Keep in Touch with Roots of Reggae

Did we mention Roots of Reggae FREE launch event is this Saturday?

Today is a BIG day in the history of Roots of Reggae. With just three days to go until our FREE launch event this Saturday I am proud to announce Roots of Reggae now has its own mailing list!

Right now we’re focusing on making this Saturday’s FREE launch event the best intergenerational community-based music project it can be but afterwards our attention will be shifting to the future. We want all of you, the supporters of Roots of Reggae, to be involved in shaping our future direction. To do this we’ve put together a mailing list to make it easier for us to keep in touch.

If you’re interested in keeping up-to-date with all the latest developments and getting involved with the project, please add your details to the form below. And please don’t worry, we won’t bombard you with endless newsletters.

Hope to see you all at the Ritzy Brixton this Saturday, 3-7 pm, for some great music and memories!

Some of My Best Friends Are Middle Class

The sky’s the limit for Sly and Reggie (photo: David Hoffman)
Meeting People is Easy
On Friday I had the pleasure of meeting up with two of the acts that will be performing at next Saturday’s Roots of Reggae FREE launch event, reggae poet Roy Gunter and Reggie from Sly and Reggie.
As a self-confessed Guardian reader I was particularly looking forward to meeting Reggie to find out more about Sly and Reggie, East Dulwich’s premier purveyors of Middle Class Dub. I’d like to share with you what I learned from meeting Reggie and tell you about Sly and Reggie’s plans for world domination.
Solidly Middle Class Dub
First of all, a little background on Sly and Reggie and what they are all about. Alongside ideas man and design guru Jon Daniel, Sly and Reggie make up The Suburban Pirate. The Suburban Pirate critique and celebrate, satirise and support, the fall and rise of the Middle Classes through the medium of Middle Class Dub (Sly and Reggie’s music) and a range of Middle Class products (encompassing everything from satirical greetings cards to fetching kitchen aprons).

In keeping with Sly and Reggie’s Middle Class agenda, it seems only right that the place of our meeting, Reggie’s kitchen, is the epitome of middle class living, from the upright piano to the numerous Nigel Slater cook books. Reggie’s kitchen provided the perfect setting for us to discuss plans for Roots and Reggae and for me to find out how Sly and Reggie found themselves at the vanguard of the Middle Class Dub revolution.
Becoming Sly and Reggie
After a brief chat about arrangements for next Saturday’s Roots of Reggae event we got down to what I really wanted to know: how did Sly and Reggie get into making their unique brand of dub?
I discovered that Reggie, who by his own admission is not exactly young, has been making music with Sly, on and off, for many years. The Middle Class Dub sound they are now famed for, however, is a relatively recent development. Back in the day Sly and Reggie used to play together in a three-piece band and their music had an Astral Weeks era VanMorrison vibe to it. It was only a few years ago, after they started playing together again after some time apart, that their friend Jon Daniel suggested they combine middle class angst with heavyweight roots dub that the concept of  Middle Class Dub was born.
Throughout our conversation I was struck by how much Reggie enjoys making and performing his music with Sly. Whether describing how technology allows them to professionally produce tracks in his home studio or recounting how they managed to blag their way into performing at Bestival this year, I felt Reggie was driven by a restlessness to keep developing as a musician and to use their profile to cause a little mischief, rather than a desire for fame and fortune.
Going Mobile

This restlessness and desire to cause a little mischief goes may help to explain Sly and Reggie’s unconventional approach to music promotion. Back in 2009 Sly and Reggie built their ‘middle class sound system’ – a Morris Minor flat bed pick up with their own sound system on board to bring their music to the people. What is more, this decision to broadcast their music street-by-street contributed to the development of Sly and Reggie’s sound, with Sly’s distinctive toasting style developing organically (to use a word close to heart of the people of East Dulwich) from off –the-cuff musical interludes between their ‘proper’ songs.
 On The Road with Sly and Reggie

2012: A Dub Odyssey

Artwork for Middle Class Dub Vol. 2
Reggie was also kind enough to fill me on what lies in store for fans for Sly and Reggie’s Middle Class Dub sound. I was given a special sneak peak of the artwork for Middle Class Dub Vol. 2, which is coming soon, and is will feature just as heavy a sound. I also understand that plans for a third volume of material are already well-advanced, with Sly’s social issue rants set to take centre stage.
It is clear Sly and Reggie and The Suburban Pirate have a bright future ahead of them and, aided by their performance at next week’s Roots of Reggae event, I predict 2012 will be the year of Middle Class Dub revolution.
I am very excited to say Sly and Reggie will be performing at the Roots of Reggae FREE launch event next Saturday afternoon (3rd December) at the Brixton Ritzy. Full details can be found here: Roots of Reggae FREE launch event. You can also follow latest developments on Twitter @RootsofReggae

Roots of Reggae: Good Time Rock

@JoeSmithDesign Roots of Reggae poster on display at Supertone’s Store, Acre Lane, Brixton

It’s been an enjoyably hectic couple of weeks or so since my last proper post so I thought I had better get another one written before my thoughts take on a rose-tinted hew and (to continue with the colour theme) my anger at the Coalition’s plans to privatise the NHS simply becomes just another grey hair on my weary head.

