Rave Against Racism is an organisation that aims to raise awareness about racism worldwide and the current rise of the far right in the UK and Europe. Their angle is through the world of clubbing and it’s ‘all are welcome’ attitude whether you are black, white, gay, straight, freak or football fan..
Truth & Lies are uber-excited to be playing at the first ever Rave Against Racism Festival taking place at Alfie Bird’s in The Custard Factory in Birmingham, UK. It runs from 26th to 28th June and the line-up is huge, diverse and top dollar, with musical representatives from every corner of the UK’s club culture in attendance. Ex-Friendly (JT) caught up with co-founder Jock Lee to talk RAR...
JT - Rave Against Racism is a brilliant idea! How did you come up with it and why?
Jock - 'Myself and my friend Jonnie Greaves had both been involved with counter demos to Britain First and had been banned from their Facebook page for challenging them. We discussed about future action and Jonnie mentioned on a Facebook post that we should set up something along the lines of Rock Against Racism, which was an organisation raising awareness against the National Front and others in the 1970s and 1980s. A friend of ours, Steve Griffiths, said on the post about calling it Rave Against Racism and so we had our name. Jonnie and I had further discussions and set up the organisation and began promoting it through our Facebook page last October. The response so far has been fantastic, with many high profile DJs and artists supporting us, including Jimmy Brown and Brian Travers from UB40 who were really involved with Rock Against Racism.'
JT - You’re a bit of a legend on the Birmingham scene it seems, can you give me a bit of background on your own history? Don’t be shy now :)
Jock - 'I began DJing in 1988 when me and my mate John Maher used to put on a night in a pub basement. In 1989 we used to go to The Hummingbird club on a Friday night, but the music was pretty awful. One week John persuaded the owner Lloyd Blake to give us a trial. We got the job and put us on for half hour slots with the original DJ. After a few weeks she left and John and I were given the whole night. In a couple of months it just went mad and grew from about 100 people each week to 3000! Our night was by no means the first House night in Birmingham, with quite a few DJs in the city pioneering House music, that often get overlooked in the history books. But it certainly became the biggest weekly House night in the Midlands for a while. I think it was also important in that it was probably the first time black and white people danced and partied together in large numbers in the City.
In 1990 I also put on other nights and then some warehouse parties with my mates Sean Conboy and Lee Fisher. In 1992, Lee asked me to work in his new record shop Pure Records and then the following year to become label manager at Bosting Records. The first release ‘All Funked Up’ by Mother was a huge success and really kick started the label. In 1996 I left to set up my own record shop and mail order company called Lost Records.
In 1999, I once again teamed up with Lee and we set up Fabric Recordings, which then evolved into Further Recordings. I also worked part time teaching music business at a college. 1990 was my first time Djing in Ibiza, playing the sunset at Mambo and then at El Divino. In 2000, Lee and I began running the Bosting warehouse parties with our friends Danny Kane and Nick Colgan, who now runs the Garden Festival in Croatia. In 2002, myself, Lee and Matt McKillop began running the Further club nights at basement club called Boiler Room. Matt and I also set up management/promotion club Phuture Music and bar/club nights under the Dropfunkdialect banner. In 2008 and 2009, myself and Lee, with Below and PBR Streetgang put on the Like Minded Festival on the site of the Garden Festival.
In 2011, the original Hummingbird venue reopened at The Ballroom, after being shut for many years. Myself and Lee were able to throw two Hummingbird reunion parties, before the venue sadly closed once more. To say it was emotional to be back playing in the original venue that kicked it all off for me after over 20 years, was an understatement. In 2013 we put on a party celebrating 25 years of Acid House in Birmingham under the House Sound of Birmingham banner. Then last year, a thirty years of House party with Marshall Jefferson and Maurice Fulton with our friends at Leftfoot and a big Christmas party at Alfie Birds (the festival venue). This year we put on put on a party with Farley and Heller.
So that's a potted history of my involvement so far in the last 27 years!'
JT - It’s a sad indictment of where we are in the UK right now that we even need organisations such as RAR to raise awareness about and show support for victims of racism. Rock Against Racism was set up in 1976 and they would surely have hoped that society had grown out of this reactionary shit. How do you think we got to this point again?
Jock - 'It is sad that we even have to exist in current times, after so much had been done since the Seventies to change people's perception about what is and what is not acceptable about another's race. One of the major factors in the rise of racism is through the constant barrage of "blame the immigrants" in parts of the media, in particular shite heaps like the Daily Mail and The Sun. I don't think that without this massive anti immigrant campaign, the likes of Britain First, EDL and now UKIP would have anywhere near the support they do now. The morons at Britain First and the EDL hide behind an anti-Islam banner, but you only have to look at their Facebook pages to see their true colours. Racism continues to rise as this government uses divide and rule tactics, to try and get people blaming immigrants while they truly shaft us all.'
