, you know, being able to do a different kind of work, that there is
photographs of this protest, which is really incredible. So I think there's also
something about why the record or the material was created and how it might be
used in a completely different way.

Yeah, absolutely. I remember when I was doing my research on the domestic side of
surveillance, I just came across loads and loads of protest photos and things that
you think look relatively innocuous. And then you leaf over and you have a look and
see that some of these photos are being used to identify people in upcoming court
cases and that sort of thing.

So yeah, I really love the photographic aspects of it. I think it makes the research feel
a bit more alive. I mean, I don't know about you, but I kind of glaze over after I've
been looking at about ten files, and it's all just text, text, text. So it’s nice to have that.

That's really interesting because I think as someone who has a really visual mind,
sometimes... I mean, I love having these photographs, and at the same time
sometimes as someone who alread-... I'm already thinking in pictures. If you give me
a picture, it doesn't give much of a room to go elsewhere.
Whereas with the text-based documents, I’m making pictures in my mind from the documents.
So yeah, I think it's just interesting how we react to those different things.

Yeah, I don't think those things are apart from each other, either. I think they
definitely work together. Like I said previously, like, the pictures were there, but on
their own, I have no way of knowing that they would be used to eventually prosecute
people for being involved in a demonstration. So I think, yeah, like... while, you know,
it's nice to have one, it’s nice to have the other. I think they can work together.

Yeah, absolutely. I just... yeah, I wanted to ask you, what do you see as the
significance in this contemporary moment of IRD records? You know, what do they
mean in terms of the now?

[Laughing] Yeah, I remember when I was looking at that question on the way in, and
I was like, there’s lots to think about. I remember... I’m gonna go back to when I was
studying, and initially, when I came across these documents, it was at the height of
BLM (Black Lives Matter), I would say. And just being in that moment and looking at
these histories, and then also learning that some of my friends who had been
involved in demonstrations had also been under surveillance by police. I think it
just... it was a real sort of eye-opener in that these histories are very much not
detached from today, and that the continuity of surveillance is sort of... is everlasting,
really. It continues right on from – Obviously, I mentioned Kwame Nkrumah and that
surveillance continued on and on, through to Black Power Organisations, and
obviously through to the present day, now. While we were looking at files,
surveillance today is very much more sophisticated, I would say. So, yeah. I think
doing that research at that time, it was a real eye-opener into the interlinked nature
of the today and also history.

Yeah, absolutely. And actually, you know, with the IRD, the records technically go up
to 1977 because journalists exposed its existence around that time, and actually
some of the records... I found records from 1983, so I don't know what's going on
there. But in, I think it was 2018, I heard that there was a government department
which was being created, which sounded exactly like the IRD, basically. That they
were saying that it's a new department, some, like, communications unit that, you
know, was against the information war. But it was like the way that they said it
actually just sounded like a new IRD.

Well it's interesting because where… on the face of it, these government
organisations, they sound really bland and unassuming, like the Information
Research Department, and then you find out it's actually got quite an insidious
nature. So yeah, I think, in general, that kind of research makes you sort of perk your
ears up a bit more when you come across these government entities. And obviously,
the IRD was a secret organisation, so we have no way of knowing what its
contemporary analogue might be.

Yeah. I would like to open it up to questions now. If anyone has a question, we have

Audience Member 1
Thank you so much. So, I wondered if you could explain a bit more about the
Foreign & Commonwealth Office in terms of its context because I did a Masters in
history, and I studied the International Bureau of International Affairs in America and
its relation with Brazilian culture. And a similar structure was in place, I think, and
they operated through propaganda. So I just would like to hear more about the one
here and how the propaganda operated when it started, things like that.

Yeah, so the FCO, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, as it is known today... the
IRD was sort of embedded within the FCO, and the way they worked was that they...
I'm going to speak in a Caribbean context now.... in that they assessed the nature of
radical activity going on on the ground in their particular region that they were
designated – let's say, Bermuda – and they would collect all sorts of material.
So it could be sort of pamphlets, leaflets, I don't know. Did you come across any
collected material in your research?

Yeah, there's a lot of newspapers. Yeah, there’s a lot. Mostly just newspapers.

