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Black Looks - Education through Art and Sport


Author: Colin Yates



Note to UK Artists

"I would like to thank Grace Newman and UK Artists members for their support and patience regarding the slightly bonkers posts of a certain individual using the forum to cast aspersions on my work, activities, and the existence of the black icon, Walter Tull."

Colin Yates



"In the mid-1990s, I had begun to create artwork around the subject of football, ‘the beautiful game’. My first scheme of work entitled ‘Golden Greats’ was inspired by a host of legendary footballers from the 1940s and ’50s,  Tom Finney, Billy Wright, and Stanley Matthews. But then, in 1997, something happened that would change the direction of my work dramatically.

Whilst playing amateur football in Coventry I witnessed one of our young Asian players being verbally and physically abused on the field of play. Next thing, the confrontation had escalated into a major brawl involving both teams and spectators. As I drudged off that pitch, angry, shocked, and upset, I knew that here was a subject I had to address.

And that’s when I began creating my anti-racist football exhibition. My original idea was to produce a team of eleven Black and Asian players who had made an impact on the British game from the 1950s onwards. The portraits would form an exhibition and importantly an educational resource. And so began Black Looks (Sir Tom Finney and Sir Stanley Matthews would just have to wait).

The Black Looks anti-racist football exhibition traces over a century of Black and Asian Professional footballers in Britain (1863-onwards) through a series of fine art portraits. The scheme of work also includes player biographies and information outlining the ‘hidden-history’ of ethnic football.

The Players. Brendon Batson (PFA) suggested that I meet with Phil Vasili, an expert in the field of Black and Asian football. That was a day to remember! Phil introduced me to Arthur Wharton, Walter Tull, and a host of football pioneers. The starting point for my ‘Hall of Fame’ had suddenly dialed back from 1950 to 1863. Overnight, ‘Black Looks’ had morphed from a ‘shooting star’ project to a major scheme of work.

The Artwork. The portraits are created using a variety of artistic styles. I use a range of fine art mediums including: painting, drawing,  printmaking, electronic graphics, photography, and mixed media.

“.....Yates states his message clearly: there is no place for racism in football: ‘Sport Unites, Racism Divides’  Yates’s combination of so-called high and low art genres does not dilute his artistic message. Rather, he uses popular culture to put across restorative political  ideas to a mass audience, conversely strengthening both the art and its impact.”   Emma Safe

Portable Exhibition For many years, I battled with the practical problems of presenting original artwork in schools and community settings. In 2003, I solved the problem by creating a portable exhibition, using a modular display system. This has enabled me to show my artwork and related information in a variety of spaces to make contact with new and often neglected audiences.

‘Education through Art and Sport‘Black Looks’ has provided an educational and artistic resource for a range of teaching and workshop activities. Over the past 20 years, I have worked with over 450 schools and community organisations, with young people and adults from a variety of backgrounds and abilities.

Exhibitions ‘Black Looks’ has been widely displayed in a series of solo exhibitions throughout the UK and abroad including The European Parliament in Brussels. The project has also been shown at numerous football clubs, conferences, and events.

Acknowledgments A huge thank-you to The Professional Footballers Association for their continued support over the past two decades. With a special mention to Gordon Taylor OBE, Brendon Batson OBE, the late, great Cyrille Regis MBE, my wife Judith Yates, and my inspirational friend Phil Vasili."

Colin Yates



Colin Yates manages to combine his passion for art, sport, and education with spectacular results. Over the past 20 years, his artwork has been displayed in a series of prestigious solo exhibitions

throughout the UK and abroad including  The European Parliament in Brussels. He has gained a reputation for high quality and innovative artwork winning several awards, including a ‘Year of the Artist Award’ in 2000 that enabled him to work as an Artist in residence at Leicester City Football Club.

 Colin works across a broad range of fine –art media that include; painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, and electronic graphics. He is also a master printmaker, conversant with traditional, hybrid and contemporary printmaking techniques.

Colin has organised many football-art related exhibitions drawing upon his considerable knowledge of art history and the sporting genre to create exhibitions such as ‘Moving the Goalposts’, a history of Women’s football and ‘The State of Play’ a football exhibition at The Public in Birmingham.

In addition to his exhibitions in Museums and Art Galleries, Colin is very keen to show his work to new and often neglected audiences. With this in mind, he has developed two portable football exhibitions for this purpose. Colin, who is a qualified teacher, has worked across the many strands of education for over 30 years.

"Colin’s authenticity is strength.  He has the ability to develop professional relationships with a wide spectrum of individuals from young people at risk of exclusion from mainstream school to those who are talented to professional footballers and celebrities.”

Allison Tripney The Education coordinator of The Albion Foundation,


Last but not least Colin is a keen amateur footballer and a qualified football coach. He claims to be part of the last generation of ‘Street Footballers’, calling his style of play “Hard but fair” opposition players beggar to differ calling it  “Hardly fair!”

For a full archive of artwork, exhibitions & educational projects, see;

www.colinyatesart.com   www.facebook.com/ColinYatesArt/

For Colin's page on UK Artists, see; https://www.ukartistsonline.com/ColinYates

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IJE - 24/06/2020 00:00

Thank you Colin Thanks for noticing, thanks for knowing, thanks for caring, thank for researching, thanks for making, thanks for sharing, thanks for educating, thanks for elucidating, thanks for persevering, thanks for being you I have enjoyed your account and the work you have produced Ije

Colin Yates - 26/06/2020 00:00

Hi IJE, many thanks for your kind words about my practice, it is appreciated. I've had a look at your profile and your work is pretty impressive - multi-talented! I noticed your share a dual Scottish/Nigerian heritage, as you would expect from a BAME historian here's a couple of links. (Nigerian football Tour 1940's and Gil Heron, poet, photographer athlete and father of the legendary Gil Scott Heron. Thanks again Col. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLomfqE3n1U https://twitter.com/bbcsportsound/status/1065274162904776710?lang=en

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