So where to begin? Gainful employment seems a reassuringly sensible place to start so here goes.

Experience is Everything

A poster which caught my eye whilst on location at James Cake hospital in Middlesbrough

Last time I mentioned I’d picked up some freelance project work with thinkpublic. With much fanfare I can now reveal I’ve been leading on a piece of work with the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement. The project is looking at how staff and patients experience either delivering or receiving Ambulatory Care services and exploring with them how, in future, we can build better processes for capturing and understanding these experiences in order to improve how services are designed and delivered.

Exploring how staff and patients experience and feel about services is a really powerful way of involving them in identifying and co-designing service improvements. The project is still ongoing but already we have identified lots of new areas for improvement and, more importantly, got people believing that they have the power to improve health services. You can read more about the project, including an explanation of what Ambulatory Care actually means, in the blog I wrote for thinkpublic.

Guardianista Profiling

An ambition realised: my profile on The Guardian Website

 Besides the work for thinkpublic, I’m also proud of the article on co-production which I recently wrote for The Guardian local government network. For the 90 per cent of the population who don’t and should never have to know what the term means, co-production simply describes sharing the design and the delivery of public services with users. The article is based on my experience of attending a leadership network event designed to give officers of Lambeth Council the confidence to work in more collaborative ways with their citizens. You can the full piece here.

 I am also pleased to have recently connected with the social enterprise Spots of Time, whose mission is to make it easy for all of us for volunteering our time in fun, bite-sized ways. Rather like the work I’ve been doing with The Amazings, my involvement with Spots of Time is strictly pro bono for now (and I HATE U2) but hopefully there will be more formal opportunities as the organisation grows and connects with different communities. Watch this space for how things progress.

Roots of Reggae

An even greater ambition realised: Roots of Reggae blowing up the spot at  Sainsbury’s Forest Hill

Those of you with the good fortune to have spent any time in my company or read my Tweets may well have heard of a little project I’m developing in my spare time called Roots of Reggae. I don’t want  to go overboard in this post but here are a few key milestones:

Next Steps

For the next week or so I’ll be working hard to ensure the Roots of Reggae launch is a success. I’ll look to write a separate post this weekend on my experiences of developing the project. Other than that, I’m looking to continue with the freelance work whilst looking for new opportunities.

You can follow developments with Roots of Reggae on Twitter @RootsofReggae but to really get what I’m talking about make sure to get along to the FREE launch event on the afternoon of Saturday 3rd December.

Roots of Reggae FREE launch event, Saturday 3rd December 2011

Hopefully a good few of you will know this already but I thought it would be worth confirming that my plans for Dub Revolution have really taken off and I am now holding the FREE launch event for the project in Brixton on Saturday 3rd December.

The event, now called Roots of Reggae, will bring people of all ages together to celebrate reggae music and culture. The event takes places Upstairs at the Ritzy Brixton on Saturday 3rd December, 3 – 7 pm. Roots of Reggae is a FREE community event and has been developed with the kind support of Ritzy Brixton cinema and the charity Age UK Lambeth.
Brixton and reggae go hand in hand and Roots of Reggae brings this local scene to life. Older people are invited to come along, enjoy some great music and share their memories. For younger people, the event offers a unique chance to hear music from reggae’s golden age in the company of pioneers of the Brixton scene.

Roots of Reggae offers an afternoon of live performances and DJ sets. Confirmed acts include: Sly and Reggie (Suburban Pirate), Mistah-Brown Selector (Tighten-Up Crew), DJ Keith Lawrence (Colourful Radio) and MC DaddyRanks and reggae poet Roy Gunter. We are also expecting sound system legend Lloydie Coxsone (Sir Coxsone Sound) to share his memories of reggae music. Guests will also have the chance to share their own memories of reggae music and Brixton’s past.
To find out how to get to the Ritzy Brixton, click here.
Roots of Reggae is designed to be accessible for all. Ritzy Brixton is an accessible venue. 

