"Orange is in Season" is one of the projects run on the Don’t Settle programme. It focuses on making heritage more relevant to people from diverse backgrounds. The concept of space and marginalised communities being able to occupy that space is at the forefront of the work we do.
Myself and my fellow curators will be transforming the Aston Hall’s Orange Chamber dressing room to amplify the narratives that are often left out of heritage spaces. Aston is a bustling and vibrant town, home to a range of minority communities. We want to celebrate the faces and stories hidden within the chip shops and in the back seats of taxi cabs, the ones without a grand building or monument commemorating their history and culture.
Christmas day 1643: Aston Hall was put under siege. The owner, Thomas Holte was a Royalist believing in the divine right of the monarchy amongst a mostly Parliamentarian Birmingham. The hall was attacked by Parliamentarian troops and violence ensued until the Royalists surrendered and Holte was arrested. Aston Hall now stands as a symbol of affluence and aristocracy but remnants of damage left behind by a cannonball on the main staircase can still be seen today and serve as a token of revolution, a reminder that hidden behind the regal and extravagant exterior, a much darker story resides.
History often repeats itself. It reveals that there is always a fight to be fought, it may change face but it seems to be fuelled by the same ambitions. When you fight oppression, you fight for every person who was or will ever be oppressed. You become the dent in the staircase where the cannonball once fell, crumbling the foundation of a regime no one ever questioned before. A symbol of hope.
The exhibition will explore themes of social injustice and revolution with a contemporary lense, focusing in particular on the Black Lives Matter movement and the fashion industry. The contribution of fashion trends towards the dehumanisation of certain groups in society will be brought to light by using history and past experiences as a catalyst to start the right dialogue, the kind that will begin within the four walls of the dressing room but continue to echo beyond them.
Meet the curators
Heritage sites have at times felt exclusionary to myself and other people of colour. It’s really important to explore narratives other than those we are typically familiar with in these spaces to pave the way for a more inclusive and anti-racist future.
This project has made me more optimistic about the future of conversations and debates about race, class and fashion which I believe are absolutely necessary to have.
Everything I do artistically is motivated by wanting to create work that serves those who surround me. I got involved in this project to serve the communities in Aston using my skills in photojournalism, love for fashion and psychology.
My passion for social change drives me to work on this project. I truly believe that art has the power to connect communities and impact people on a personal level, much more so than any other mode of communication.
Shazelle, Curator on the Don't Settle programme