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     LNHC Interview of Ricky Belgrave                      

 

Ricky Belgrave is Chairman of the British Association of Static Sound Systems (BASS) & was also the 1st Chair of ECCA (Executive Committee of Carnival Arts) representing the Static-Sound System Arena.

A DJ of 24 years experience, he still DJ's at the London, Notting Hill Carnival on the 'Rapattack' Sound System, and enjoys this immensely. Priding himself in being a sound system owner (painstakingly put together at great expense over 20 years) and also an avid record collector of over 5,000 records.

Aged 40, & born on 10th January1965 in Mile-End, East London; He currently works for UK Trade & Investment (UKT&I) as Country Manager for all export development from the UK to Canada, North America & Japan. Further more, Ricky is a key member of the DTI's Advisory Group for Racial Equality (AGRE).

Originally from Islington, Ricky's parents moved to Battersea when he was aged 5, where he attended a mixed primary/secondary school (Bolingbroke & Battersea County), and left passing '0' levels in; English, Maths, History, Sociology and Biology; then went on to South-Thames College in Wandsworth/Putney to study 'A' levels in Psychology and Sociology, before leaving to join DTI.


LNHC : What and when was your first Carnival experience?

RB: It was in 1976 at the LNHC, when I was just 11 years old, I was brought down to the Notting Hill Carnival by my mother & Step Father. My Step Father being Trinidadian (though my father, now deceased was Jamaican). It was the year of the riots, and I remember my Step Father picking me up and us having to run when bottles started raining down from the fly over down onto Ladbroke Grove. The riots happened (in my opinion) because of the deliberate targeting and harassment of the West-Indian community in general by the police (& in particular young Black Males) throughout the year. The community was on the receiving end of this harassment, and Carnival became a battleground where there were enough of the West Indian community to fight back. Historically static sound- systems were always partially blamed for this type of trouble and also the trouble caused by gangs of young 'steamers' during the 1980's, but let me set the record straight; these riots were an accumulation of tensions between the community and the police throughout the year, fuelled by police polices such as SUS and Stop & Search and not instigated by the Sound Systems. In fact Sound Systems were always instrumental in stopping and trying to avoid the build-up of trouble, because sounds can only operate where there is peace. The now infamous & historic riots were the result of social issues in society at large during that time. BASS through the work of its executive has developed a highly cooperative working relationship with the Metropolitan Police and other Statutory Agencies such as RBK&C and Westminster.

LNHC : Have you ever taken part to other carnivals?

RB: No.

LNHC : How did you get involved in London NHC?

RB: It is really from attending, as a child every year, then later playing at Carnival as a DJ with the 'Rapatttack Roadshow'. My involvement with BASS started by attending meetings, because it was mandatory as a sound system to be a member in order to appear at the Notting Hill Carnival'. BASS having been around for about 10 years, evolved substantially by forming an executive 2 years ago and, at the time I became 1 of 2 Vice Chairman, then later Chairman, five weeks before 2003 Carnival. (The previous Chair, Lewis Benn, became the BASS nominated Director of LNHC Ltd). In addition since April last year, Ricky was also elected as the first Chairman of ECCA, representing BASS for a 6 month term. ECCA is the new advisory committee to LNHC Ltd, which is made of all the executives and chairs of all five Carnival Arts Arenas.

LNHC : I would like to get your testimony about the NH Carnival, as you have seen its development from its beginning till today?

RB: I have seen the carnival evolve and change from being; a predominantly West-Indian festival, to presently becoming; an international festival, celebrating West-Indian culture.

LNHC : What do you think about the new company, NHCL, compared to the Trust?

RB: I formally joined the carnival organisation when there was an interim trust that successfully took us through Carnival 2002, with the clear understanding that this arrangement was purely interim and elections were planned post carnival 2002, to form a new, more democratic company, based on the wishes of the carnival community, represented through the Arenas at ECCA.

LNHC : Who are the main personalities of the Carnival?

RB: I would say a majority of people involved in the present day carnival organisation have a unique personality and are driven by passion, based on pride in their discipline and its achievements/contribution to the Notting Hill Carnival down the years.

LNHC : What is the role of the Carnival within the African diaspora, according to you?

RB: If you consider the rise and influence of static sound-systems in the UK - following the migration of Jamaicans to England during the 1950's, which had a major influence on main stream society, i.e. the rise of urban music and culture today. The basis of music whether it be; Reggae, Soul, Hip hop / Rap, Latin, Funk, R'N B, Garage, Drum N' Bass (and all the beat driven music) that the many and varied sound systems play, can each be traced directly back to African roots; for example the basic ragga drum beat is directly taken from a traditional African drummers beat! The Notting Hill Carnival highlights and perpetuates a multitude of traditional art forms.

 

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