JT - I came through the Rave years myself and so much of the culture has been absorbed into mainstream life. What does Rave mean to you now?
Jock - 'Personally in the early Nineties, Rave became a word synonymous with awful Hardcore events rather than House music when they started. Originally they were in part a counter reaction to Thatcher's Britain and boy did she hate it! Really, a rave is just a great party with people coming together to enjoy great music. We have had to explain numerous times that our events or the organisation itself are not about Hardcore raves, but just a banner under which clubbing in all its guises can come together to raise awareness of racism.'
JT - You’ve pulled together a serious line-up for the festival, how easy has it been to organise and what kind of feedback are you getting?
Jock - 'As Jonnie and I also have full time jobs, it has been a bit more difficult than when I worked in the music industry. However with the wonder of Facebook etc, it has really helped with contacting DJs and artists to ask them to play. The response from them has been amazing, with nearly everyone playing for free in order to support us. We really are hugely grateful to everyone for this. Some others were unable to play as they had other gigs, including quite a few at Glastonbury, but they have said they will be up for playing at our next big event that we hope will be in October. Our first big event with DJ Pierre in March was a great success, so we hope the festival will be even more so. We have one of the most eclectic mix of music in one event in the city for a long time. Techno legends House of God are hosting a room with Funk D’Void, Young Warrior (son of the legendary Jah Shaka) and Leftfield vocalist Cheshire Cat headline the dub/reggae room. Scratch Club with 4 times world dj champion Mr Switch bring the hip hop and beats, Manchester band 2 Billion Beats headline the outdoor pool stage, House, disco, hip hop, funk, soul, balearic and loads more will be heard over the two nights throughout the whole venue.'
JT - What are your future plans for RAR? Racism isn’t going anywhere fast with the politicians general lurch to the Right so what do you hope to achieve?
Jock - 'We will continue to put on events like the festival and would like to grow these bigger, as well as other events and live gigs. This year so far we have asked to play at the 0161 anti racism festival and Kaya festival. We would love to play at more festivals, with even our own stage/area so we can reach more people with our message. We would like our Facebook page to continue to attract lots more supporters, to get our website up and running and to get lots more press, again so we can continue to spread the message further. Next year we would really like to put on a large outdoor free event, if we can persuade Birmingham City Council to get behind it and show racism is not welcome here. We want to grow the organisation, so we can reach more people and to help how we can in letting people know about counter demos to Britain First, EDL and other far right groups.'
JT - Birmingham is a true ‘melting pot’ of multiculturalism and has had it’s problems with gangs and ethnic tensions like all large cities. What does the city feel like to you right now? (Let’s not mention the recent Fox News debacle about Birmingham being a ‘no-go area for Whites’!)
Jock - 'Although we found it humorous, the CNN story is just another example of the biased side of the press pushing a racist anti immigrant agenda. The last EDL march in Birmingham was met with a large counter demo to show they are not welcome in the city. The media also at the time of the CNN story tried to say about no go areas for whites in the city, which is total nonsense. They interviewed a few morons, who never venture out if their local area, who said they would be scared to go to culturally mixed areas. Well they are a tiny minority and do not represent the city as a whole.'
Jock - 'We would like to thank everyone, including yourselves for getting involved and helping us put together one hell of a line up, showing through music we can get the message out there!'
And finally.. a few words from Leftfoot/Hare and Hounds/Different Drummer honcho Adam Regan about his history with Jock..
Adam - 'I've known Jock since 1995/6 when I was Manager of the Medicine Bar (Custard Factory) and he was running a record shop on site called Lost Records. I used to spend a lot of my wages in there! Jock & Sean (Conboy) used to drink in the Medicine Bar most days and we'd end up at some party or other most weekends. One particularly memorable evening, we ended up at the Institute and Jock was wearing a ladies promo t-shirt (cropped for full belly exposure) whilst swigging champagne from an ice bucket and lording it on the dancefloor! He has calmed down a bit since those days but still loves music and hosting great events, and his work with the homeless community and RAR events has won him a lot of respect in the community.'
Grab your tickets and get on this!
Interview by Justin Turford AKA Ex-Friendly
Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rave-Against-Racism/1452332108384505?fref=ts
Festival FB Event Page - https://www.facebook.com/events/899727866807110/