For journalist and critic Emma Warren, cultures can only thrive through physical interaction. As much as the internet has facilitated the rise of new digital mediums – everything from performing AI bots such as Lil Miquela to the spread of electronic subcultures through streaming platform Boiler Room – Warren believes “dancing in the dark is a human need… it sustains us”.
So goes the thesis of her first book, Make Some Space, a cultural history-cum-manifesto for creating musical communities in the 21st century, told through the story of one east London building and its development of a new jazz scene.
This former warehouse in Foulden Road, Hackney started life in 1904 as a chocolate factory. In the 1990s, it became home to reggae, dub and dancehall collective Mellow Mix, who, argues Warren, performed a kind of cultural salvage operation, turning the derelict factory into a Caribbean community centre and venue and spawning performers such as toaster Glamma Kid (who had two Top 10 hits in 1999). The collective’s demise in 2010, after its relationship with Hackney council soured, left the building empty for two years before French DJ Lexus Blondin set up Total Refreshment Centre (TRC), a jazz club and recording studio complex.
Read the review in the Observer.
[This piece was published on 05/05/19]