During the 80s, there were very few ways for the public to discover underground music, with BBC Radio 1 being the only youth-focused station readily available on the FM dial, and they only catered to a very mainstream pop sound. Black music had not yet been heard by a broad section of the British population, but all that was to change with a new illegal movement which would go on to shape today's musical landscape forever. 

Earlier this year, we were approached by Southbank Centre to curate an event as part of their Changing Britain festival. The festival more broadly “interrogates 70 years of British history, focusing on society, culture and politics” through talks, panel discussions and performances over 3 consecutive weeks in the run up to the election. 

We researched and interviewed many of the key people involved in the movement, and programmed a day of talks and discussions examining the social and cultural issues involved, as well as reflecting the music of the period, with DJ sets from the leading pirate DJs of the time.

Chaired by Mistral Productions boss Simon Goffe (previously a pirate DJ himself),  the featured interviews included Gordon Mac, who started Kiss FM, taking the station from a Charlton squat and transforming it into one of London’s biggest legal stations, as well as the authors of ‘Masters of the Airwaves’, Dave VJ and Lindsay Wesker. Bringing the discussion up to date, the interviewees evaluated the lasting legacy of pirate radio, asking whether pirate culture continues to influence today’s music scene, with the audience engaging in lively question and answer sessions.

The flyer for the event, designed by adam bletchly.

The flyer for the event, designed by adam bletchly.

In the run up to the event, we secured features in a number of respected music publications including Fact Magazine, Huck Magazine and Jocks & Nerds.

We live-streamed video of the talks using Periscope to over 500 people who weren't able to attend the event, promoting the event throughout the day on both the Facebook event page and Twitter.

Many thanks to Southbank Centre for the opportunity, to the contributors Sarah HB, Dave VJ and Lindsay Wesker, Gordon Mac, and Jasper The Vinyl Junkie, and to everyone who engaged so enthusiastically, both at the event and online. 

For more information on event production, get in touch.