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Sunday
Sep262010

Oxjam takeover of Brixton

Anyone who's been near me over the past few months will no doubt have heard me talk about Brixton Oxjam, an event taking place on October 23rd, 2010 that I'm helping to organise.  Over the past four months much of my time outside of work has been taken up with a host of activities in preparation of the event.  We are now just four short weeks away and still with plenty to do I thought I'd write a short post about why I got involved.

Of course the best way to experience the event will be to come along and join in the fun.  And it just so happens you can get yourself a ticket from here.
Wherever I've lived I've always enjoyed getting involved in some form of community aspect.  Living in Three Bridges I helped out as a coach and team manager for Crawley Athletic Club.  When I moved to Bromley I arranged a monthly meet for local people interested in technology.  Moving to Brixton I wasn't sure what I'd end up getting involved with.  It just sort of happened...

How it began

I've always loved music though not being able to play an instruments (and I've tried) I settle for going to see live bands.  One Sunday evening in May I was at my local which just happens to be the rather legendary Windmill.  I got chatting to a guy called Andy Hankdog who turned out to have had a spell playing with the Sex Pistols and later The Professionals.  Andy suggested that I should come along to an acoustic folk evening he was holding the following day and if I brought my guitar then I could play.  I tried to explain that I didn't play, but somehow ended up agreeing to go along.  As it happened my lack of guitar or any musical ability wasn't noticed, there were a bunch of great musicians who played through the night and I was able to sit quietly at the back listening in.  At the end of the evening Andy, myself and a few others talked about how Brixton has such a great music scene. From the local up and coming artists through to established acts who've made the big time, as well as the numerous venues that host regular events.  When it was suggested that it'd be fun to organise something to promote Brixton's music scene I thought the idea would get laughed out.  It didn't and that evening we walked out all agreeing to do something about it.

The next day

Having never organised anything like this before I didn't really know where to begin.  My first step was to think about what we wanted to get from the event.  This led to three simple goals:
  1. promote local bands
  2. promote local venues
  3. promote Brixton culture (the market, the restaurants, the arts etc)
Assuming that we'd need some kind of permission from the local authority I rang round desk after desk after desk at Lambeth council before speaking to someone who's long job title contained the words 'entertainment' and 'license'.  She was extremely helpful and fully supportive of what we were trying to do.  Enthused by everyones supportive nature my next step was to speak with local venues and see which ones might be happy to get involved.  With pretty much blanket positive responses my concerns over whether there was an appetite for this began to fade.
Continuing to speak to pretty much anyone who'd listen I was asked by Space Makers, the team who run Brixton Village Market, whether I'd heard about Oxjam.  I hadn't and from what I was told it sounded like perhaps I should.

Oxjam

Oxjam's slogan is "local music, global impact" and their goal is to raise money and awareness of Oxfam by running a month long, nationwide music festival.  They were calling for teams across the country to take on the responsibility of organising an event in their area.  The Oxjam website showed that this year there was already a Brixton team so I got in touch to see whether it made any sense of joining up.  It did and together with Jacob Todd, Paul Dickie, Leila Halid, Felix Jakens and Camille Christian we became Brixton Oxjam.
Being a part of Oxjam it was interesting to see the motivations behind the team, not just within Brixton but across the other regional teams.  Some were fully motivated by raising money for Oxfam, others were taking part in order to gain experience of organising a music festival, others were doing it because of their love for music.  Whilst Oxfam do a tremendous job and are an extremely worthy charity to raise money for my primary motivation remained helping raise the profile of the Brixton music scene – and fortunately this was something strongly shared across the team and we've (hopefully) been able to do this.

Where we are now

So we now have a little under one month until the Oxjam Takeover event.  As a team we've come a long way since May.  We've secured five fantastic venues: The Windmill, Upstairs At The Ritzy, Plan B, The Rest Is Noise and The Dogstar.  They've been a real delight to work with and fully supportive of Oxjam.
 
We've listened to countless bands and demo tapes – many have been amazing and others have been, well, less so.  I always thought I had quite a varied musical taste, but this experience has opened up many new genres of music to me!  Trying to pull together a line up that matches the diversity of Brixton has been an interesting task.  In the end I feel we've managed to get a great line up, which just needs some final confirmations before being announced - watch this space!
As well as preparation for the take-over we've also held a number of fund raising events.  These have included a jumble sale (ingeniously called Rumble In The Jumble), Swap Shops, and my personal favourite a film screening (seeing Oxjam listed at the famous Ritzy cinema was a strangely proud moment).
 
In the final run up to October 23rd we have a host of other events to help spread the word, these include a fashion show, taking over Brixton Village Market, an acoustic open mic night, and a fund raiser gig in New Cross.
Oxjam film screening
P8070425

The future

On October 24th when Oxjam has been and gone I'll be getting some sleep.  And then maybe thinking about next years event.
Oxjam Flyers

 

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