Words by Kate Hutchinson
Spend long enough in a city and as the days turn into decades, you’ll witness the ebb and flow of scenes and sounds that bubble underground, blow overground, and occasionally make it into the history books. Nothing lasts forever, everything comes and goes. But lately it feels like the going has accelerated. Blink and it’s as if all the clubs have closed, grassroots venues can’t survive anymore and physical places keep evaporating; that culture is turning in on itself and pixelating into the abyss.
But while London’s rapid gentrification continues apace and there are new universes unfolding in our phones, a spirit has always remained. In disused yards and down backstreets, in places of worship and neighbourhood spaces across the capital, you’ll find disparate likeminds who want to carve legacies from the concrete and give artists somewhere to grow. Galleries, genre-fluid art crews, independent promoters, DIY cooperatives and more are – against all odds – pushing forward and coalesced around a shared vision: real-life connection beyond the ping of a notification, a focus on values like integrity, inclusivity and transparency, and a supportive community at its heart.
When I think of a rallying cry, I think of a movement. Arms in the air, mantras being chanted, hoping for change. Looking at the inaugural RALLY lineup, with these collectives gathered together in one place, that movement feels clearer than ever. The link between, say, Sister Midnight, Lewisham’s first community-owned venue, Peckham’s hifi restaurant Jumbi and Clapton’s jazz-in-the-round night Church of Sound goes beyond sonic offerings; their events are welcomings of the musically adventurous that are almost subversively joyous, as well as crucial sites of social exchange.
The musicians on this lineup, while sonically disparate, aren’t in creative silos either: they’re Dave Okumu, one of the producers who has uplifted countless up-and-coming artists, and his group the 7 Generations; it’s Squid, one of the bands who helped birth a guitar revolution in Brixton; James Massiah, polymath and the poet laureate of the NTS family; or Lucinda Chua, a composer who has lent her cello skills to numerous musicians and is now striking out on her own. It’s the DJs who have dedicated themselves to playing on small dancefloors and putting on their own parties.
And then there’s you out there. Culture is a group effort; it needs us, too, the lovers and fans to help it survive and thrive and build a more sustainable future. After all, a rally can’t be done alone; we all rally together.