Women on screens
For over 15 years women in Hackney were making history behind the unassuming yellow door of 81 Lenthall Road in Haggerston.
From some of the first Queer slogan t-shirts, to posters showing the real experiences of women, the Lenthall Road Workshop contributed to a national movement of grassroots arts, radical politics, feminism, anti-racism and LGBT+ rights.
The history of the Lenthall Road Workshop is being uncovered in a new exhibition opening at Hackney Museum on 14 May, which includes posters created at the workshop, objects used and even a cuddly toy with a radical message.
The workshop was started by three women in 1975 as a community screen-printing and photography project. Local groups and individuals were offered a cheap and friendly space to learn skills and use the equipment to make their own images and posters.
At the time it was difficult for people to make their own media and get their message across. Printing posters was one of the most effective ways to do this, however printing was expensive and if the printers did not like the message they could refuse to print it.
The Lenthall Road Workshop wanted to help change that by giving affordable access to printing and photographic equipment, and by sharing technical and creative skills so that local groups could learn to create their own images and get their message across.
The workshop empowered people fighting for change in Hackney and beyond, supporting many groups to creatively publicise their events and demands. From making posters of women racing in wheelchairs and protesting on the streets, to teaching printing and photography, the Lenthall Road Workshop encouraged the local community, especially women and girls from marginalised groups to empower themselves.
Claudette Johnson, Artist and Former Worker of the Lenthall Road Workshop said: “As soon as we were in our boiler suits and masks we really looked like guerrilla fighters. We were definitely trying to change something in society; to change how women were viewed in society.”
The Workshop wasn’t just supporting local communities but was helping to affect political change across the country, with groups printing materials for many different campaigns, including Gay liberation, the fight against racism, and supporting the miners’ strikes.
Hackney has a long history as a home for political movements and collectives who’ve worked to transform society for the better. I am proud that as a Council we are celebrating the contribution that printmaking and activism at the Lenthall Road Workshop has made to this rich history, and would encourage residents to visit the Museum to find out more about an organisation that made a significant contribution to the cultural and political life of the borough.
‘Women on Screens: Printmaking, photography and community activism at Lenthall Road Workshop 1970s–1990s’ is being displayed at Hackney Museum from 14 May – 31 August 2019. The exhibition has been created in collaboration with former Lenthall Road workers.
For more information on Hackney Museum including opening times visit www.hackney.gov.uk/museum or follow @HackeyMuseum on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.