Break dancing started in the Windmill Lane Community centre in Smethwick in late 1982, when local kids who had been robot dancing to Kraftwerk and The Jonzun Crew were now tuned in to the sound of The Projects in New York and dancing to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Then in 1983 The Rock Steady Crew came along. Jubilee had been invited to help organise a festival in 1983 to launch a newly built community centre – it was classic old school community arts, with processions, dressing up in all manner of home made costumes, puppets, a few fireworks and smoke bombs, an abundance of balloons and silver foil, fine African drummers, pantomime horses, a kazoo band and so on. There were some young lads hanging around, a little too cool to join in. At the end of the festival they came up and said, ‘Ok, we seen what you can do. This is what we can do.’ And in a tiny backroom demonstrated their head spins, hand glides and windmills. Wow! There were hundreds of windmills around Windmill Lane at this time.
They called themselves The Crazy Spades AKA Smethwick Spades. Jubilee talked about how they might work together. (It probably helped that some Jubilee staff had the original 12 inch singles by Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force.) At first the group just wanted to film their moves, to play back and critique. Then they asked for help in getting access to a proper dance studio with floor to floor mirrors – Menzies High School in West Bromwich finally obliged. They joined in with music workshops and a magnificent May Day fireshow project (with, yes, a 20 foot high breaking puppet involved) and finally they worked on a beautiful 50 minute break dance ballet, which involved choreographing up to forty dancers of varying skills and motivation. They also ran dance sessions at the Community Celebrations across the borough. It was fun while it lasted, with some bizarre adventures at events in Covent Garden, at Castlefield Festival, Manchester, and at the long gone all-dayers and all-nighters at the Hummingbird Club. Two of them, Mac and Franklin joined the management committee of Jubilee for a few years – ‘to see how you get things organised…’
The image of Mac and Desmond is from the self-portrait booth at Triangle Arts Festival in Birmingham, 1984 – a national youth arts event which the Crazy Spades performed at. You’ll find out more information in the ‘Youth Matters’ section of this web site.