Yeah, so newspapers, that sort of thing. And one thing I found which is quite
interesting, and I don't know if you've come across this Rudy, but I found
correspondence between an IRD official and a colleague, and what they were doing
was they were drafting a fake Black Power publication and...

Yeah! [Points to Rudy’s painting behind Rudy and Perry]

Oh, brilliant! [Both laughing] That’s so [inaudible]. So they were drafting a fake Black
Power organisation, and I just remember finding it quite funny because they weren't
too familiar with the sort of language that they should have been using. And I
remember that... I'm paraphrasing, but some of the correspondence would be like,
“Oh, don't you think this sounds a bit too harsh?” Or, “Should we dial this back a bit?
What do you think about it?”

And to see the human aspects behind the kind of government machine was a real
like.... really sort of engaging in part of my research. But also, like, seeing how these
organisations operated, even though what they were doing was quite insidious. You
know, fake propaganda to be inserted into a magazine. There was quite.... I don’t
know how to describe it, but there was very much a human face behind the activities
that they were doing there.

Obviously, that doesn't fully answer your question, but I would say, just in a nutshell,
the activities of the FCO were... or the IRD, which were all within the FCO, they
would collate all these newspapers, all these pamphlets and that sort of thing, and
they would use these for future propaganda purposes. So, they would use them as a
sort of... as a guide, as it were, to creating things like fake propaganda.

Yeah, I would say it was really far-reaching. You know, that they were active on a
global scale, which I think is really important. And yeah, like you said, they were
collecting these materials to emulate them. And within the exhibition, there are, I
think, three pieces of propaganda that are referenced. So, for example, this painting
refers to this group that the IRD created, which was The Black Power Africa’s
Heritage Group. And yeah, they made this false leaflet basically to pretend to be this
group in Africa that were really kind of outraged with Kwame Nkrumah and Kwame
Ture, as a way of trying to, basically, divide people. You know, divide communities in
Africa with Black Power activists in the Caribbean and in the US.
And at best, I feel like it was really corny. [Perry agreeing] You know, like what you
said about the language. It was, like, really corny. Like, you know, just...

Trying a bit too hard...

Yeah! Just like, really quite embarrassing.
But then on the other end of that, is that really, you know, what kind of violence were
they inciting people to or, you know, how has this rippled out into people's lives into
the present moment, is the thing that's really important for me. Like, you know,
looking at activists in Bermuda whose lives were completely changed; looking at
activists in Trinidad and Tobago whose lives were completely changed, and that
these were not just isolated. That there... you know, that there was a big network.
And I think that there has been a lot of research now looking into the sort of,
COINTELPRO, which was the counterintelligence program which was part of the FBI
in the US against Black Power activists there. And there just hasn't been that same
sort of significant research into what the British government were doing.

Yeah, well, this is... what we're looking at is essentially the COINTELPRO analogue
but for Britain. And obviously, COINTELPRO is very much... it's much better known.
Obviously, its subjects were a lot more high profile. So obviously, the Black Panthers
in the States. You know, any sort of individual associated with Black Power in the
States. So, while obviously it's nice to be doing this research, obviously, it's the sort
of... like you were saying, the violence that essentially was incited off the back of it, I
think also is an eye-opener.

Do we have any other questions? Or from online, either?

Audience Member 2
Thanks! It's really interesting. I just wanted to hear more about your process, Rudy,
in terms of how you decide what to paint. So you talked about, you know, the text –
medium of text – but then we had images through the research and the archive
discovered as well. Do particular images come to mind, or do you have quite a
structured amount of propaganda and information that you want to depict, or is it a

I mean, in terms of all of the work in this exhibition, there was no visual material in
the archive. So yeah, when I'm reading materials, I'm often thinking in pictures and
then kind of... yeah, maybe sometimes multiple pictures get woven together into a
single image. Or there's something that feels like a really important moment, and
then I'm thinking, “Okay, what are the kind of images around this moment?”

And I have a background in comics and illustration. So, often I'm thinking
sequentially as well that maybe there's a few pictures that need to come together.
So, for example, these three paintings here which say ‘Teteron Bay’, ‘Warship’ and
‘Propaganda Machine’, they’re part of an ongoing series which is the Trinidad series,
looking at different moments from the Black Power Revolution in 1970.

