About this project
On 1st May 2011 five hundred golden tickets were hidden in various books in Brixton Tate Library. The books referenced specific themes, including sugar, Victoriana, labour, art, Black history, Charles Dickens, employment and architecture. Posters were dotted around the library, inviting patrons to search for the tickets. The first twelve people to find them became part of our party, exploring the philanthropic legacy of Sir Henry Tate over three Saturday day trips throughout the summer.
During these trips the party met local history experts or those with specific knowledge relating to the project; aiding us in tracing the flow of capital generated by Henry Tate & Sons sugar refineries (later to become Tate & Lyle) to the Tate Libraries and Tate Gallery we know today. This blog is a sharing of our research and three day-trips to the Tate & Lyle Sugars sugar refinery in Silvertown, the Tate Britain archive, Tate’s former mansion in Streatham, Park Hill (effectively home of the first Tate collection) and West Norwood Cemetery, home of the Tate family mausoleum.
Distributing golden tickets in this manner created a mechanism that encouraged and foregrounded the beauty of happenstance; engineering the coming together of individuals, who despite sharing the same public space, would not otherwise have reason to directly interact.
We see such interventions and the subsequent social gatherings they organise as relational works. Through the unlikely coming together of these contemporary lives (not just the patrons of the library, but refinery workers, Tate Modern staff and even some of the Great-great-grand children of Sir Henry Tate: David, Caroline and Nicholas!) all linked to one individual’s legacy – a different mode of experiencing history is offered. Simultaneously the research process of this history is no longer an isolated, academized affair but social, collective and performative.
Trailing Henry is itself a beginning; the first seed of a sprawling expansive project titled His statue is outside the library in the square. An exploration of the politics, aspirations and agendas of philanthropy from corporations to personal giving. It aims to encourage, facilitate and instigate philanthropy on a micro-scale. How might the patrons of Brixton Tate Library collectively make an impact similar to Sir Henry Tate within their own cultural landscape in South London?
Trailing Henry has been generously supported by Tate Local, Brixton Library & Tate & Lyle Sugars.
With thanks to Laura Hemming-Lowe, Cody Lee Barbour & Michael Debrah for their photographs.