International Reggae Day with Black British Group

July 1 marks International Reggae Day (IRD), the annual 24-hour global celebration of Jamaican music culture. After the Covid-19 pandemic, International Reggae Day UK will mark the Day with two in person events – a precursor Xtra event on Friday June 30 across Harlesden, in the north-west London borough of Brent, dubbed the capital of reggae in Britain, will usher in the Saturday July 1 event at Goldsmiths, University of London, in south-east London.

Brent Xtra International Reggae Day London, UK 2023 will kick off with the Brent Black Music History Walk led by Kwaku, a Brent resident, historical musicologist and author of the ‘Best Black Music History Project’ book. Along the route from Willesden bus garage to The Reggae Tree in Harlesden, places such as the community centre where the then Brent residing Bob Marley performed, or where Trojan Records, once the world’s biggest reggae company operated from, will be pointed out.

Local dignitaries, including Brent Mayor Cllr Orleen Hylton, Harlesden councillor Mili Patel, will be received by The Reggae Tree Ambassador Diane Shrouder Johnson for a reasoning session around The Reggae Tree, which is in front of Hawkeye, one of two forty-year-plus record shops still operating in Harlesden.

The late Hawkeye shop manager Gerry Anderson will be remembered during the discussions on local issues and reggae music. It will be punctuated by a short talk on the environment by Wembley Matters blogger and environmentalist Martin Francis, to underscore IRD’s environmental remit of encouraging tree planting. Harlesden-based singer-songwriter Owen Deacon will provide some music.The evening will end at the Windrush Hall in the nearby Tavistock Hall, where there will be stalls representing various community enterprises, live performances by Deacon, Music4Causes Ft. Kimba, Sparky Rugged, and Taz Hypno, video screenings, and prostate cancer presentations by Keith Gussy Young, and Cancer Black Care, for whom a live drawing by Mike Hawthorne will be auctioned to raise money for the Brent-based charity.

DJ Lady Juicy will play a British lovers rock set, whilst the closing set by DJ Pascoe Sawyers will be 1980s-90s dancehall tunes, underscoring this year’s IRD theme: ‘Saluting The Global Influence Of 80s And 90s Dancehall: From Brukins To Bogle’.

“We are thrilled to delve into the influential era of 80s and 90s dancehall,” says IRD founder Andrea M. Davis. “This year’s celebration allows us to honour the artists, producers, sound systems and cultural contributors who have played a crucial role in shaping the dancehall genre and making it an integral part of Jamaican and global culture.”The morning of JulyOne International Reggae Day will start with the Nubian Jak Community Trust blue plaque to be unveiled on the site of the Greensleeves record shop and where the now VP Records’ owned label was birthed in 1977. It will take place by Shepherd’s Bush station, in the presence of Hammersmith & Fulham dignitaries, and a community event, including school children performing, in Shepherd’s Bush Green.

IRD UK is convened by BBM/BMC ( Music Congress) and works with partners including Goldsmiths, University of London, Sound System Outernational, Reggae Fraternity UK, Chaaawaa Radio, and Shining Stars to deliver the London hub event, which is set to be attended by hundreds of reggae fans.There will be a number of stalls, with the likes of Musicians’ Union providing advice and distributing its promotional material, and a number of vinyl records and book sellers. The Promoting Our Heritage stall will have stocks of Karimah Campbell’s ‘ABC Come And Skank With Me A-Z of Reggae Legend’, a copy of which will be given as a competition prize on Friday and Saturday.

We are grateful that we can use our events to highlight prostate cancer, which disproportionately affects men of African heritage,” says IRD UK convenor Kwaku.

Our conference themes give us an opportunity to start a conversation about an important part of British African history, and also Britain’s role in the development of hip-hop music. Additionally, the Weekly Gleaner’s supplement provides useful coverage of Britain’s engagement and contribution to the global development of reggae music.”