The rise and influence of Two-tone celebrated at Barbican Music Library

The huge popularity of Two-tone will provide the focus for the forthcoming exhibition at the City of London Corporation’s Barbican Music Library which, say the curators, will take visitors on a journey from First World War France and Belgium to Coventry in the 1980s.

From the Caribbean to Coventry: Plotting the Rise of Two Tone will be presented at the library from Friday 12 January to Saturday 25 May. Admission is free.

The exhibition will feature a range of band memorabilia, items of clothing, literature, art, photographs, and contributions from the bands’ many fans, and explore how Caribbean immigration influenced UK youth culture in a positive way.

Described as Two-tone or 2 tone, as well as ‘ska-rock’ and ‘ska revival’, it fused traditional Jamaican ska, rocksteady, and reggae music with elements of punk rock and new wave music. The name itself comes from the record label, 2 Tone Records, which was founded in 1978 by Jerry Dammers from The Specials, which was one of the most popular Two-tone bands of the time.

Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, Munsur Ali, said:

“Free to view and always very well-received, Barbican Music Library exhibitions excel in showcasing the work of legendary bands, solo artists, and music photographers.

“A distinctive sound enjoyed by loyal followers dressed in a distinctive style, I have no doubt that fans of The Specials, Madness, The Beat, and many other bands will love ‘From the Caribbean to Coventry’ and appreciate the efforts of David Burke and Mark Baxter in curating the show.”

‘From the Caribbean to Coventry’ curator, David Burke, said:

“This exhibition is not a tired old museum piece but rather, it is a celebration of a lifestyle and culture that transcends race and class. We hope, in our own small way, to demonstrate that, by absorbing the message of 2Tone, the audience have continued to observe that ethos in all aspects of their lives.

“Mark Baxter and I hope that it will attract a diverse audience, and while we are both fans of 2 Tone, we are also both Modernists in that we understand and appreciate our heritage, but are not wedded to the past.”

The City of London Corporation is the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £130m every year.

The organisation manages a range of world-class cultural and heritage institutions, including the Barbican Centre, Tower Bridge, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Guildhall Art Gallery, London Metropolitan Archives, and Keats House. It also supports the London Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of London.


Notes for Editors:

For interview requests with the lead singer of The Bodysnatchers, Rhoda Dakar, who collaborated with The Specials and Madness, please contact Andrew Buckingham (see below).

From the Caribbean to Coventry: Plotting the Rise of Two Tone will run from Friday 12 January 2024 to Saturday 25 May 2024 at Barbican Music Library. Admission is FREE.

Barbican Music Library (Barbican Centre, Level 2 –

The Barbican is widely accessible by bus, tube, train and by foot or bicycle. Plan your journey and find more route information in ‘Your Visit’ or book your car parking space in advance.

All requests for images and interviews should be directed to Andrew Buckingham (see below) at the City of London Corporation’s Media Team:

Andrew Buckingham, Media Officer (Arts, Culture, Heritage, Licensing), City of London Corporation / 07795 333060 /

About the City of London Corporation:

The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages Barbican Music Library, is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally successful UK –

 About Barbican Music Library:

Barbican Music Library, which is owned and managed by the City of London Corporation and located in the prestigious Barbican Centre, holds one of the most significant public music col­lections in the country. As well as a large stock of books, scores, periodicals and audiovisual items, a range of digital resources is available for use by library members. The library hosts a vibrant exhibition and events programme which showcases the musical diversity of London and the UK. This has been achieved through the forging of partnerships with individuals and organisations from the world of music which has enabled us to feature a range of musical genres including pop & rock, classical, folk music, jazz, and world music.