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Drum And Bass: A Celebration Of Cultural Exchange

04/08/2017 14:09

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I'm sure that I speak for most people within this underground scene, when I say that the idea of Brexit is an utter disaster. For not only our country, but our community, and our instinct and wish for global commonality. When you start looking at the practical context - free international movement of people working in the creative and cultural sector, it is an absolute nightmare. I only foresee obstacles, hurdles and barriers between the closer ties that have let a company like Hospital achieve so much over these past 21 years.   

The British take so much for granted... no matter where we travel, we expect there'll be someone that's speaks English; better yet, we would rarely imagine restricted access to be an issue for our own global travel. When I think how international the world of Drum & Bass is today, I fear that we may be facing tough times ahead. Without the free movement of travel, our music world wouldn't have spread so fast or organically. Jungle and Drum & Bass emerged in the '90s, built from the sound system communities in London and Bristol. The first outpost was the United States and the raw, punk-like energy of d&b's rhythm and tempo also connected across old Eastern Bloc territories like Poland, Romania, and Russia.

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The genre also benefited from an early-adopting online community: message boards and forums like Dogs On Acid, and Drum & Bass Arena enabled a scene that could connect within itself, without the need of mainstream acceptance or approval. These phenomena fed the international DJ bookings that followed, with artists travelling to out-of-the-way locations, and the community becoming a moving and moveable crowd. This is what we take for granted today e.g. a bunch of fans from Kent want to enjoy a rave in Prague, they simply catch a cheap flight from Luton and soon enough they are knee-deep amongst a familiar, friendly scene, in an unfamiliar space.

We have come closer and closer together, first digitally, then face-to-face; only to be threatened now with real, tangible barriers. That said, history tells us that as inevitable as reaction and protest is to change is, communities will always search for new solutions.

One of the great things about online ticketing platforms is that we can track our sales in the run-up, like last year's Hospitality In The Park. Last summer in Finsbury Park I met someone who travelled from New Zealand. Add to that fans and junglists in the crowd from the United States, Australia, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and so on. There is nothing more fulfilling than watching this phenomenon with our music, brand and events. Hospitality is not alone in this international appeal; just look at huge drum & bass events like the Let it Roll Festival in Prague, or Hans Murdock's Rampage event in Belgium.

When it comes to drum & bass, ultimately the U.K. is still the market leader, much of it has originated from this country, and London specifically. Our cultural standing now in Europe, however, is severely diminished. Once a year I find myself in Amsterdam for ADE - a city that manages to continually portray such a positive attitude towards night-time culture. Or elsewhere like Berlin, a city now so famous for it's history of celebrating alternative club culture; and where we hosted a quarterly event at the fabulous Watergate club, back in the 2000s. 

As a lifelong Londoner, at the age of 48, I no longer recognise my hometown. The rampant gentrification across our city has us in danger of becoming one enormous Westfield. It waits to be seen whether the Night Czar has the powers and passion to preserve us from the bullies and bulldozers. Our culture, never exclusive or excluding, is our strength. 

At Hospital Records we have around 20 artists on the roster. Originally it was just myself and Tony, masquerading under a handful of aliases. Then Danny Byrd and High Contrast in the late 90s, we could never have imagined then being so connected with the outside world now. Now our creative squad is truly international; outside of the UK it represents Austria, Japan, Belgium, Brazil, Ukraine, Australia, Russia, Germany and Switzerland.

The world feels radically different and smaller today to promoters. The loss of the traditional, regular 'residencies' and regional nights has been sad, but progress outward not inward. Yet, Britain still suffers from the misapprehension and as an island we can be divorced from the shared community. With the advent of Brexit, and in spite of technological and cultural progress, we are trying to take stone-age steps backwards. The creative arts will challenge that, continuing to work in the outside world and not see this intra and outer-national divide. Drum & Bass like all great music exists by, and celebrates cultural exchange.

Hospitality in the Park takes place at Finsbury Park 23rd September with headliners, Roni Size: New Forms, The London Elektricity Big Band, Return of Clipz, Mala, My Nu Leng feat. Dread MC + more www.hospitalityinthepark.london

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