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Redding Collection inspires Black History Month workshop at Brooke School

PUPILS at Brooke School explored the town's historic Redding Collection during a workshop to mark Black History Month.

Brooke School BHM
Pupils at Brooke School took part in a workshop inspired by the Redding Collection to mark Black History Month. Published Tuesday, 27th October 2020

The workshop held by Rugby Art Gallery and Museum's learning and outreach team was inspired by the collection of nearly 26,000 glass plates and cellulose acetate negatives taken at Rugby's Redding Photographic Studio between 1958 and 1972.

The studio captured Rugby and its residents on camera during a time of rapid social change, with the boom in the town's engineering industry and railways attracting migrant workers from across the globe, particularly Asia and the West Indies.

The workshop explored the stories behind the photographs, supporting Brooke School's programme of lessons to mark Black History Month.

The collection includes photographs of migrant workers posing for portraits to send to family and friends at home - celebrating successful 'new' lives in Rugby by wearing formal suits, dresses or work uniforms. 

Pupils were encouraged to imagine living in the West Indies before travelling to Rugby to start a new life and experience the change in culture - from the cold weather to food and drink.

The pupils learned the difference between portrait photos and modern day 'selfies' before dressing up in vintage clothing from the 1950s and 60s and posing for a Polaroid portrait.

The workshop then encouraged pupils to explore how different poses project different impressions - from happiness and contentment to confidence and success.

Sally Godden, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum's senior learning and outreach officer, said: "The Redding Collection captures a unique period in Rugby's social history and each photo has its own story to tell. 

"It's the perfect gateway to a greater understanding of our modern day, multi-cultural community and how migrants have made such a major contribution to the town we all call 'home'."

The Redding Collection was donated to Rugby Art Gallery and Museum 20 years ago when it was discovered in storage at Redding's former studio in Church Street. 

Black History Month originated in America to celebrate, share and understand the impact and contribution of black heritage and culture. It has been celebrated across the UK for more than 30 years.

Cllr Jill Simpson-Vince, Rugby Borough Council portfolio holder for growth and investment, said: "Rugby Art Gallery and Museum's learning and outreach team has developed a range of educational programmes and workshops to help bring the town's history to life.

"The Redding Collection records a significant chapter in Rugby's social history and Black History Month provides the perfect opportunity to explore how the town became home for people from across the world."

For more information about events and exhibitions at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, visit

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