Skip to main content

We’re pleased to announce a major one-day conference taking place at Touchstones on Friday 21 January 2022, examining the intersection of art, activism and regional galleries in Britain during the 1980s.

Throughout the 1980s Rochdale Art Gallery, a small, civic gallery in the northwest of England, achieved a widespread reputation for its radical exhibition programming. Exhibitions, performances, and community engagement projects addressed current events and socio-political concerns including, the Falklands war; Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camps; the Troubles in Northern Ireland; the Miners’ Strike and the People’s March for Jobs; and increased racial tensions and large-scale riots in British cities. Rochdale Art Gallery also pursued a pioneering programme of curatorial projects aimed at local artists and audiences, while also collaborating with regional partners, including Bluecoat Liverpool, Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield and Cooper Gallery, Barnsley.

The Radical Decade: Art, Activism, and Regional Galleries in 1980s Britain is part of on-going research project examining the history of Rochdale Art Gallery during the 1980s and seeks to contextualise that history through insight and understanding of contemporaneous artistic and curatorial practice from across the UK.

The day is planned to include presentations and artist performances by guests including Professor Griselda Pollock (Professor Emerita of Social and Critical Histories of Art, University of Leeds), Dr Gill Park (University of Leeds and former Director of Pavilion), and the artists Simeon Barclay, Sutapa Biswas, Helen Cammock, Alix Harris and Jasleen Kaur.

We invite 15-minute papers that address the intersections of art, activism and regional galleries in Britain during the 1980s. Papers may take the form of case studies of individual artistic practice, exhibitions, and/or may address one or more of the following themes:

  • Political protest and oppositional struggle
  • Feminism, and feminist art practices
  • Race and Identity
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Class inequalities
  • Photography in the 1980s
  • Performance Art
  • Regional art galleries – curatorial strategies and acquisition policies
  • New developments in gallery education and outreach programmes

Abstracts of up to 250 words for papers of 15 minutes should be sent to by 5pm on Wednesday 20th October 2021

Please title your submission: The Radical Decade Conference in the email subject line.   

Submissions will be reviewed by the conference convenors: Dr. Alice Correia and Dr. Derek Horton (Research Curators, Touchstones Rochdale); Mark Doyle (Head of Culture, Touchstones Rochdale), and Sarah Hodgkinson (Museum Curator and Collections Manager).

For further details about Rochdale Art Gallery during the 1980s, follow @rochdaleartgallery1980s on Instagram.