For further information about the event please contact Francis Clarke on 07749374339 or or visit our Facebook page.
For latest updates and to share your ideas for future events, follow us on Twitter @RootsofReggae


Don’t call it a comeback …

It is fair to say there has been an explosion of interest in my Roots of Reggae project of late. Photo: jovike / Flickr

It was Harold Wilson who said ‘a week is a long time in politics’. That was before Twitter, Facebook and this blog you’re reading (or at least skimming out of a mistaken sense of obligation), however. And so with it approaching nearly two weeks since I last blogged, I think it’s more fitting to reach for James Todd Smith (aka LL Cool J)’s memorable lyric, ‘Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years‘.

Now that I’ve publicly aired the shame I feel for not having taken the time to blog, I suppose I ought to at least explain what’s been happening to me when I’ve been busy making other plans. So as not to strat too far from structural convention, I’ll break these up into three themes: paid work; personal projects; and my so-called life.

Paid work

As briefly mentioned last time, I was pleased to pick up some freelance project management work from my old full-time employers, thinkpublic. The project I have been working on is still under wraps so unfortunately I can’t say loads about it here. What I can say, however, is that is has been great to be working again with old colleagues and gaining more in-depth of a new policy area for me. I’ve written a blog post for thinkpublic about this work and will include a link to this once it has been published.

Running alongside this work for thinkpublic have been a number of other positive developments on the work front. Last week I was offered the chance to become an Associate of an ethically-driven consultancy firm. I am very pleased about this as it should allow me to apply the ways of working I enhanced at thinkpublic within a more political/policy-focused environment. I also had the chance to attend a European conference on Social Franchising on behalf of an Associate of thinkpublic. Not only was this a chance to learn more about an increasingly talked-about subject, it also led to some new introductions which should hopefully produce opportunities to get involved in other projects.Again, watch this space for more on how these things develop.

Personal projects

As things have picked up on the work front I have made a conscious effort not to let my commitments to outside projects fall by the wayside. Most significantly, the momentum for my reggae and dub-centred community project is gathering apace. The project now has a name: Roots of Reggae, as well as its own Twitter handle (@RootsofReggae) and blog (Roots of Reggae blog). The Ritzy cinema in Brixton are kindly supporting the project. I also have a date and venue for the FREE launch event, which will take place at the Ritzy Brixton on Saturday 3rd December, 3-7 pm. I have even secured a live dub performance from East Dulwich’s finest Sly & Reggie, no less. You can find out more and sign up to attend via Facebook at: Roots of Reggae FREE launch.

Jules and Katie manning The Amazings’ stall on Chatsworth Road Market

Besides my work on Roots of Reggae, I’ve also continued to help out on The Amazings, the East London-based social enterprise that helps people who are about to retire or have retired create amazing experiences with the skills, knowledge and passion they’ve picked up throughout their life. It was through this connection that I found myself last Sunday morning on the newly re-activated Chatsworth Road Market, where we managed to sell two tickets and harvested a good number of sign-ups for the service’s newsletter. As with Roots of Reggae, I’ve found working on The Amazings to be a really rewarding experience, even when faced with less than amazing early morning weekend starts.

My so-called life

That Viking sure was funky. The Band Plays On at Brockley Market

Although the past couple of weeks have been very exciting and rewarding, I have sometimes found it challenging to adjust to flexible and often home-based working. When I working full-time for thinkpublic there would be a clear distinction between work and home-life, give or take the odd early start or late-night deadline. Now the line between work and home is less sharp and I find myself working on my laptop when really I should be having some switch-off time. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still made time for the finer things in life, such as seeing a friend perform in the musical Bye Bye Birdie (oh yes) and even a trip to the new Brockley Market, but over the next few weeks I want to make sure I find the time to relax and enjoy life, whether that’s in Forest Hill or the wider world.

Next steps

Sarah and I are off to Newcastle this weekend for a friend’s a wedding. After that, I’ll be briefly back in London before heading up to Middlesbrough as part of my work for thinkpublic. With a bit of luck I’ll have the chance to write a blog next week and, who knows, I’ll maybe even throw in a picture of the famous Transporter Bridge.

A Soundtrack to celebrate Roots of Reggae getting a confirmed date

To celebrate the progress I’ve made on my Roots of Reggae project I thought I would share with you an upbeat selection of tunes.

Jimmy Cliff – Wonderful World, Beautiful People.
Sure, it’s at the very poppy end of pop-reggae but who cares? A song when things in life are going well.

U Roy & Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – Double Six.
Ignore the iffy visuals and enjoy the nicely mellow toasting by U Roy over a surprisingly modern sounding synth line. Electro-pop reggae, anyone?

Wayne Smith – Under Mi Sleng Teng
This song is arguably the first all-digital dancehall track. Produced by Prince Jammy, it pretty much revolutionised Jamaican music. I normally stick to 70s roots material but this song is just so catchy you can’t resist. If you like this song you should check out the Tighten-Up Crew’s gig this Friday in Finsbury Park: Tighten-Up Crew gig.