Sweet Harmony celebrates Rave in Waltham Forest

Acid House and Rave are not the first things that spring to mind when thinking about the history of Waltham Forest, but a project running in the borough is unearthing the hugely influential role the area played in the development of this uniquely British youth culture.

The initiative, organised by Rendezvous Projects, began to take shape in 2018 and is currently in the research phase as volunteers interview those from the area who were involved in running pirate radio stations, organising parties, running businesses and creating flyers between 1989-1994. To mark the midway point of the project, organisers screened Legacy in the Dust: The Four Aces Story at Leyton Technical on September 5th. The film was made by Leyton resident Winston Whitter and tells the story of this legendary venue in Dalston, which played a pivotal role in many local people’s careers and social lives. Over its 33 year history the Four Aces played host to reggae sound systems and artists including Ben E King, Desmond Dekker and Stevie Wonder before becoming the first legal indoor rave venue, as club Labrynth. The evening also featured an appearance from another local, Steve B of Renk Records and Leyton-based pirate station Friends FM which was established in 1989, playing some classic tracks from that era to a mixed crowd of old ravers and younger fans who were keen to know more about this important but overlooked part of the borough’s history.

wooden chairs filled with people watching the film

One of two packed rooms enjoying Legacy In The Dust: The Four Aces Story
Photos by Penny Dampier

The project has so far interviewed a wide range of people, including some of the writers for Ravescene magazine, a Chingford-based publication which had a national distribution of over 20,000; the founders of Leytonstone’s Brain Records, one of the most influential early hardcore and jungle record labels in the UK; founders of and deejays from pirate radio stations in the borough including Dance FM, Friends FM and Eruption FM. Individuals such as Walthamstow’s MC Navigator (aka Specky Ranks) talked about the influence of community venues and sound systems in the borough on the development of Jungle; DJ Rap talked about selling mixtapes in Walthamstow Market and finding success with Jeff B via a connection at the local record shop, and Jessie Grace Mellor talked about the sense of community she found partying at Dungeons in Lea Bridge Road.

dj standing behind turntables and a mixer in the process of mixing some records

DJ Steve B of Renk Records takes to the decks
Photos by Penny Dampier

Thursday’s oversubscribed event made for a great evening and bodes well for the future events and exhibition planned for 2020. Local artist Katherine Green of Rendezvous Projects, said “This project is about recognising and celebrating an important community and strengthening a sense of identity in the process. We’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of talent and stories that are coming out during the course of this project and Thursday was a great opportunity to bring people together for the first time, or in some cases bring people back together to celebrate the enormous creativity, youth and DIY culture that have come out of Waltham Forest and contributed to a scene that became a global phenomenon”.