A Mile in My Shoes: ’81 Uprisings

A giant shoebox in Windrush Square, London is inviting people to walk a mile in the shoes of storytellers during the 1981 uprisings sparked by racism. Created by the Empathy Museum led by Clare Patey form the Sounddelivery Media Spokesperson Network Alumni, the exhibition runs until April 27th.

The Empathy Museum is inviting Londoners to step back in time to 1981 and experience the tumultuous uprisings that shook Britain. “A Mile in My Shoes: ’81 Uprisings” allows visitors to walk a mile in the shoes of one of 35 storytellers who donated a pair of their shoes to the exhibit. 

Located in a giant shoebox on Windrush Square, Brixton, visitors can swap their shoes for a pair donated by a storyteller and put on headphones to embark on an empathic journey. As they walk, they will hear the personal stories of those who lived through the uprisings that took place across the country and changed British history.

The events of 1981 were a wake-up call to the establishment and marked the beginning of a new era of activism and social change.

The year 1981 was a significant turning point in the struggle for social justice in Britain. Black communities in Brixton took to the streets in a violent confrontation with the Met Police. This uprising was sparked by the ongoing issue of racism, combined with the severe economic recession and high unemployment plaguing the area.

This uprising wasn’t an isolated incident. Cities like Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, and Leeds all experienced similar outbreaks of violence and unrest. Despite the unrest, these uprisings were crucial moments in the fight for social justice in Britain. They led to landmark recommendations for police reform and local regeneration policies, as well as a new sense of empowerment for Black Britons.

The Brixton uprising, in particular, was a significant moment for the Black British community. It gave a voice to those who had been marginalised and oppressed for years and helped to shift the narrative around race relations in Britain. The events of 1981 were a wake-up call to the establishment and marked the beginning of a new era of activism and social change.

We look back at these events as a crucial turning point in British history.

Today, we look back at these events as a crucial turning point in British history. The uprisings of 1981 were a reminder of the importance of addressing issues of social inequality and the power of collective action in bringing about change. The legacy of these events continues to resonate today, as we strive for a more just and equal society for all. The stories of how the events of the 1980s reverberated throughout homes, streets, and communities across Britain have been brought to life in a new project. The Empathy Museum invited 35 people from Brixton, Handsworth, Moss Side, Toxteth, and St Pauls to share their surprising and nuanced experiences.

The collection features stories of childhood, love, art-making, coming-of-age, sexuality, family, activism, conflict, community, music, dancing, and much more. The result is an expansive and intimate portrait of a Black British generation who shaped Britain in ways we still live with today.

The project gives voice to those who were directly affected by the events of the 1980s and offers an intimate glimpse into their personal experiences. It highlights the complexity and richness of Black British culture and challenges the narrow narratives often presented in mainstream media. It is a powerful reminder that we can all benefit from taking the time to understand the experiences of others and to see the world from a different perspective.

Through this project, the Empathy Museum aims to promote empathy, understanding, and connection by offering a glimpse into the lived experiences of others. It’s a powerful reminder that our individual stories and experiences are part of a larger collective narrative and that listening to each other’s stories can help us to build a more compassionate and just society.

About Empathy Museum

Empathy Museum is the world’s first experiential art space dedicated to helping us look at the world through the eyes of others. Established in 2015 by public philosopher Roman Krznaric and led by artist Clare Patey, from our Spokesperson Network, the museum uses storytelling and dialogue to explore how empathy can not only transform personal relationships, but also help tackle global challenges such as prejudice, conflict and inequality.

Clare Patey is an award winning artist, curator, and director of Empathy Museum. Her award-winning immersive project A Mile in My Shoes explores how empathy can transform personal relationships but also help tackle global challenges and open up the public conversation around empathy. Clare is part of the Sounddelivery Media Spokesperson Network Alumni.

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