Making a rukus!

11 October 2024 – 19 January 2025 
Terrace Rooms and Courtyard Rooms
Pay What You Can 

An exhibition exploring the joy, friendship, resistance and art of Black LGBTQ+ people in Britain 

This autumn, in Making a rukus! ,  Somerset House invites visitors to explore the playful, radical and disruptive world of the rukus! federation, an art project and living archive exploring contemporary Black LGBTQ+ cultural and political history. 

The brand-new exhibition, curated by artist, filmmaker and co-founder of rukus! federation, Topher Campbell, explores Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans creativity, activism, community and pride through archive materials, contemporary artworks and brand-new commissions, celebrating the work of Black LGBTQ+ pioneers and artists since the 1970s. The exhibition demonstrates that the rukus! archive, which takes its inspiration from causing a ruckus, or making a noise, is not a work of static historical documentation, but an ongoing and vital series of political and artistic interventions that bears witness to the joy, friendship, resistance, and creative endeavours of Black LGBTQ+ people in Britain. 

The exhibition takes place across four spaces in the Terrace and Courtyard Rooms, South Wing of Somerset House.  

The Founders 

The exhibition begins by exploring how an artistic collaboration between two friends, exhibition curator Topher Campbell and pioneering photographer Ajamu, led to the creation of the rukus! federation. Examples of video and photography work that span Ajamu and Topher’s creative collaboration will be on display, as well as newspaper clippings and unseen items from their personal archives, telling the story of how rukus! was created through art, activism and friendship.  

The Icons 

The second room of the exhibition celebrates the relationships and collaboration of Black LGBTQ+ individuals and organisations whose work makes up the rukus! archive and whose contributions have helped to build the contemporary community of Black LGBTQ+ people in Britain. Ephemera and objects including minutes of meetings, posters, flyers, notes, magazine articles and clothing tell the story of how Black LGBTQ+ artists and activists did and continue to collectively create space for themselves whilst resisting the twin hostilities of homophobia and racism. Amongst those whose work is featured are poet Dorothea Smart, playwright Mojisola Adebayo, activist Ted Brown, writer Dirg Aab Richards, therapist Dennis Carney, publisher Paul Boakye, academic Valerie Mason John, photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayode, filmmaker and performer Zinzi Minott and artist Isaac Julien.  

We Dance We Sweat   

Room three will invite visitors inside the clubs and music that were created by and for Black LGBTQ+ people, spaces where community was built not just through words but through bold celebrations of bodies and desire. Artist, performer and former Somerset House Studios associate artist Evan Ifekoya will present a restaging of a body of work called 'A Score, A Groove, A Phantom' including audio and an interactive installation, creating an immersive club-like space for visitors to explore. Against the backdrop of Evan’s soundscape, objects including photographs, flyers, HIV prevention materials, music, magazine articles, posters and clothing act as testament to the strength and liberation found in Black LGBTQ+ club culture. Materials from iconic clubs including Bootylicious, Pressure Zone, Off the Hook, Stallions, Black Perverts Network and many more will feature, demonstrating how clubs created their own rhythms, fashions and languages.  

Film & Video  

The final part of the exhibition will showcase the videos and films that are in the rukus! Archive, including Sharing Tongues, a series of interviews of oral histories of Black LGBTQ+ history of London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool. The Homecoming: A Short Film about Ajamu (1995), one of curator Topher Campbell’s most iconic works of film, featuring Ajamu, Stuart Hall, Sonia Boyce, Dennis Carney and many more, will also be will also be presented alongside unseen behind-the-scenes items from the shoot.  

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair  

The exhibition will coincide with the return of the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, the world's only international art fair dedicated to contemporary African art and its diaspora, which comes to Somerset House for its 12th edition in London. Aligning with Frieze London and Frieze Masters, this year's event is scheduled for October 10-13, 2024. Featuring more than 60 galleries and 180 artists, 1-54 will showcase its largest fair yet. 

Special thanks to London Metropolitan Archives for their generous support on lending archival material from the rukus! Federation Limited.  


Press and Image enquiries:      
Somerset House Facebook:     
Somerset House Twitter (X) & Instagram: @SomersetHouse

About Somerset House  

Step Inside, Think Outside    
As the home of cultural innovators, Somerset House is a site of origination, with a cultural programme offering alternative perspectives on the biggest issues of our time. We are a place of joy and discovery, where everyone is invited to Step Inside and Think Outside.   
From our historic site in the heart of London, we work globally across art, creativity, business, and non-profit, nurturing new talent, methods and technologies. Our resident community of creative enterprises, arts organisations, artists and makers, makes us a centre of ideas, with most of our programme home-grown.    

We sit at the meeting point of artistic and social innovation, bringing worlds and minds together to create surprising and often magical results. Our spirit of constant curiosity and counter perspective is integral to our history and key to our future.  

About Topher Campbell   

Topher Campbell's 25+ year output spans broadcasting, theatre, performance, writing, experimental film and site-specific work. His focus has been on sexuality, masculinity, race, human rights, memoir and climate change. Topher was abandoned as a child at 1 and half years and grew up in care. His background has informed his work in Black and Black Queer placemaking through a philosophy of radical homelessness.    

Alumni of the Regional Theatre Young Directors Scheme, Topher has directed numerous productions and between 2007 and 2015 was artistic Director and CEO of The Redroom Theatre and Film Company. In 2005 he was awarded the Jerwood Directors Award and in 2011 was nominated for the what’s On Stage Theatre Event of the Year Award, the latter for the ground-breaking installation The Jellyfish Theatre. His films have appeared in festivals worldwide, including his first film The Homecoming, a meditation on art masculinity and sexuality featuring commentary by Stuart Hall, which is available to view on BFI Player. His 2018 film FETISH, a collaboration with Mercury-prize winners Young Fathers premiered at the Barbican Centre, the Aesthetica Short Film Festival and Scottish Queer International Film Festival. It was also a featured presentation at OOPS Festival Copenhagen and The British School in Rome. His documentary film Moments That Shaped Queer Black Britain won the Pink News Broadcast of the Year Award 2021. While his co-directed film Una Marson: Our Lost Caribbean Voice can be seen on BBC I Player. In 2017 Topher was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Sussex amd in 2022 he was awarded the first Derek Jarman Prospect Cottage Residency. Topher next artwork is a commission by Tate Modern exploring Black Queer realities.  

In 2000 he co-founded rukus! Federation a Black Queer arts collective with photographer Ajamu X. This culminated in the internationally recognised rukus! Archive currently held in the London Metropolitan Archives. The rukus! Archive won the 2008 Landmark Archive Award.