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The Orbit Grassroot Support Programme wants to build a fairer dance music industry

The Orbit Grassroot Support Programme is a new venture by London’s The Halley, in partnership with DJ Mag, that provides space for music communities focused on championing underrepresented groups and tackling important issues. With an ongoing monthly schedule of workshops and talks, a new funding scheme, and having just hosted a special one-off Orbit Live event, Aneesa Ahmed learns more about its goal of creating a fairer, more accessible, dance music industry

Despite life returning to ‘normal’ in a post-Covid world, much of the music industry is still physically dispersed and reliant on the internet. Orbit wants to change that. Fuelled by a desire to allow equitable space for all in the dance music business, Orbit is a new collaborative forum hoping to encourage necessary conversations and change through workshops, networking events and panel discussions.

The programme is a parallel endeavour created by The Halley Space, a London-based co-working space and studios made for music business professionals and active musicians. Orbit was created as a separate venture so that enough emphasis could be given to creating space and longevity for underrepresented communities and individuals who want to join the industry. “Post-Covid, access to physical space is missing for many communities,” says Callum Wright, The Halley’s Partnerships and Project Manager. “This can make access into the industry itself hard, and make navigating the industry hard for those already in the business.”

The team wanted to provide physical space to those who may not otherwise have access to it, in order to close the gap unintentionally created that stops new people from entering the industry. They also wanted to identify what other issues exist in the business, and how these issues extend into the scene itself. “We actually wanted to work backwards for this,” explains Callum. “Rather than assume what work needs to be done in a presumptuous way, we wanted to hear from the ground up. We held roundtable discussions with people from the dance music community — including the likes of Elijah, members of Foundation FM, and members of Daytimers.”

Photo of Callum Wright, The Halley’s Partnerships and Project Manager, wearing a green parka on an orange background

These discussions, which have been recorded and are available to listen to online via, dissected the key issues that are being faced by those wanting to break into the dance music industry — all while addressing structural socio-economic factors that may act as barriers for certain communities and demographics in this process. The issues raised included everything from mental health to the lack of funding, to how to break into the industry.

In addition to having panel discussions led by members of the dance music business, Orbit has also invited various innovating organisations who are fighting for better change from a grassroots level to do takeovers each month. Earlier this year, Orbit welcomed Girls of Grime, an initiative that aspires to empower women in music by creating a platform to exhibit their skills and give professional development opportunities. They’ve also had eott, an organisation that wants to normalise conversations surrounding mental health within the electronic music space, and The Beatriarchy, which brings together women, non-binary and other underrepresented individuals in the music industry.

These groups all hosted various panel discussions, workshops, streams, live events and more — all in person at The Halley’s HQ in East London. Over the course of a month, they had the opportunity to utilise the space in whatever capacity they wanted to give their members and supporters an in-person event or workshop to attend. “[Our event] was truly dedicated to empowering the next generation of women in the music industry,” explains Shakira Walters, founding member of Girls of Grime.

During their month, Girls of Grime hosted a workshop, discussion, and networking live event. “The special guest appearance by [studio, label and events manager] Janaya Cowie was an inspiring and insightful session, leaving everyone in awe,” she continues. “Being part of The Halley’s community has been a wonderful experience, enabling us to connect with like-minded individuals and foster meaningful partnerships.”

Photo of the members of The Beatriarchy on an orange background

“Orbit reached out to us about this opportunity, and we were really gassed. It was a unique opportunity to get a space, which is rare for us as a collective. We had complete free reign of creativity; it has been really great for us.” – Kitty & Becky, The Beatriarchy

The Beatriarchy also hosted a discussion event with a networking period attached to it, as well as a streaming event for upcoming DJs they work with to get the chance to mix in front of a camera. “Everything is digital these days, including how you promote your own skills and sets,” explain Kitty and Becki from The Beatriarchy.

“It’s tough convincing your mates to come and just film you in Pirate Studios, plus you’d rather have the quality be as high as possible too. We wanted to give some of the upcoming DJs we work with the opportunity to have a set filmed with a proper set of cameras using the DJ booth and equipment they have at The Halley. The DJs can now use the clips for their own self-promotion. Everything we’ve achieved has been through opportunities like this, so we wanted to give back.”

