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Meet the soundsystem making raving relevant again

Written by
Oliver Keens

As the art of DJing has become safer, unthreatening and generally acceptable as a career path to middle-class parents, so DJing has inevitably become a bit detached from its roots.

An explosion in UK DJ culture came during the ’90s rave heyday. Yes, it was an era of hedonism, but also of defiant raving and fiercely counter-cultural music. It was a time of giving the police the runaround and protesting the government at every turn. Many regret the detachment modern dance music has from its renegade roots. This year, however, one group of people have remade the link between dance music and protest – all played out on London’s streets.

Photo: Matt Smith

R3 Soundsystem is a loose alliance of the UK’s finest DJs and underground clubs. They organise a mobile soundsystem at some of the biggest demos in the capital. The Stop Trump march in June 2018 was its first strike. Witnessing the whole of Great Windmill St in Soho locked in a dance – as DJs like Midland, James Hillard and Norman Jay MBE tore it up – was one of the most exhilarating things this lifelong Londoner had ever seen. In March this year, a second outing saw Fatboy Slim join the cream of London’s nightlife activists for the People’s Vote march. It crescendoed with the stunning reveal of DJ Artwork on a truck, firing up a soundsytem that transformed a quiet street near the National Portrait Gallery into a heaving rave in two minutes (all captured on a video that quickly went viral).

This week, the project returns, coinciding with a planned march in favour of a second referendum from Park Lane to Parliament Square. Bicep, Daniel Avery and Ed from the Chemical Brothers join a heaving line-up of almost 40 DJs . Yes, Brexit is divisive, complex and we’re not saying there’s a right or wrong position. But there’s a lot to be said for dancing your way out of an intractable problem.

The next R3 Soundsystem event takes place on October 19. Find out more here

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