Return of the Rudeboy

13 June – 25 August 2014
Daily 10.00-18.00 (last entry 17.30)
Late night until 22.00 (last entry 21.30) on Thursday 21 August

Terrace Rooms, South Wing
Free admission

"Londons most stylish new exhibition" GQ

This summer, Somerset House is proud to present Return of the Rudeboy, an original exhibition created and curated by prolific photographer and filmmaker for music’s most wanted Dean Chalkley and fashion-industry favourite creative director Harris Elliott, which showcases a sartorial subculture through a series of portraits, installations and set pieces.  Over the course of the past year the duo has photographed over 60 sharply dressed individuals from across the UK, all of whom embody the essence of what it is to be a Rudeboy (or Rudie) in the 21st century, to document the life, style and attitude of this growing urban group.  The curated collection of images shows the subjects presenting their pure and singular sartorial swagger in locations linked to the Rudeboy lifestyle, whether it be on the streets of Shoreditch or Savile Row.

The exhibition is an immersive experience of visuals and sounds, taking visitors into the worlds of today’s Rudeboys.  Each of the subjects featured in the portraits have provided their signature playlist, which is amalgamated along with curators’ and collaborators’ choices into a soundtrack to capture the spirit and soul of the Rudeboy, acting as a sonic backdrop to the visual works.  Since grooming is integral to the Rudeboy routine, the space will host a pop-up ‘grooming station’ on Thursdays and Saturdays, from saturday 21 June, where visitors can book appointments to get their hair cut or beard trimmed by a top Rudeboy barber.  Working with artisan box maker Kitty Farrow and luggage manufacturer Alstermo, bespoke brief cases, hat boxes and luggage sets have been made to show how this collective of individuals pays attention to detail in all aspects with their fashions.

In true Rudeboy style, Chalkley and Elliott have collaborated closely with a variety of inspirational and influential creative minds to contribute exciting, engaging and enriching content to the exhibition.  These include Rashad Smith, a British-born, New York-based producer who has worked with the likes of The Notorious B.I.G, Busta Rhymes and Nas; the Art Comes First creative collective founded by top travelling tailors Sam Lambert and Shaka Maidoh; and founding member of Big Audio Dynamite, Grammy award-winning filmmaker and international DJ Don Letts, a pillar of the punk and reggae scene who inspired a generation through his groundbreaking music, films and fashions.

There will also be an exciting season of events in conjunction with the exhibition for visitors to exchange and enrich their knowledge and understanding of this important and culturally significant subculture, from film screenings to sartorial workshops. The events will pay respect to the heritage and importance of the past, but focus on the present and future Rudeboy. 

Originating from the streets of Kingston, Jamaica in the late 1950s, Rudeboy or Rudie came to represent the young rebels who wore distinctively sharp sartorial styles such as Mohair suits, thin ties and pork pie hats.  The style was closely connected to the music movements of the time; their initial inspiration derived from American Jazz and R&B musicians as well as some notorious gangsters.  As is prevalent in the Rudeboy culture, the origins were appropriated and then twisted. The Rudeboy has travelled through time since then and evolved; in the 1980s, Two-Tone brought it right back into the frame.  Now today’s young men and women have adopted the swagger and adapted the essence of the original Rudeboy but for a 21st century generation.

The photographs and set pieces are on sale along with posters, postcards and a selection of Rudeboy inspired books are available from the Rizzoli Bookshop


Return of the Rudeboy Barber Shop
Thursdays & Saturdays

The Return of the Rudeboy exhibition space is hosting a pop-up ‘grooming station’ on Thursdays and Saturdays, from Saturday 21 June, where visitors can book appointments to get their hair cut or beard trimmed by a top Rudeboy barber.

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Return of the Rudeboy: Spotlight on Style Tours

Join a member of the gallery team for a spotlight tour of the Return of the Rudeboy exhibition. Each tour will delve into the long and rich history of rudeboy culture, and the stories behind the style.

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Exhibitions on Film:
Duke Vin and the Birth of Ska
Thursday, 21 August 2014, 18.30-20.30
Screening Room, £12

When Duke Vin and Count Suckle arrived in Britain in 1954, they brought with them a sound that was taking their native Jamaica by storm. In the same year Vin was to set up the UK’s first sound system, and before long the country's music scene was forever changed by the arrival of ska. The screening of this 50-minute documentary will be followed by a panel discussion with Return of the Rudeboy exhibition curators Dean Chalkley and Harris Elliot, and Mykaell Riley, programme director of the Black Music Research Unit, University of Westminster.

The Original Rude Boy: Book reading with Neville Staple
Friday 22 August 16.00
Limited spaces, sign up in the gallery from 15.30

Join us as musician and former vocalist of The Specials Neville Staple comes to visit the exhibition in its final week. Together with his wife Christine, Neville will be reading extracts from his autobiography, The Original Rude Boy. As witty, incisive and entertaining as the man himself the book encompasses early life in Coventry and his involvement in the Two Tone movement in the 70s and 80s. In between readings our guests will be reflecting upon the cultural, social and political landscape at the time. Neville will also be signing copies of The Original Rude Boy in the bookshop after the reading.

Return of the Rudeboy: Twitter Tour

A live Twitter tour followed by a Q&A with Creative Director and Return of the Rudeboy co-curator Harris Elliott. Venture room by room to see key works from the exhibition whilst delving into the rich history and Rudeboy culture.

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August 2014
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