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Scarman Told His Story. Now Let’s Help You Tell Yours!

November 25th, 2021

On this day, in 1981, Lord Scarman published his Report — his story, from his perspective, about what happened in, and what caused, the ’81 Uprisings.

The Scarman Report was based on the Scarman Inquiry, to which a few people had been invited to give spoken or written testimony — to tell their story. But the stories of most people who lived through the ’81 Uprisings did not get told.

Some stories Scarman was told he didn’t even listen to: for instance, Scarman dismissed stories that told him stop and search must be abolished or the police are institutionally racist. We live, today, with the legacy of that failure to listen.

40 years on, we bring A Mile in My Shoes to Brixton and the other frontlines of the ’81 Uprisings—Handsworth, Toxteth, Moss Side, Chapeltown, and St Pauls —to enable you if you were there at that time to archive and amplify your story. A Mile in My Shoes is part of 81 Acts of Exuberant Defiance: Reclaiming Community Heritage, a project funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

We are looking for storytellers! We are looking for people who identify as Black or Black-British, who have a connection to the 1981 uprisings, and who are happy to be recorded talking about their experience.

We particularly encourage people who identify as women, as non-binary, and/ or as part of the LGBTQ+ community, to take part in this project. We are also looking for diversity in age and shoe size! - Do you, or someone you know, have a connection to the ’81 Uprisings; would you or they like to share a personal story?

- Do they have an engaging and clear voice?

- Are they happy to be recorded on audio and for members of the public to listen to their stories?

Please get in touch with Olivia to find out more, or if you would like to put us in touch with someone you know



In collaboration with



1. 81 Acts of Exuberant Defiance is a ground-breaking grass-roots project, built from the ground up with over 300 people giving their time and energy for free to make it possible. They have fed the process with open hearts and relentless optimism for what might be possible.


Instagram: @81Acts


Twitter: @81acts_defiance

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2. 81 Acts of Exuberant Defiance: Reclaiming Community Heritage was awarded £249,600 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, on 9th June 2021. Led by a partnership of community organisations, including The Ubele Initiative, Museumand, and Empathy Museum, the project marks 40 years since the ’81 Uprisings, when communities rose up in confrontation with police in Brixton (in April 1981), and (in July 1981) across the UK, against a backdrop of racism, recession and unemployment. Through creative “Acts”, it channels the frustrations, exuberance, and resourcefulness of Black communities to reclaim this heritage. publications/england-london-south-delegated-decisions-june-2021.

3. A Mile in My Shoes, the Empathy Museum’s inaugural project, is a shoe shop where visitors are invited to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes – literally – while listening to a story told by that person. So far we have a collection of 500 stories and have welcomed over 150,000 visitors to presentations at Totally Thames Festival, The Perth International Festival of Art, The London International Festival of Theatre, and the Houses of Parliament.

4. Prior to the award of the grant by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, 81 Acts of Exuberant Defiance was funded by the Arts Council England and its public programme, launched in April 2021, was produced by The Brixton Project, who say: “The Brixton Project are delighted to have delivered a number of acts for 81 Acts of Exuberant Defiance in commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of the Brixton Uprising of 1981. Beginning in April 2021 with a community-wide delivery of commemorative postcards, the series has also included the production of Atlantic Billboard, an animation projected onto Atlantic Road across the anniversary weekend. Place has been significantly important in the amplification of 1981, with Railton Road as a key location of the uprising. The Brixton Project has worked to bring fresh attention to the seminal history of Railton Road, in engaging new audiences. With a new mural at 198 Gallery, Jon Daniel’s Afro Supa Heroes holding the frontline, and youth organisation BIG KID Foundation working with local historians and artists to tell the story of Dexter’s Playground in a unique creative dialogue along the boundary of the site, the legacy of 81 Acts will be a visible part of the cultural landscape of Brixton into the future. With Acts yet to be launched, including Holding the Flame, an innovative augmented reality statue that commemorates lives lost in police custody and calls for fundamental change in the relationship between community and police, the launch programme will draw to a close in April 2022. Please contact for more information.”

5. In 2022, there will be opportunities for the general public to join in some of our upcoming Acts, including The Peoples’ Inquiry. Additionally, if you, or a group you are part of, have an idea for an Act, we may be able to help you, with support, both in cash and in kind. Contact the Project Director, Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman ( for an informal chat about your ideas, and look out, in future, for further details on how to apply for such funding. 

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