They explain that their values align with Orbit’s: “Our purpose has always been to be a safe space for sharing and creating opportunities — well, we started out by making FB groups for tunes and then snowballed into sharing opportunities. “Orbit reached out to us about this opportunity, and we were really gassed. It was a unique opportunity to get a space, which is rare for us as a collective. We had complete free reign of creativity; it has been really great for us.”

August’s residents eott agree that having the physical space has been hugely beneficial. They focus on normalising conversations about mental health in an approachable and non-corporate way — something that’s made easier with physical space to meet and connect with people. “Having this physical space is amazing,” says eott. “We’ve long wanted to be doing events to connect people. We’ve already done a few before and it’s been so beneficial and interesting to meet people with similar minds, who all share our mission. Being able to connect in person is great.”

They say that having space for conversations about mental health is needed in this day and age, especially as they want to have an approachable and accessible stance on the topic: “We’re just not down with the moaning or damning or depressing output of many mental health brands. They’re often serious and academic and that can be alienating, which is why we want to approach this conversation in a fun and relatable way.”

Photos of creatives engaging in sessions run by eott in association with Orbit, on an orange background

Yet to carry out their residencies are London’s Threads Radio and Birmingham-founded collective Selextorhood. Threads is a radio station and international broadcast platform connecting local communities across the world and empowering people to express themselves through music, discussion and art. They began in January 2019, with an original studio based above The Cause nightclub in Tottenham, but now broadcast from London and linked cities all around the world. Selextorhood was founded in 2019 as a monthly DJ workshop in response to gender imbalance and underrepresentation and has now developed into a Birmingham-based community that promotes women and gender-minority DJs and producers.

Both of these organisations will also utilise the space provided by The Halley in their upcoming residency months, in hopes of getting their members and followers an opportunity to connect in real life. “Access to space, equipment and meeting points is a crucial resource necessary for encouraging collaboration and learning,” says Freddy from Threads. “Affordable access is hard to come by though... and so this was one of the key reasons for wanting to get involved with Orbit; the chance to invite our show hosts and volunteers into The Halley, without financial burden, to access equipment and working space that can assist their creativity.”

Photo of London’s Threads Radio logo on an orange collage background

“We can’t bring people together if there are barriers stopping certain people from even being able to step foot in the industry, so if we give space and open discussions it can be the first step in bridging this gap.” – Callum Wright, The Halley

On 22nd September, Orbit hosted a one-of-a-kind, in-person event called Orbit Live — something that they called a “new collaborative forum created to support those set to shape the music industry’s future”. The programme one-day event featured a series of open forum discussions and workshops, all spearheaded by those who are leading the way in both the scene and in the industry, all aimed at all young creative people who are interested in underground music culture.

Through the use of interactive discussions, which differ from your traditional panel-and-audience-style events, the event addressed themes such as issues in club culture and the nightlife industry, leveraging your cultural capital, and finding balance beyond the booth. Attendees were given the chance to take part in workshops led by the likes of DJ Vanessa Maria, Charlie Dark (Run Dem Crew and Run Dem Radio), Eastern Margins, Nadine Noor (Pxssy Palace), Mina and Emma Warren. The event took place on The Halley premises, located in Haggerston, East London.

Orbit will also soon be launching the Orbit Fund, a new initiative from The Halley and AEI Ventures that will provide funds and mentorship to up to 10 growing communities and organisations over the course of 2024. Successful candidates will be awarded condition-free, non-repayable funds, as well as access to The Halley community and team support. Learn more about how to apply to that here

Two photos of an artist making music in the studio on an orange collage background

Ultimately, Orbit is meant to reflect the ethos of The Halley Space. The Halley was launched in 2020 and is owned by AEI Music, who wanted to create a creative space that’s purpose-designed for the members of the music industry to come together. Residents and frequent users of the space include Percolate, DMY Artists, Black Artist Database, Drum&BassArena and more. “At the end of the day, we want to be a space for people in the underground music scene and industry to come together,” explains Callum from The Halley.

“We can’t bring people together if there are barriers stopping certain people from even being able to step foot in the industry, so if we give space and open discussions it can be the first step in bridging this gap. We want to build new networks and new connections, and in turn, build new relationships with the people that we work with. If we want to expand the types of people we work with, we first have to open doors to them.”

Learn more about the The Orbit Grassroot Support Programme here

Read about how open decks events are making DJing more accessible for everyone here

Aneesa Ahmed is a regular DJ Mag contributor and freelance journalist. Follow them on X (formerly Twitter) @missaneesaahmed

Pics: Bailey Hyatt