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Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
10 August 2023, 12:54

History and influence of UK sound system culture explored in new mixed media project, Our Yard: Listen

Lloyd Coxsone, Mikey Dread, Dubplate Pearl, Don Letts, Mad Professor and Valerie V Rocket are all involved 

History and influence of UK sound system culture explored in new mixed media project, Our Yard: Listen

The history and influence of UK sound system culture is being explored in a new mixed media project. You can listen to the first episode in the Our Yard series below. 

Spearheaded by Music Is My Motive (MIMM) — a Nottingham-based, Black-led multicultural creative community — the project will span five years, and reflect on the past 50 years of culture and music in Britain through the lens of sound system culture, Jamaican heritage and migration. DIY parties, dubplates, lovers rock, ska and 2tone, pirate radio, acid house, trip-hop, garage, drum & bass, jungle, dubstep, grime, and UK Funky are all set to feature in the wide-ranging project.

In addition to podcast and video documentaries, Our Yard will include clothing collections, events and screenings. The organisation is also working with multi-award winning product designer Mac Collins on building a new community sound system which will be available for groups to hire at a low cost. 20 chapters are planned in total, organised into five seasons, each focused on different genres relevant to the story. A host of iconic names are involved, the first of which is Sir Lloyd Coxsone, of the Coxsone Outernational Sound System.

As Our Yard explains, the first episode finds Coxsone discussing "laying his foundations after immigrating from the West Indies to the UK in his teens, the challenges he faced like many others of the Windrush Generations, experiencing racism, police brutality and prejudice in many forms but still being able to elevate himself and others in the face of adversity."

Other luminaries such as Channel One Soundsystem's Mikey Dread, Mad Professor, Valerie V Rocket, Don Letts, and Dublate Pearl will also feature in the first series of the project. Together, they explore and explain how Jamaican heritage has shaped the sound of Britain in the 75 years since Windrush.

MIMM founder Nate Coltrane Wilson explained of the idea behind Our Yard: "Nottingham is rebel city, from Robin Hood to Eric Irons, to the first post-war race riots in the UK. This mentality has been ingrained in us, to never accept the current state of play, to power through no matter what and to do it ourselves as no-one else will. We see parallels with our Jamaican musical ancestors."

"DIY sound systems, the cutting of dubplates, the blues house parties, these all have had a major impact on British society today," he continued. "Yet how many of us and the younger generations know this proud history? There is no doubt that dance music has become more popular over the years, as have house parties with sound systems, but where did this originate from?" 

"We feel a duty to tell this musical evolution story to the people of the UK. There is an importance to continue the commentary of UK Soundsystem culture, its very existence should be a factor in the development of future identity, what it has brought to people will change the perception on what people think about UK culture for generations to come."

Listen to the first episode of Our Yard below. Learn more about the project here. 

DJ Mag's long-read on the history of UK sound system culture here