The Met vs the grime scene

Imagine a society where the police force says which musicians can and can't perform. Actually, there's no need, it is happening already. So what has the Met got against grime?

  • Grime exploded in 2004, a riotous, dancefloor-destroying mess of quick-fire MCs, ravey synths and garage-like bass. It’s fundamentally a live experience, so club nights are critical to the scene’s success and even more so for those who wish to make a career out of it. But in 2007, grime nights are rare in the capital, despite the success of artists like Dizzee Rascal, Kano and Roll Deep. Promoters complain of police harassment, producers don’t understand why local authorities are pouring money into after-school music programmes then denying kids the very platform they need for success, and punters are fed up of gigs being cancelled. Just how difficult is it to put on a grime night in London? I decided to find out.

    First stop: Neil Boorman. He co-promoted grime night Straight Outta Bethnal at Old Street’s 333 last year. When I ask him for advice, Boorman laughs and wishes me good luck. Then he tells me that he had to close down his monthly event because the venue’s owner was getting pressure from the authorities. They’d worked hard to ensure a varied crowd. There was never any overt drug use (‘It was much less cocaine and Ecstasy orientated compared to house clubs,’ he says. ‘They spent more money on champagne.’) and the nights went off trouble-free.

    Still, says Boorman, ‘From the word go, we felt that the police didn’t want us in their backyard. The only way to have a hassle-free night and not lose all your money when the police cancel it is to get the line-up together and fax it to the police for approval and be prepared to take people off the bill.

    ‘If you want to promote your night properly, they [the police] will find out about it. They look in the listings, they listen to the radio. I wonder exactly how they decide that a PA by Kano would spark more violence than a show by Roll Deep?’

    The police deny they are specifically targetting grime and its mainly black audience. But it begs the question: would I have this problem if I was putting on an electro night?

    ‘No problems with any inherently white music,’ confirms Boorman. ‘But if you want to put on overtly black music, it’s worth your while getting in touch with the police.’

    Right. So I need to get my line-up together first. I track down Lethal Bizzle’s manager, Nadia Khan. Lethal released his dynamite single ‘Pow’ in 2004 and was immediately cast straight into the centre of the grime scene. The same single, says Khan, caused the police to refuse to let him play anywhere. When a grime dancefloor goes off, it looks just like an indie moshpit – lots of kids jumping up and down. This, she believes, makes people think something bad is about to happen.

    ‘They cancelled his single launch party,’ she says, ‘and that was an industry do, not a club night. Clubs put up signs saying that they wouldn’t play his tracks, and major clubs banned him.’

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