To top
25 May

Shout Out! UK Pirate Radio in the 1980s @ the ICA London 5/26-7/19/2015

Rhythm Records, 281 Camden High Street, London, 1984

Lock down your aerial! London’s 1980s pirate radio scene – in pictures.

Out to the 80s pirate radio massive … from B-boys to dub fanatics, Kiss FM’s early days to crate-digging in Groove Records, skip back to the time when towerblock studios, parties, zines and even an illegal television station fuelled UK bass culture. Believe!

Shout Out! UK Pirate Radio in the 1980s is an archival exhibition looking back at the early tower block pirate radio movement which emerged in the UK during the 1980s, prompting a new musical phenomenon that would change the face of British music.

Pirate radio is often associated with the off-shore broadcasting of the 1960s, but in the early 1980s it enjoyed a renaissance. This time stations were broadcasting music from the roofs of residential tower blocks rather than at sea, and were distinctive in the way in which they celebrated black culture. Dread Broadcasting Corporation (DBC), Radio Invicta, Kiss 94.5 FM, London Weekend Radio (LWR) and Horizon, were among the first UK pirate radio stations dedicated to soul, funk, jazz, reggae and hip hop. Although often overlooked, these stations were pioneers, championing music of black origin and paving the way for burgeoning rave scenes; jungle, garage and house.

During an era defined by Margaret Thatcher’s leadership as Prime Minister of Britain (1979-1990), these stations offered an escape for those suffering racial discrimination and economic marginalisation. They aimed to empower musical communities reputedly ignored by the BBC and the licensed commercial stations.

With the advent of the Telecommunications Act 1984, which granted the Radio Investigation Service the power to enter properties without a license and detain equipment for the purpose of illegal broadcasting, many of these stations were forced to close down. This prompted a new generation of ‘pirates’ to develop imaginative, alternative strategies to outwit the authorities. By the end of the 1980s an explosion of new pirate stations dominated the airwaves with over 600 stations nationwide, and 60 in the London area alone. It was The Broadcasting Act 1990 that saw the demise of pirate radio by prohibiting advertising and offering stations with sizeable audiences the opportunity to obtain a license and become legal.

This display tracks the history and cultural significance of 1980s pirate radio in the UK, and its legacy for contemporary music and broadcasting.

With special thanks to Gordan Mac, Lindsay Wesker and Stephen Hebditch amfm.org.uk

Shout Out! UK Pirate Radio in the 1980s tours to the Phoenix in Leicester, 23 July – 24 August 2015.

Shout Out! UK Pirate Radio in the 1980s is at the ICA, London SW1Y, 26 May – 19 July 2015

(All photographs by David Corio)

 

Sir Jules, Sound Table at Gossips, Dean Street, London, UK 1982

Sir Jules’ Sound Table at Gossips, Dean Street, London, 1982

 

George 'Peckings' Price at Peckings Studio 1 shop, 81 Askew Road, London, W12 on 22 October 1984

George ‘Peckings’ Price at Peckings Studio 1 shop, 81 Askew Road, London, 1984

 

Faze1FM from Shout Out

A Faze 1 FM group shot. The soulful pirate station started life in 1987 and was home to both Fabio and Grooverider

 

Faze1 FM

Faze 1 FM’s weekly schedule

 

Daisy Chain

A flyer for Daisy Chain at the Fridge in Brixton. The Fridge was set up by clubland power couple Andrew Czezowski and Susan Carrington in 1981. Today the venue is known as the Brixton Electric

 

Reggae record sleeves on the wall at Dub Vendor, Clapham Junction, London, 1988

Reggae record sleeves on the wall at Dub Vendor, Clapham Junction, London, 1988

 

IBC

A flyer advertising the pirate radio station, the Illegal Broadcasting Company

 

Network 21

A flyer for a party at the Fridge hosted by Network 21, London’s only pirate TV station. ‘It’s a forgotten footnote worth celebrating,’ wrote Alexis Petridis of Network 21. ‘There’s never been arts programming quite as bold on British TV’

 

A flyer for the launch party of WBLS 88.5 FM.

A flyer for the launch party of WBLS 88.5 FM. WBLS was started by rapper Derek B, and had a young Tim Westwood on its roster. But it was short lived, after it buckled under the combined pressure of a rival station breaking into its studio and smashing it up, and a raid from the DTI

 

Kiss FM Written Word

The cover of issue one of Kiss FM’s Written Word magazine

 

Reggae fans in London 1977

A small crowd listening to a sound system at Victoria Park, London, 1980

 

Kiss FM Front

A front cover of Kiss FM’s Written Word, 1989

 

Groove Records on Greek Street, London, 1988

Groove Records on Greek Street, London, 1988

 

Ray's Jazz Shop on Shaftesbury Ave, London, W1, UK 15 December 1988

Ray’s Jazz Shop on Shaftesbury Ave, London, 1988

 

TX Radio Today

An issue of pirate radio magazine TX Radio Today, 1987

 

London Music Radio

A flyer for London Music Radio

 

Rough Trade Records 130 Talbot Road, London, W11, 1984

Rough Trade Records, 130 Talbot Road, London, 1984

 

The Four Aces Club, Dalston, London 1986

The Four Aces Club, Dalston, east London, 1986. Run by Newton Dunbar in a former theatre since the 1960s, the Four Aces incubated UK bass music pioneers such as the Ragga Twins and the Prodigy. It closed down in the late 1990s and the Victorian building was demolished in 2007

 

Kiss FM’s Written Word back cover

Leave a reply