Exhibition now open


The free-to-enter Barbican exhibition is a journey that starts in France and Belgium at the time of the Great War and ends in 1980's Coventry. The exhibition explores the hugely positive influences on British youth culture that Caribbean immigration has brought, and is bringing to Britain. Using music genres and fashion as the timeline touch points the show includes architecture, art and literature as well as personal contributions from fans and 'faces' alike. An exhibition for the fans by the fans going some way to explaining not just what 2Tone is but who, why and how we got there!

Political Influence

Political Influence.

Photography ©John Ingledew

"I was a free school meals kid, growing up in rural Dorset. Motorbikes, metal and racism were the norm; our school was all white. We played ping pong and boxed at the boys club. Then Neville Staple proclaimed ‘Bernie Rhodes knows don’t argue’. Table tennis bats were put down and we danced. Trilby, Harrington and Tonic trousers were acquired, and the look was complete. However, the look was always secondary, the message was black and white.

I had never met a black person but I was listening to lyrics like, ‘just because you're a black boy, just because you’re a white. It doesn’t mean you have to hate him, it doesn’t mean you have to fight.’ It was clear to me who my enemies were, and I was consequently suspended from school for fighting with Right Wing extremists. Black was cool, White was cool, and we could get along.

That has stuck with me for my entire working life; no time for division or ugly beliefs. As a CEO where I saw it, I came down hard on it. 2 Tone made my belief system - without it, I would probably have been a racist."

John Chubb



“It was October 1980, and as a 14-year-old mod, I was over the moon to have a ticket to see The Specials just up the road in Cambridge, and in a big top too. Support was to be The Swinging Cats also on 2-tone, and 2.22 a mod band. Me and my mates went over early on the bus, and hung around milling with the growing crowd... I still remember what I wore: grey trousers, desert boots, a white button-down shirt, a checked black and white tie, and a black v-neck jumper. We eventually made our way to gig time and the big top was heaving, the atmosphere was, let's call it ‘lively’.

As soon as the swing Cats started it was obvious it was going to be a very lively evening, someone jumped onstage and attacked the band, skinhead. Things just got more chaotic as the night wore on, large outbreaks of violence with rival skinheads and bouncers continued, although I do remember enjoying The Specials! Problem is, they had to keep stopping because of the trouble, and Jerry Dammers plus Terry Hall continued tom plead with the audience to stop or they would go off... Bouncers were surprisingly confrontational, and the whole thing was turning uglier.

More Specials had just come out, this was the tour to promote it, and you could sense a change in the air, from we’re all in this together, to where are you from? It all ended with Dammers and Hall in court charged and found guilty of inciting a riot, which was quite ridiculous, as they were doing their best in a difficult situation. I remember my mate climbing up one of the big top poles in his parka, above the crowd. A magnificent site to this day. And I remember singing along with ‘it’s all a load of bollocks’ and it certainly was. Not the Specials though, they were still brilliant. A night of mixed emotions shall we say.”

Gary Malby

Musical Influence

Musical Influence.

Photography ©Steve Rapport

"Two-Tone was the defining moments for me as a schoolboy. It led me down a tunnel of discovery of music a decade previously; the original ska and rocksteady grooves that inspired those later. Years later I received a phone call from Chrissy Boy from Madness who needed a bassist for a new project he and Lee Thompson had formed post-Madness. The band was to be called The Nutty Boys and a short tour was to be organised to promote the album ‘Crunch!’ As I was on the same label at the time I was recommended to Chris who invited me to his house for an ‘audition’.

I was expecting a join a long queue of potential candidates given their history. I was full of nerves being a huge fan, doubting my own abilities. Chris opened the door and looked up and down the road. “As it’s only you, you had better come in.” I later found out it was only me. Quite an honour. He thrust a cassette tape in my hand and told me we had a rehearsal the following week and had better get cracking learning what was on the tape. Years later when I was asked to stand in for Norman Watt Roy who couldn’t make a series of Madness rehearsals (he was standing in for Bedders) the small child inside of me felt very nervous thinking back to those days of two tone releases and that whole buzz, yet here I was surrounded by my heroes some who have become dear friends. Forward to 2015. To be asked then, to perform live with Rhoda Dakar, to write and record at Paul Weller’s studio as part of her live band was nothing short of an honour and something I will cherish. Enjoy yourselves, it’s later than you think."

Paul Tadman

Fashion Influence

Fashion Influence.

With kind permission of Brutus

“It was 1980 when I first heard the new breed of ska music being created in Coventry, London and Birmingham. That moment triggered a direction that led me into the fashions of Rudeboy and later down the line, Skinhead. I was 10 years old and it was a time of discovery, dynamism and adventure. My focus quickly shifted from playing with my Action Man in front of the telly to clothing, music, dancing and things that were once seen to be the preserve of the older kids on the estate. Overnight I began to call myself a Rudeboy. My mum was a single parent, money was tight and finding ways of earning, so that I could fully immerse myself in the fashion and culture that permeated this new sound, became paramount - I had found my ‘tribe’, and this was our music, our culture, our time. Twelve years ago, following some challenging times, I started to jot down my memories of growing up on the East London housing estate where I listened to Two Tone music, made friends and subliminally absorbed the sounds and influence of a multi-cultural community.

My writing was initially something that I did just for myself; it was my therapy but, the jottings eventually became a novel which was published eight years ago. Neville Staple generously agreed to write the forward and presenting Terry Hall with a copy, was the icing on the cake. I have been asked why my novels, 'Too Much Too Young' and 'Feathers', are set in that period. It’s really simple. It’s a time that inspired me, a time that I am familiar with and one that I am very fond of. Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to be invited to the 40th anniversary screening of Dance Craze where I was immediately transported back to a time which for myself and many, was our first dipping of our wicks in to the exciting world of music, fashion, social freedoms and autonomy. Lifelong friendships, borne out of shared interests and experiences from that time continue to this day and though we are older and other priorities have taken precedence, our deep affection for Two Tone music and the culture that surrounded it keep us very much connected. It was 1980 when I first heard the new breed of ska music being created in Coventry, London and Birmingham. That moment triggered a direction that led me into the fashions of Rudeboy and later down the line, Skinhead.”

Steve Piper