Lover’s rock Lewisham revisted

In 1977 John Goto made this series of photographic portraits of young British African-Caribbeans at Lewisham Youth Centre, South London, where he taught evening classes in photography. It was not until 2013, however, that circumstances allowed him to first exhibit and publish the work. The social justice artists’ site Autograph ABP published a book entitled Lovers’ Rock, containing 45 of his portraits with accompanying essays.

Lovers’ Rock was a reggae sub-genre, which grew out of the South London scene in the mid ‘seventies. Romantic and sweet sounding…

Goto decided on the title of the series at an early stage in the project. Lovers’ rock was a reggae sub-genre that grew out of the South London scene in the mid ’70s. Romantic and sweet sounding, lovers’ rock was significant in relation to the portraits as the first home-grown British Afro-Caribbean musical form and also as the music played at the dances where the photographs were taken.

1977 proved to be a year of significant political and cultural upheaval in London, with the Battle of Lewisham echoing the serious clashes between black youths and police at the Notting Hill Carnival in 1976. In August, the racist far-right National Front party had attempted to stage a march from New Cross to Lewisham in protest against a multicultural Britain and met with strong resistance from community groups along the way.

The images remained unseen in Goto’s archive for more than 35 years until one of his former students, photographer Dave Lewis, brought them to the attention of Autograph ABP.

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