The exhibition is structured around key episodes of Thatcher’s career between 1977 and 1987, and features art, documentation, photographic records, film, news footage, music, scratch video, printed matter and memorabilia. It includes critical representations of Thatcher, and addresses topics associated with her policies to explore themes of class struggle, agency, racial division and protest.
The centrepiece of Wilderness Way is the iconic image of Thatcher’s visit to Teesside as she walks across the derelict site of former company Head Wrightson (closed in 1987). This photograph is seen by some as a symbol of the impact that Thatcher’s economic vision had on industry, particularly in the north-east of England. For others, it shows Teesside in a moment of much-needed change.
Other key moments include: the 1980 steel strike on Teesside, the first national strike in fifty years; the 1981 riots in Brixton, Handsworth, Chapeltown and Toxteth; the 1981 Irish hunger strikes; the 1981 royal wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana; the 1982 ten-week-long Falklands War; the 1984-85 miners’ strike headed up by Arthur Scargill, leader of the National Union of Mineworkers; and the 1988 Section 28 ruling, which banned the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality as a ‘normal family relationship’.
The featured artists are Larry Achiampong and David Blandy, John Akomfrah/Black Audio Film Collective, Conrad Atkinson, Chila Kumari Burman, Jeremy Deller, Duvet Brothers, Aikaterini Gegisian, Dawn Mellor, Keith Piper, and Vron Ware. Further items and archival materials are drawn from BBC Look North, Teesside Archives, The Gazette, and local personal holdings.