And I think... so, you know, sometimes there's a lot of material, and it's about kind of
picking out certain moments that feel really important to the history, even just as a
signpost for something else that it's not... It doesn't contain everything. That there is
way too much to put into either one image or even just a series of images, but that
maybe I can at least put some signposts that, you know, there was this rebellion with
the soldiers at Teteron Bay, and that feels important. And that also leads into how
the British government was considering giving a warship to Prime Minister Eric
Williams. And then that leads into the fact that they were already making propaganda
in Trinidad that the Trinidadian government didn't even know about.

So, sometimes it's, like, there's a bit of a story. But yeah, then there's sort of pictures
where I think like, okay, this is a sort of way to encapsulate at least some part of that.
Yeah. And then also, I really like to work with text as well. So, then there's some text
directly from the archival material that's referenced, and sometimes it's my voice, and
sometimes it's trying to bring in the voice of activists or bring in some sort of humour.
Yeah. And as I said, kind of working now with the responses that I'm getting from the
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and bringing that in as another kind
of contemporary voice. So, for example, this painting here, ‘Mr. Tickle Goes To
Barbados’, references a record which they won't open. Mr. Tickle was a real person
I’ll have you know. [Audience laughing] Yeah, it's an issue of national security. So...
but it's like, for me, there’s something that’s so farcical. It's like... it’s beyond a joke.
Like, why can't I know what Mr. Tickle was doing in Barbados?
And this is actually like... this is real research that I'm trying to do. Like, it's just so
over the top. But everything about, you know, what we said, about how corny it is.
Everything is really over the top. I almost feel sometimes... I mean, this is also why I
wanted to talk to Perry. It’s like...

You got to talk to someone about it, do you know what I mean?

Yeah, like, it sounds ridiculous. It sounds so ridiculous, you know? And when you're
in this quiet archive, and you have this sort of mic drop moment, [whispering] “Oh,
my God!”, but you’ve just going to sit there all quiet. It’s so important to find someone
else to talk to and be like, “It's not just me, right?” It’s not just me!

Yeah, and I mentioned before how I had to enlist the help of, you know, a handful of
people to help me look at this handwriting because I was going insane just trying to
figure it out for myself, which obviously is part of the, I would say, the joys of
research in a way, in that obviously you can hit walls, but I don't think you should let
that, you know, hinder you. And obviously, talking to people and enlisting the help of
people to help you sort of make sense of it all is always very useful.

Yeah. My hope is that actually, a kind of network of us can keep pushing. If you've
ever made a Freedom of Information request, I urge you to keep making them for
these records. You can only make it once for each record. So, you know, I can't
make it again for these ones that they’ve said no to, but I don't think that means no
one else can.

But yeah, you know, I think that it is really important, though, that we have that kind
of communication going on. And because, you know, we have been looking at these
records in terms of Black Power in the Caribbean and in the UK, but they're also part
of the Cold War, they’ve also referenced the troubles in Northern Ireland. They also
reference anti-colonial movements in Africa and Asia. So, you know, I feel like that's
also really important to acknowledge, that, who are people who are working with it in
those parts of history as well?

Yeah. And like I said before, I didn't... My starting point wasn't the Caribbean. My
starting point was Kwame Nkrumah and Britain. So, I think these things are... There's
so many different directions you can go into depending on what your interests are.
So, like, just starting in one place doesn't necessarily mean you're going to finish on
the same side of the world, for example.

Do we have any other questions?

Audience Member 3
It’s not about art actually, it’s about... In your research, especially with the IRD, did
you sort of find cross-references to things like the Mangrove Nine Case, the
Spaghetti House siege and, sort of, other pertinent issues? I think you mentioned
Rudy... I think you mentioned 1983. Maybe there's a connection with the 1981 urban
uprisings and the specific kind of interest of the various agencies in trying to get to
grips with that?

