Friday, March 04, 2016

Dj Ripley's alter ego speaking on pirate radio

In my capacity as a researcher, public speaker, and professor, I'm speaking about my work in London on pirate radio and illegal spaces, developing ideas out of my work on Jamaican popular music but intersecting with good old fashioned social history of urban spaces. It would be great to have it be more of a conversation than a lecture, so I'm glad it's open to the public! Ideally there would be djs, community members, technologists, policy people and urban planners in the room for a conversation like this.

I'll be speaking about my research and experience with UK pirate radio, the still-beating (if mutating) heart of English dance music and subculture. (Pirate radio is radio that broadcasts illegally - without a license. I'm focusing on the broadcasters who picked up steam in the 1980s and 90s in the UK, although the roots are older, I'm interested in the cultural force that came out of a particular era.)

Last summer I was able to interview some greats in the pirate radio scene, notably Uncle Dugs who kindly met with me after one of his blistering jungle sets on the now non-pirate and online Rinse FM -during which he coincidentally played the first jungle record I ever bought! I am combining these stories with some of the concerns of the UK housing rights movement fighting for a home as a right not a privilege. (On that note, please sign this petition to prevent a new high-rise from demolishing the Dissenters' Cemetery, resting place of my dear William Blake among others).  It's an interesting combination - demands for state investment in housing but also autonomous and perhaps necessarily illegal practices going on inside.

There are heaps of documentaries, news bits & articles about pirate radio (although strangely little scholarly work), and even a pretty hilarious BBC mockumentary. But one of the best and most inspiring pieces for me was this one published in the mighty DATACIDE magazine, put out by the Praxis label I know from my days crossing through  the breakcore worlds. Alexis' Wolton's "Tortugan Tower Blocks: Pirate signals from the margins"
I was already interested in the way the architecture and urban design helped to focus and shape pirate radio content through shaping who had access to the spaces, and that piece kickstarted my interest in revisiting how that came about and talking to people about how it actually worked in practice. Some good old fashioned social history was the next logical step, combined with some insights I had from my previous research on illegal cultural spaces and Jamaican dancehall.
So come through March 10 and help me make it a conversation!
Also shout out the Back to Life parties in NY for providing the soundtrack and physical inspiration to get this going again, and for projecting images of public housing and bringing all this bubbling up to a garage soundtrack on the dancefloor (and Dj Khalil for absolutely murdering it last time!)

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