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Shining a light on untold stories of Black people living in Tudor England

To mark National Storytelling Week, Selly Manor Museum is offering four artist commissions in celebration of Black Tudors.

Based on research by Dr Miranda Kaufmann, the artworks will be exhibited at the Museum between January and March 2024.

The artworks will be created by artists aged between 18 and 25, who are of Black heritage.

Louise Deakin, Heritage Engagement Officer at Selly Manor Museum, said: “More than 200 people of African origin or descent lived in England during the Tudor period. Details of their lives appear in diverse archival sources. However, there is only one known image of a Black Tudor; John Blanke, a royal trumpeter.

“The current interpretation of Selly Manor does not mention the existence of Black Tudors. We want to change this by utilising the 500-year-old house as a setting to bring to life their experience and present what it would have been like if they had lived there.

“We want to work with individuals who are unrepresented voices in our collections to add new layers of interest to the stories we tell and introduce new ideas and themes to our visitors. We also want the exhibition to engage audiences who do not visit Selly Manor Museum. We have evidence that a low proportion of our visitors are Black or Black British, and this is not reflective of Birmingham communities. We want people to see this exhibition and think ‘museums are for me and represent me and my history’.”

The exhibition will launch during National Storytelling Week, which encourages people to indulge in stories new and old and participate in this centuries-old form of entertainment. Storytelling transcends race, age, gender, culture, and artform.

Each artist will receive £765 to create their work. They will also receive a development session supported by our partner, the Black Arts Forum, and established artist Pogus Caesar, during which they will reflect on their developing practice.

The project is generously funded by West Midlands Museum Development.

For February half-term 2024, Selly Manor Museum will have a special week-long family-friendly event to compliment the exhibition with a children’s trail, storytelling, and ‘Zine workshop.

During Black History Month in October 2023, the Museum will share blogs on Selly Manor’s website about specific Black Tudors who will serve as inspiration for the artwork.

For more information about the artist commission, please contact Louise Deakin, Heritage Engagement Officer, on 0121 472 0199 or email louisedeakin@bvt.org.uk. Commission deadline is Monday 16th October 2023.

Black Tudors: New Narratives exhibition will be at Selly Manor Museum Friday 26th January to Friday 22nd March 2024.

Opened by George Cadbury, Selly Manor Museum is one of Birmingham’s most historic visitor attractions and welcomes thousands of people every year.

Made up of two distinct buildings, it brings Tudor history to life with interactive exhibits, tours, talks and special events.

George opened the Museum after he rescued it from destruction and much of its beautiful collection was donated by the chocolate-maker’s son Laurence.

To find out more about Selly Manor Museum, which is managed by charitable trust Bournville Village Trust, please visit www.sellymanormuseum.org.uk

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