POoR Collective designs British Library’s ‘Malorie Blackman: the Power of Stories’ exhibition

During LDF 2023, Design Insider had the opportunity to connect with Power Out of Restriction (POoR Collective). We are inspired by their refreshing approach to design and community, and we’re thrilled to celebrate this exciting project by sharing it with our readers. From 24 November 2023, the British Library celebrates the work of one of Britain’s most pioneering and influential living authors, Malorie Blackman OBE, with a landmark exhibition. Blackman has been writing books for children and young adults for over 30 years and across multiple genres. She often explores issues such as social division, power imbalances, and oppression, as well as writing about family life, relationships, and joy.

Larry Botchway, co-founder, POoR Collective:

“Through her writing, Malorie has not only entertained and engaged readers but also educated and inspired them to think critically about race, inequality and social justice.”

Image courtesy of the British Library

Designed by socially minded organisation Power Out of Restriction (POoR Collective), who have a host of creative and engaging exhibitions under their belt, the show is a thought-provoking and visually captivating experience that spans the full breadth of Blackman’s career, and explores the broader social context of her writing.

Winners of London Design Festival’s Emerging Design Medal in September this year, POoR Collective were selected by the British Library to deliver the exhibition design as they have a track record of working with young people, platforming their voices and educating the younger generation – things that Malorie Blackman has been doing in her work for decades.

Ben Spry, co-founder, POoR Collective

“Malorie Blackman’s impactful contributions to children’s and young adult literature make her a powerful source of inspiration for us at POoR. Her work is widely recognised for its exploration of race, inequality, and social justice.”

Photos of Blackman on display at the British Library. Images courtesy of Malorie Blackman

Developed in close collaboration with Blackman, POoR’s design draws inspiration from the themes and ideas expressed throughout her body of work, exploring the subversion of divisions, barriers, and entrances by manipulating form, material, and function. For this project, POoR and the British Library worked with a group of students from Regent High School in Camden, asking them about their relationship with books, reading and stories.

Larry Botchway, co-founder, POoR Collective

“At POoR, we strongly believe in engaging young people in the design process. As Malorie is so well known for her children’s books and contribution to children’s literature, this was the perfect project to involve them in.”

Image courtesy of the British Library

The students took part in drawing and collaging exercises which allowed them to think about how young people would experience the exhibition, as well as how they engage with media in the modern world. The ideas and discussions brought up in the session went on to inform parts of the design, including the central area where a snug bench and feedback area have been positioned, along with a bespoke game based on Blackman’s life and career.

In addition, the British Library’s Learning Team worked with the students to develop poetry, artworks and responses which feature throughout the exhibition, as well as in a zine titled The Power of Diversity.

The colour palette of the exhibition pays tribute to a unique print run of Blackman’s renowned series, Noughts & Crosses, which is characterised by striking monochromatic illustrations interrupted by bold and vivid splashes of colour. Europa designed the 2D elements of the exhibition using the typeface ‘Martin’, named after Civil Rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Charged with a powerful message of unity, equality and justice, the font is frequently used in protest signs, banners and publications, serving as a visual symbol of this important cause while helping to reinforce the principles of nonviolence and peaceful resistance that Dr King represented.

Ben Spry, co-founder, POoR Collective,

“Malorie Blackman’s work has provided a platform for marginalised voices and encouraged empathy and understanding among readers. Her books are an essential part of the literary landscape, addressing important societal topics and influencing the way we view and discuss them.”

Exhibition overview

Malorie Blackman: The Power of Stories is a free British Library exhibition running from 24 November 2023 to 25 February 2024 and each section includes an introductory film narrated by Blackman, as well as material from her own archive.

Images courtesy of the British Library


Entering the exhibition, visitors step into a deep blue space, where they are invited to learn about the importance of representation in media and take an in-depth look at Black activism from the 1960s to the ’80s. Iconic figures such as Jamaican artist Errol Lloyd, Guyanese educator and novelist Beryl Gilroy, Surinamese British author Petronella Breinburg, and Guyanese poet and writer John Agard can all be seen in this area. Featuring both comics and novels, ‘Representation’ also gives insight into Blackman’s early life, allowing visitors to discover the books that left a lasting impact on her life and work.

Images courtesy of the British Library

Claiming a Voice

Dominated by shades of red, the second section covers Blackman’s journey as a writer from the late 1980s to the early 2000s. Along the way, visitors encounter other Black authors bringing Black stories to life, such as Toni Morrison and Alice Walker. Focusing on Blackman’s novels including Pig-Heart Boy and Hacker, this part of the exhibition outlines the real-world inspirations and personal experiences that shaped her fictional world. ‘Claiming a Voice’ also shines a spotlight on influential individuals such as writer and publisher Verna Wilkins, founder of Tamarind Books.

Images courtesy of the British Library

Noughts & Crosses

Occupying a vivid orange space, the third section centres on some of Blackman’s most iconic works – the Noughts & Crosses series. The eponymous novel was Blackman’s 50th, where she sought to address racism as a fundamental theme within the story. This section offers insights into the events that inspired the author, in particular the brutal murder of aspiring Black architect Stephen Lawrence. Visitors are also able to see a copy of the initial synopsis of ‘Noughts & Crosses’ that Blackman submitted to her publisher in 1999.


Lastly, the exhibition features the creative work and perspectives of a group of local school students that the British Library’s Learning Team and POoR engaged in the project, offering reflections on Blackman’s achievements, novels and characters. The final section of the exhibition looks at Blackman’s growing legacies, such as the Young Adult Literature Convention at London Comic Con which she established as Children’s Laureate in 2014, and highlights books and zines written by contemporary writers of colour.

Blackman’s medallion from being Children’s Laureate from 2013-15. Image courtesy of the British Library

The Malorie Blackman exhibition opens at the British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB, on 24 November 2023, and runs until 25 February 2024.


About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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