Brixton Splash honours Jamaica in vibrant style
Brixton celebrates Jamaican Independence Day with a splash of colour, an eclectic mix of music and a lot of jerk chicken. This huge free carnival descended once more on the streets of Brixton for the eighth year running on Sunday – an all-day party that brings the community together in celebration of cultural diversity. Last year the event coincided with Usain Bolt running in the 100m final at the Olympics and 50 years of Jamaican independence, which fired things up another gear, but this year certainly didn’t disappoint, with Brixton Splash remaining the cultural highlight of summer in South London.
Brixton town centre was shut down at midday and swarms of police began to patrol as the reverberating bass of the sound systems could be heard and felt. The arts and crafts area in St Matthew’s Peace Garden was the most family friendly offering, with free workshops and stalls selling predominantly Jamaican wares – from pillows decorated with the Jamaican flag to handmade cupcakes. Over the road, Windrush Square was packed with food stalls from across the globe (Colombian highly recommended), and, of course, copious amounts of jerk chicken.
The Square also housed the main stage in front of the old Bovril building, featuring live performances from mostly local talent, as with previous years, though with potential to go onto big things (indeed, Katie B headlined in 2010). There were bands, singers and rappers performing a range of genres, from reggae to grime. Among the most notable were the versatile hip hop electronic sounds of Kromatic, and Chicken Wing All Stars Band who created their own intriguing dub reggae sound.
But to get stuck into the real atmosphere, you needed to head to one of the four sound systems situated in the rammed backstreets behind Brixton Underground Station, playing everything from reggae to RnB, hip hop and jungle at glass-smashing decibels. For the first time this year, there was also a sound system on Station Road playing World and Latin music. The only issue was getting to the music: as the day got into full swing, the main soundstage on Coldharbour Lane quickly became a crush of Jamaica fans, and without knowing the surrounding streets and shortcuts past the jams you would have had trouble moving anywhere. Nonetheless, this was the place to be – a sea of bouncing bodies as far as the eye could see and up on a balcony overlooking the street, a man wowing the crowd with his moves to dancehall classics such as Beenie Man’s Drinking Rum and Red Bull and Call Me a Yardie by Stylo G.
The Atlantic Road sound system brought the heavier sounds of grime, garage and American hip hop. This was where the majority partied to Lethal Bizzle’s POW and Newham General’s urban anthem Hard until the 7pm curfew, waving at the trains as they slowed into Brixton station on the track above the street. One enthusiastic train driver even bopped along to So Solid Crew’s Oh No.
This is a multifaceted and vibrant festival with a friendly atmosphere that brings together ages and races, and represents the very best of multicultural London. Brixton hasn’t fully shaken off its chequered reputation from the racially tense days of the riots, but it is proving itself more and more to be a welcoming, cultural attraction of South London. Brixton Splash may celebrate Jamaican Independence Day but it also demonstrates peaceful relations and Brixton’s lively contribution to wider London culture. The thick Jamaican accents of the MCs over the sound systems continually called for “unity”, and that’s what they got. Music does indeed have the power to unite – and in perfect time for Notting Hill Carnival to take place in a few weeks.
For further information about Brixton Splash and next year’s dates visit the festival’s website here.