Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Grime Stoppers

Interesting article in last week's Time Out London about policing of grime nights:

"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?

Our Nightlife team has long rated DMZ at Brixton’s Mass. ‘We won’t do black nights, we just can’t have them here,’ says a member of the Mass staff who wishes to remain anonymous. ‘The police don’t want us to. They’ve told us not to put them on. The police now have this thing called Club Focus; we have to provide the name, address, date of birth and last three gigs for every DJ and promoter. We’ve had to hire someone full-time to keep on top of it. We don’t get any trouble at DMZ, it’s brilliant. The police are closing a lot of nights down in Brixton, soon black people won’t have anywhere to go.’ Perhaps DMZ escapes scrutiny because – despite being about bass-heavy, urban music – it avoids the grime tag.

Lethal [Bizzle] released his dynamite single ‘Pow’ in 2004 and was immediately cast straight into the centre of the grime scene. The same single, says Khan [his manager], caused the police to refuse to let him play anywhere. [Lethal says] 'There hasn’t been a proper rave up in, oh man, I couldn’t even tell you. Certain areas get silly dickheads going, and there’s the possibility that something might happen. If it does, it’s the artist’s fault. When indie kids jump around, it’s moshing. When black people do it, it’s a riot.’

I put all this to DI Darren Warner of the Met’s clubs and vice department: ‘Part of our ethos as police officers in London is to create a safe environment. Our ambition is to risk assess every nightclub in London but obviously we can’t. Clearly, if it’s a Duran Duran tribute night, we’re not going to be expecting too much of a problem. What that actually means is that we ask venue owners to complete some forms and send in some basic details of what they want to do. We risk assessed 130 events in January and, in the past three months, only two events have been cancelled by us. There are only so many options we’ve got if we think that an event is going to cause harm: we can beef up the venue’s security, we can beef up the policing, or the absolute outside option, we can cancel it.’

‘Which events did you cancel?’‘I can’t say, but the reality is, there just aren’t that many grime nights.’‘But isn’t that because the police won’t let them take place?’‘We can’t ignore recent events, let’s put it that way. If a promoter has had violence at an event, and they’re putting on a similar club night in two weeks, we’d be negligent if we didn’t try and provide a safe environment.’

‘So if someone’s putting on a grime night, how do they go about dealing with the police?’‘They should email us ( about the specific night. We’d like to know about it and we’ll go through them on an individual basis. This isn’t genre-targetted, not at all. I’d like to say that our approach works. We’ve seen a significant reduction in violence and gun crime in the clubs we risk assess.’ " (full article Time Out London, March 7 2007)

This isn't a simple story of 'racist police clamping down on black music' - though that is the effect. The problem of macho idiots throwing their weight around with guns and knives is real enough, but the police dictating who gets to play out is to say the least worrying and effectively smears whole genres of music as being somehow responsible for gun crime. Also last week "Radio One DJ Tim Westwood [was] banned from playing at the Ministry of Sound because of safety fears. He was due to play at the club in Elephant and Castle in front of guests including hip-hop artist Jay-Z and Beyonce Knowles. Police stopped the non-ticketed event after fears it would get out of control" (Evening Standard, 9 March 2007).

1 comment:

JLB said...

Profoundly disturbing. Thank you for the article- I thought the Bush govt here in the US represented was horrible... This is extremely troubling. I'll be forwarding this link to a number of friends.