Researching the local history of a global youth culture, writes Alice Clapperton
Acid house and rave are perhaps not the first things that spring to mind when thinking about the history of Waltham Forest.
But now a local project is unearthing the hugely influential role the area played in the development of this uniquely British youth culture. ‘Sweet Harmony: Radio, Rave and Waltham Forest’ is organised by social enterprise Rendezvous Projects and is currently in its research phase, as volunteers interview those the people involved in running pirate radio stations, organising parties, running businesses and creating flyers from 1989-1994.
To mark the midway point of the project, organisers recently screened Legacy in the Dust: The Four Aces Story at Leyton Technical. The film was made by Leyton resident Winston Whitter and tells the story of a legendary venue in Dalston that played a pivotal role in many local people’s careers and social lives. Over its 33-year history Four Aces played host to reggae sound systems and artists including Ben E King, Desmond Dekker and Stevie Wonder before becoming the first legal indoor rave venue, as club Labrynth. It also featured an appearance from another local, Steve B of Renk Records and Leyton-based pirate station Friends FM, playing some classic tracks to a mixed crowd of old ravers and younger fans keen to know more.
The project has so far interviewed a wide range of people, including some of the writers for Ravescene magazine, a Chingford-based publication which had a national distribution of over 20,000; the founders of Leytonstone’s Brain Records, one of the most influential early hardcore and jungle record labels in the UK; plus disc jockeys from pirate radio stations in the borough including Dance FM, Friends FM and Eruption FM.
Walthamstow’s MC Navigator (also known as Specky Ranks) talked about the influence of community venues and sound systems in the borough on the development of jungle; DJ Rap talked about selling mixtapes in Walthamstow Market and finding success with Jeff B via a connection at the local record shop; while Jessie Grace Mellor talked about the sense of community she found partying at Dungeons in Lea Bridge Road.
Katherine Green from Rendezvous Projects said: “This is about recognising an important community and strengthening a sense of identity… to celebrate the enormous creativity, youth and DIY culture that has come out of Waltham Forest and contributed to a scene that became a global phenomenon.”
For more information about Sweet Harmony: Radio, Rave and Waltham Forest: