Manchester grad campaigns for change as chair of Art Not Evidence

6 February, 2024

We’re proud of BIMM Manchester graduate Elli Brazzill, who has been working tirelessly as the founder and chair of Art Not Evidence, a new campaign group fighting for a fairer criminal justice system in the UK.

Elli founded Art Not Evidence to advocate for law reforms and restrict the use of rap lyrics and music videos as evidence in criminal trials. She became aware of the issue and knew something had to be done to protect aspiring rap and drill artists when they are racially targeted by the legal system.

Elli felt that police and prosecutors have been misinterpreting rap music and presenting it as evidence against young Black people accused of committing crimes: the music is often used to paint a misleading and prejudicial picture, bringing negative stereotypes about young Black people and Black youth culture into the courtroom and conflating art with evidence.

Art Not Evidence believes that art, particularly rap music, should be protected as a fundamental form of freedom of expression and should not be used to unfairly implicate individuals in criminal activity.

They are collaborating with musicians, community groups, and human rights organisations to campaign for law reform and promote the decriminalisation of rap music and creative expression more broadly. They hope to create a more equitable and inclusive society that respects the freedom of artistic expression for all.

The group has already garnered support from lawyers, academics, journalists and artists such as Annie Mac, Giggs, IDLES and Digga D.

We caught up with Elli Brazzill, founder and chair of Art Not Evidence:

“Art Not Evidence is a growing coalition calling for law reform to restrict the use of all creative expression as evidence in criminal trials. Black art forms have been policed and censored since they’ve existed in this country, from reggae to jungle to grime, with rap music’s use of evidence being the most egregious. We aim to spread awareness of this injustice and to galvanise the music industry and those in Parliament to take action to stop the harmful and racist interpretations of rap music being used to stereotype young Black people to reduce miscarriages of justice.

BIMM was the first place I met with other like-minded young people who loved music as much as I did, allowing us to work on projects together that honed my teamwork and organisation skills. My tutors on the Music Business course always taught us about the issues and best practices in the music industry. I think that being given the time and encouragement to engage in the industry outside lecture hours has been incredibly important to get my foot in the door and has ultimately shaped my vision, leading to me founding and organising the Art Not Evidence campaign.”

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