Yes. So particularly the Mangrove Nine, I will mention that because there was a very
specific link in that the Defense committee for the Mangrove Nine, I remember
seeing that the statement that was released by them... I came across a file in the
IRD records that also added on at the end, that the statement published by the
Mangrove Nine had been shared with the British High Commission in Bermuda, it
had been shared in Trinidad, it had been shared even in St. Kitts as well. So, I think
in terms of the Mangrove Nine specifically... That's the only sort of case I can talk on.
There definitely was an appreciation of their connection with the wider Caribbean.

Yeah. And also, I think that there were activists who were active here, who had
migrated from parts of the Caribbean, who are named in these records. You know,
Altheia Jones-Lecointe, and Darcus Howe, who were organising both here and back
home. And, you know, that for people who are migrating here, it wasn't just a sort of
like one way, and then that was it, cutting off, you know, their community back home.
There was this back and forth. And so, I can't remember what it was called, but there
was a Bill that was being introduced here. And so Altheia Jones went to Trinidad and
Tobago, basically to campaign to people there, for them to understand how they
were going to be affected by this Bill in the UK, which I think is really important to
sort of... I think, you know, the British government, they understood that this was happening.
And also, the fact was they were doing this themselves because they were also
communicating with the US government, the French government, the Canadian
government. And that's also documented in part in some of these records. Yeah.

You mentioned, obviously, Altheia Jones-Lecointe. Her sister, Beverly Jones, of
course, was part of the National Union of Freedom Fighters. I think that's... Yeah.
NUFF. And they were obviously involved in the Black Power Revolution in Trinidad
and Tobago. Beverly Jones was killed in a standoff with the police, and Altheia
Jones-Lecointe, in Britain, organised demonstrations to sort of protest against the
treatment of the Black Power protesters, or the revolutionaries even, in Trinidad and
Tobago. So, there definitely was that interchange of, sort of... it wasn't just that, you
know, once someone from the Caribbean came to Britain, the government, sort of,
understood them to be a British citizen, and then that was it. They were very keenly
aware of the connections going across countries.

And the other thing as well, which I wanted to say, is about these stop lists. So, lists
of people who were maybe unknowingly banned from entering British Territories. So,
for example, activists from other parts of the Caribbean then trying to come to
somewhere like Bermuda, which is a British Territory to this day, and being denied
entry. And this was an effort orchestrated with the US and with Canada, that, you
know, US Black Power activists trying to enter parts of the Caribbean as well, being
banned and so...

Stockley Carmichael is a big one.

Yeah, yeah. Kwame Ture, just, there's a lot of people who... yeah, who were on
these lists, and that the British government relied on other imperial powers like the
US to support them in doing this.

On that note as well, we mentioned the Black Power conference in Bermuda, that
the British government, in response to that, they sort of... they phoned around
Canada and obviously the United States. So that in the event of a potential outbreak
of violence, they had... they were using Canada as a sort of staging ground for
British aircraft. And obviously, they had to get permission to use American territorial
waters from the American government.

So, these powers today, I think if you have them together, they’re known as Five
Eyes. So who is it? It's Britain, New Zealand, Canada, the States. Who else? The
fifth one. Australia, that’s it! Yeah. So... and if you have a look back even before the
creation of Five Eyes, there was a really sort of a willing collaboration between...
we’ll call them the imperialist nations of Britain... even France, but mainly Britain,
America and Canada.

Yeah, and just to say about the conference in Bermuda. So there's one piece in here
[Rudy points to painting ‘Making the Most of Swiss Neutrality’] that is to do with that
history, which basically is about how the IRD were working with this media outlet in
Switzerland, the Swiss Press review, to publish their propaganda unattributably, so
people wouldn't know that it was British propaganda that they were reading. And so
this work basically references some of the examples of media within the Caribbean
that actually reprinted IRD articles unknowingly. And so, yeah, just that the British
government was very aware of, like, also using this idea of Swiss neutrality.

And then there was anoth-... So this is... I can't remember if I said this, but this is the
second part of this exhibition series. And in part one, there was another painting that
is also about the conference. And in that painting, there is a green square that has a
sign on it which references The National Archives stamp. That's like, ‘this has been
retained under the 3.4 of the Public Records Act’. And the thing about that was that
the British government had someone infiltrate the conference, which had to be a
Black person because it was a Black-only space. And so this record that is being
referenced is a report by this person who attended the conference and then reported
back to the British government. And so their identity has been redacted from the
records, and that was one of the Freedom of Information requests that I was trying to
make, to find out who this person was. And obviously, they said that is the issue of
national security. So no one is allowed to know.

