Preview: The Art of Reggae 2018, interview with Rory Taylor

The Art of Reggae, preview interview with Rory Taylor:

The Art of Reggae comes back to Constellations again this year, running alongside Positive Vibrations festival. It’s one of many growing music festivals that have art at their heart.

There’s something clearly inseparable about art and music, and the festival’s director, Rory Taylor understands that better than most, aligning the work of the International Reggae Poster Competition with the music festival each year.

His passion for his work is unmistakable, so we thought we’d get his take on the art of reggae:

What is it about reggae that produces these annual vibrant exhibitions?

Rory Taylor: Reggae is more than music, it’s a culture. It encompasses music, art, dance, politics, religion, patois and social commentary. By its very nature, reggae is vibrant. This vibrancy is reflected in the 100 pieces of art which we display as part of the Art of Reggae Exhibition. You’ll see references to sound system culture, Rastafari, the doctrine of one love, war, and almost certainly, Bob Marley.

What amazes me is that these 100 pieces of art have been created by artists & designers from all over the world, including China, Iran, Mexico, Russia, Ghana, Iceland, Poland, South Africa, Costa Rica and Turkey. This clearly illustrates the huge impact that reggae has had internationally.

Whilst many of the artists & designers are from entirely different backgrounds and live entirely different lives, reggae and art gives them the same opportunity to express themselves.

How did the exhibition become a regular part of the festival?

RT: Whilst searching for reggae imagery online, I kept coming across these amazing posters, which led me to the International Reggae Poster Contest (IRPC) website. After learning more about the organisation, speaking to the people behind it, and checking out their previous exhibitions, I knew that we (Positive Vibration) had to work with them, and importantly get the Art of Reggae Exhibition to Liverpool.

We hosted our first Art of Reggae Exhibition at the 2016 Positive Vibration festival. This, I believe, was the first time it had ever been to the UK. The response was absolutely incredible. People of all ages and backgrounds fell in love with the artwork, and were very happy to learn that they could bid on as many pieces as they liked. At the risk of sounding cliché, there was something for everyone, and this is why I think people took to the exhibition so well.

With the success of the first exhibition, it was inevitable that the Art of Reggae Exhibition was to become a key part of the festival. I believe the reason for its continued success is not only down to the huge diversity of artwork, but also the surroundings in which the exhibition takes place. Hosting it in Constellations, rather than in a gallery makes it a little bit more informal, which in turn, makes it more accessible.

Tell us about the International Reggae Poster competition.

RT: The International Reggae Poster Contest (IRPC) was founded by Maria Papaefstathiou and the late, Michael Thompson in 2011.

The IRPC aims, through art, to highlight the globalisation of reggae and the resounding impact of its positive message. Each year, hundreds of artists & designers from around the world submit a ‘reggae-inspired’ poster to be considered for exhibition. The top 100 posters are exhibited and sold via silent auction. The proceeds from the auction are then donated to the Alpha Boys School in Kingston, Jamaica. Last year, we received over 1,200 submissions from artists & designers in 75 countries.

As well as raising funds for the Alpha Boys School, the objective is to raise awareness for the fantastic work that the School does. Set up in 1880 by the Sisters of Mercy, the School provides education and musical tuition to underprivileged youths in Kingston, Jamaica. Without it, we may not have reggae music, given the fact that its alumni includes The Skatalites, Rico Rodriguez, Desmond Dekker, Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace and Yellowman.

The Art of Reggae opens at Constellations on 6th June