Harold Offeh, mixed-media artist and creator of ‘Hail the New Prophets’, photographed by Emila Holba. 
Hannah Barry on the steps of Simon Whybray’s ‘Hi Boo, I Love You’ (2016) pink staircase, commissioned by Bold Tendencies.


harold offeh and hannah barry


Words: Chekii Harling 

Since 2007, gallerist Hannah Barry and her team at Bold Tendencies have been championing innovative artists and performers who view the world through a unique lens. Their base – a regenerated multi-storey car park in Peckham, London – not only houses the destination bar Frank’s Cafe and artist Simon Whybray’s iconic pink staircase, it also hosts memorable performances in its straw auditorium and surprising sculptural pieces on its rooftop. Selfridges has supported Bold Tendencies since 2017, helping them to bring their forward-thinking artistic visons to life.


As part of their 2020 arts programme, our friends at Bold Tendencies have commissioned mixed-media artist Harold Offeh to produce a new work for the space and you could be a part of it. How? Well, the artist (who will be hosting two webinars with us on 15 July – more on that later) is asking people to submit their predictions, hopes and warnings for the future, which will be broadcast from an intergalactic mothership as part of his ‘Hail the New Prophets’ project at Bold Tendencies. 

Richard Wentworth’s ‘Agora’ silver swirls commissioned by Bold Tendencies in 2015 as a permanent fixture, photographed by Quintin Lake


 “We take spaces seriously but also champion enjoyment and freedom. 

– Hannah Barry, Founder of Bold Tendencies.

Chekii: What inspired the ‘Hail the New Prophets’ project? 

Harold: Afrofuturism, which is a cultural movement that looks at the future possibilities for black culture; it’s intertwined with sci-fi and utopian societies. In the past few years, there’s been a huge resurgence of Afrofuturism in music, literature and art.

I’m continually inspired by Sun Ra, a jazz musician from the 1950s who rejected his given name and [proclaimed] he came from Saturn. He led the musical collective The Arkestra, and, in 1972, there was a film made about his life, titled Space is the Place. It’s a hybrid film: a 1970s transportation story and an extended music video. It’s super-kitsch! Sun Ra lands on a spaceship in Oakland, which was home to The Black Panther Party, who were a 1960s racial activist group. 

Chekii: How has your interest in Sun Ra influenced the piece you’re creating at Bold Tendencies? 

Harold: Sun Ra was a priest-like figure, a future thinker. I’m recreating Sun Ra’s mothership, which looks like a crazy yellow eyeball but is more than a sculpture – it’s an interactive call to action, hence the name ‘Hail the New Prophets’. I’m using Sun Ra’s spaceship as a way to invite people to join in, speculate and think about alternative realities. He was a product of the racist trauma he experienced during the social unrest in 30s and 40s America. ‘Hail the New Prophets’ is an opportunity for everyone to project their view of the future. The project is intergenerational; I want a broad section of people to submit creative responses – from music to drawings and videos. 


Harold Offeh at a selfie choreography workshop, photographed by Ashley Carr


 “My own experience of Selfridges is that it’s somewhere that engages with culture and ideas. You transform spaces and create experiences.” 


­­– Harold Offeh, artist and creator of ‘Hail the New Prophets’.

Chekii: How do you plan to display these mixed-media submissions in your sculptural re-creation of Sun Ra’s mothership? 

Harold: We’re going to combine the sound submissions and create tracks that will feature a mix of poetry, spoken word and music, while the images submitted may be screened or offset in the space. There is also an opportunity to use social media to display all the different contributions. I’m keen to have the chosen submissions fully present on the site for people to engage with. 

Chekii: How would you define Afrofuturism? 

Harold: It was coined by a writer called Mark Dery in the early 90s. So much of black culture has been linked into narratives of oppression and subjugation. Afrofuturism allows for engagement with technology and the formulation of a different future. It represents a degree of freedom. 

Chekii: How did you come to know about Bold Tendencies? 

Harold: I have always been aware of what Bold does, from visiting over the years and seeing the transformation of the roof through different commissions. I have lots of friends who live in south London and Bold Tendencies is often a gathering point. At the very top of the car park, you can see west, you can see east, but you don’t have to pay like you do when going up the London Eye or The Shard. When you’re on the top of the Bold Tendencies car park, you have a sense of ownership over the ever-evolving skyline.

Harold Offeh X Bold Tendencies’ ‘Hail the New Prophets’ call to action
Chekii: Can you tell us a bit more about your arts programme, Hannah?

Hannah: Last year, our programme was themed around ‘fiction’. We always look to explore broad, attractive subjects to bring a variety of audiences to the car park – these can appeal on a straightforward level, or they can be unpacked. All the artists are different but linked because they are all interested in what it means for people to gather together. It goes beyond enjoyment – there’s learning, memory making. Bold Tendencies is about creating a place and a space where anything can happen.

Similarly, Selfridges is more than just a shop: it’s a place where people gather and converse with one other. I remember taking people from Selfridges to Bold and them saying it’s an amazing example of how civic spaces can work, and it’s something Selfridges should be aiming for. 

Harold: My own experience of Selfridges is that it’s somewhere that engages with culture and ideas. You transform spaces and create experiences.

Hannah: At Bold Tendencies, we take spaces seriously but also champion enjoyment and freedom. It can be both light-hearted and serious – one doesn’t defeat the other. A few years ago, I went to the top of the Selfridges building and there is this archive poster, which says something like ‘the store is for everyone’. 

Chekii: Oh yes, it says ‘Everyone is welcome’.

Hannah: [Yes,] I think the same about Bold – if people don’t feel welcome, it’s doomed for failure. You can feel welcome and uncomfortable. That is a really interesting feeling. I think the public participatory aspect of it has become even richer; it’ll be very exciting for us when the spaceship arrives. 

Bold Tendencies' live pogramme with The Multi-Story Orchestra, supported by Selfridges. Photographed by Mirea Bosch Roca
Chekii: In 2017, Selfridges and Bold Tendencies came together with a very special performance at the Old Selfridges Hotel. How did you find that?

Hannah: The performance at the Old Selfridges Hotel was wild! We did the project with the London Adventist Chorale and the Multi-Story Orchestra, who performed Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms. The fusion of psalms and symphonic forms was phenomenally beautiful. We did it as a partner work to The Rite of Spring [by Stravinsky], which has a special significance to Bold. It is one of the most electrifying and exciting pieces of music in the repertoire and was the first ever orchestral work performed by The Multi-Story Orchestra at Bold in 2011. It proved that a live programme could be possible in our unique covered spaces, despite the acoustic challenges. When we’re able to reopen in July, we hope to continue to place a live programme at the heart of what we do.

Harold, are you excited to receive some submissions from the Selfridges audience?  

Harold: I am blown away that Selfridges is ‘on board’ – excuse the pun! 

Chekii: ‘On board the mothership’. Ha-ha!

Hannah: Selfridges has an international audience, which is really interesting for your open call, Harold. Selfridges was the first to support us, and it has never gone away. It’s a great relationship in an otherwise slippery world.

Harold: I am always looking to engage people beyond the confines of the gallery. What is great about Bold is that it’s an art space, but it’s certainly more inviting than the traditional white space gallery.

To register for the Selfridges x Bold Tendencies future-thinking webinars on 15 July at 4pm and 6pm visit: 


To submit images, audio and video files for Harold Offeh's intergalactic mothership at Bold Tendencies, visit: www.boldtendencies.com/open-call-from-harold-offeh

Deadline: 19 September 2020