Yeah, I mean, on that note, actually, it’s an interesting thing you bring up the whole
infiltration idea. When I was looking domestically, I saw that the police really
struggled because... I'm not sure people know this, but the Met police didn't hire a
Black person to be a police officer until 1968. So, during the sixties and the rise of
Black Power, you probably... you'd be hard-pressed to find somebody who was
willing to go undercover, let alone, I mean, join the police, to begin with. And it's quite
telling that, you know, the Met being such a racist institution, that it took until 1968 for
them to hire a Black person as a police officer. But that also posed them a challenge
in that they weren’t able to actually get the personnel required to do a lot of their
work, and that's why they relied a lot on informants rather than undercover police

Any other questions?

Audience Member 4
Can I just ask a question in relation to your ongoing research, Rudy? The PhD, the
art practice, kind of that iterative process of learning, research, how do you start to
formulate that into your PhD thesis? I think it's a remarkable thing to be doing. And
so, like, how do you begin to pull the expanse of all this towards that? And yeah,
where do you feel this is going? You talk about Act Three coming next. Like, do you
have a sense of what that... where that might go?

Yeah, in terms of it being a PhD, I had... I just wanted to do this project, and I wanted
someone to fund it, because there was a lot of research, and I knew that it was going
to be a lot of research, and I thought, who’s going to fund this for three and a half
years? I don't know. So, that's how I ended up doing a PhD. But I think I quite... I’m
not really like.... I'm not really that invested in thinking about how this is a PhD. This
to me is, like, this is a very important project for me, but it's... I'm not thinking about
how to make it into a PhD. I'm just thinking about how to make the work, and then I
think, okay, well, what is it they're asking me to do? And what have I done? And
where does that...? [Laughing with audience member] Where is that? You know?
So, they're sort of last-minute considerations in some way. But yeah, I think, you
know, mostly, like I said, being a visual person, then it just makes sense for me to
make this visual body of work. And I am incredibly emotionally moved by this history,
and so that's what I'm trying to share with people, really, that I'm... I think that people
were robbed of the future that they deserved. So that is, you know, what is moving
me to continue to make this work.

In terms of where the work is going, I'm really interested now to try and think about
this sort of contemporary moment and how this history relates to where people are
now, specifically thinking about trans people in the Caribbean. And, you know, how
has this basically made a rupture in what could have been possible? That there was
this moment when something else could have come to be, and that hasn't happened.
And now what? You know what... How does that affect people, specifically trans
people living in the Caribbean now? And so, in terms of what that will look like, I don't
know. But I think that's, sort of, what is at the centre for me.

And one thing that was kind of the beginning for that was, you'll see in some of these
paintings, there's like a red line with a name with asterixis on top of the writing [Rudy
points to painting behind them]. And yeah, I was really interested in how within Black
communities and in trans communities, it's really common for people to change our
names and how that is a form of embodying the self, that.... taking some kind of
ownership over the self.

And so, that was a sort of starting point of thinking about... That could have been
something... That could have led to something completely different, that, you know,
people striving for this embodiment of self could have gone on a completely different
path. And I'm trying to think about what that could have been. And actually, the
reality of where we are.

Well, maybe if there's no other questions, we will end there. I would like to say a
massive thank you to Perry.

Thank you. It's been a great conversation. Like you said, like, it's good to talk, do you
know what I mean? It’s... with someone. Obviously, I don't know anybody else doing
the kind of research that we’re doing. So, yeah, it's been brilliant.

Yeah, thank you so much. And thank you to Deborah as well.

[To Deborah] How do you say thank you [in BSL]?

[Deborah signs thank you]

[Signing] Thank you. And thank you all for joining us, both in-person and online. For
the in-person visitors, please stay. Have a look at the work. There's some snacks
and drinks, and there's also a chill-out space in the room just around the corner for
anyone who would like a bit of a quiet space.

Transcribed by Bella Normark, 2023.