West Bromwich, 1982

A Christmas party fundraising event (for a charity working with people with disabilities) was transformed into an electro party when a group of break dancers from Smethwick turned up and introduced the audience to some new sounds and moves. The Smethwick Spades AKA Crazy Spades had a shifting membership of some 40 youngsters. They had been observers of the opening celebration event of the new Windmill Lane Community Centre that September, the festivities organised with Jubilee Arts. They watched the activities of the play bus, the parade, the puppets,  the makeshift costumes and the scratch band with apparent cool distance. In the evening they invited some Jubilee staffers to a back room and simply said, “We’ve seen what you do, this is what we do” and proceeded to dazzle with windmills, headpins and various gymnastic moves the name of which we knew not.

They then asked how they might work together with Jubilee. What they really wanted to know about was how to gain the organisational skills for putting on an event and how they could get to use a proper dance studio ‘with mirrors’. With good school links, Jubilee facilitated free access to the studio at Menzies High School in West Bromwich. The group went onto to produce their own ‘break dance ballet’ in 1984, which told the story of a day in the life of a young person on the streets of Smethwick in the early 80s, the dancers performing to a backdrop of two screens onto which film and stills were projected, with pre-recorded beats, accompanied by two live musicians, Chris Jones and Jow Crow.  It was then performed at youth festivals in Birmingham, Newcastle and London. Two of the group also ended up as youth reps on the Jubilee management committee, including Mac (pictured here taking control of the decks) and a group of them went on to become sessional summer workers using their skills for community celebration events. Mac went on to be a martial arts champion, and celebrity bodyguard (if that’s the correct way to describe it), among many other things that utilised his talents.

In the DJ box on the bottom left you can just see the cover of a single by The Circles, a mod revival band from Wolverhampton, who released three singles on local label Graduate Records (Graduate also hosted the first UB40 recordings). As for the cut being selected, it could well be something like Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa or maybe The Message, by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, two of their favourites.