The Real Kool Keith and Forest Hilll’s Hidden Reggae Roots

Keith Lawrence (furthest right), alongside Daddy Ranks (left) and Mistah Brown Selector (middle) at Roots of Reggae launch, December 2011

I had originally intended to use this week’s post simply to update you on a couple of recent developments with Roots of Reggae as well as the Heritage of Ska Festival I am supporting. However, a most unexpected occurrence in one of my day job projects for thinkpublic has meant that a project visit to a hospital in Weston Super-Mare that was due to run from Wednesday afternoon to Friday  night has been cancelled at short notice (for the low down on what happened, check my Twitter post here. This means I suddenly find myself with some time on my hands. And what better response is there than to designate this week aim for this week as a ‘double blog special’? This means I’ll be following up tonight’s post with another post before the weekend is upon us. Oh yes.

I’d like to use this evening’s blog to highlight a couple of recent discoveries that have brightened up my week and will hopefully do the same for you.

Vote for Keith Lawrence

On Tuesday I was pleased to hear that Keith Lawrence has been nominated for ‘Best Male Community Radio DJ’ in the British Reggae Industry Awards. Keith you may remember is a great supporter of Roots of Reggae and played an amazing selection of vintage reggae at December’s launch event. Keith has a weekly Reggae show on Colourful Radio.  He also regularly DJs live in Brixton and beyond and even fines time to produce riddims for UK hop hop artists such Black Twang and Rodney P. Keith is a top bloke and both his radio show and live sets come highly recommended.

If you’ve haven’t done so already, I strongly recommend you vote for Keith. You can do so by clicking here.

Listen to Keith’s show on Colourful Radio Wednesday, 9 pm – 12 midnight on  DAB (London only).  You can also listen live and catch up online at Colourful Radio.

It’s great to see Keith getting recognition for his work. I’m also pleased to see people working together to raise the profile of Reggae music. Please do spread the word about Keith’s nomination and help grow the audience for future Roots of Reggae events!

The Roots of Reggae in Forest Hill

Forest Hill: junction on the South Circular or home of Reggae?

I  found myself away from London last weekend and when I got back on Sunday night one of the first things I heard about was the sad news of the shooting that took place in Forest Hill (my home neighbourhood) in the early hours of Sunday morning. Whatever the circumstances surrounding the shooting, I felt sorry for all those caught up in the incident and for my neighbours who are now feeling understandably anxious about what’s going on in the area where they live.

Since hearing the news on Sunday I’ve been feeling pretty down about Forest Hill and my local area, which isn’t exactly a well-known part of London, is now being primarily talked about in relation to crime.  I am pleased to say listening to Keith’s radio show today on catch up not only lifted my mood, it also led to an exciting discovery about Forest Hill’s connection with Reggae.

About half an hour or so into last week’s show Keith played a British Reggae song from the 1980s called ‘don’t touch this style’. The song is by Joseph Cotton and I found out it came off of a forthcoming compilation album called Fashion Records in Fine Style. So far, so normal. After all, I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for 1980s British Reggae, which I put down to hearing Roots Manuva’s Back to Mine album many years ago. Intrigued, I Googled Fashion Records and called up its Wikipedia page. From this I found out that not only had Fashion Records recorded the legendary Smiley Culture, in the late 1980s its main recording studio, A-Class Studios, was based in Forest Hill.

Given Forest Hill is more often than not viewed by people as little more than a hectic junction on the South Circular, discovering my neighbourhood has some serious Reggae roots is a big deal. I’m keen to find out where A-Class Studios was based and to spread the word about Forest Hill’s Reggae heritage. Do you have any stories you’d like to share about Forest Hill’s connection with Reggae? If so, get in touch and I’ll do my best to make sure people know there’s more to Forest Hill than the Horniman Museum and traffic congestion.


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