London’s V&A East announces debut exhibition, The Music Is Black: A British Story

Opening in 2025, the major exhibition will “tell a long-overdue story of Black excellence, struggle, resilience, and joy”.

The V&A East has announced its inaugural exhibition, slated for opening in 2025 at museum’s upcoming Stratford base. Revealed this week, The Music Is Black: A British Story is set to be a celebration of Black British music and its cultural impact across the UK and beyond.

Spanning 125 years of songs, artists and stories, with genres such as jazz and reggae through to drum’n’bass, garage and grime among those explored, the exhibit will showcase items such as paintings, playbills, sculpture and photography, as well as fashion and film. Contemporary stars such as Mercury Prize 2023 winners Ezra Collective alongside former Crack Magazine cover stars Little Simz, Kano and Jorja Smith are among the featured artists, alongside Massive Attack, Sade, Goldie and more. Accordingly, a generation-spanning exhibit soundtrack has been confirmed.

In a statement, Jacqueline Springer – Curator of The Music Is Black: A British Story and Curator of Africa and Diaspora Performance at the V&A – said: “Music is the soundtrack to our lives, and one of the most powerful tools of unification. It brings collective and individual joy as we recite song lyrics at festivals and gigs, recall dance moves perfected in childhood bedrooms, and mime to guitar breaks, bassline drops and instrumental flourishes with glee. Set against a backdrop of British colonialism and evolving social, political, and cultural landscapes, we will celebrate the richness and versatility of Black and Black British music as instruments of protest, affirmation, and creativity, and reveal the untold stories behind some of the world’s most popular music of all time.”

A teaser trailer was shared this week to accompany the exhibition announcement. Created by directorial duo Meeks & Frost and commissioned by V&A East, the trailer lifted from a forthcoming longer-form film slated for full release in 2025.

Check out the trailer in the player above and learn more about The Music Is Black: A British Story here.