[Insert the name of your favourite Ska track here]

I am pleased to say the Heritage of Ska launch party which I have been supporting went ahead on Friday and was a great success. I’ve posted a few videos of performances from the night on our Heritage of Ska Facebook page and will be posting photos from the night later this week, just as soon as I’ve had a chance to sort through them all. For now, though, I would like to highlight one of the most pleasing aspects of my involvement with Heritage of Ska, namely the lively conversation we’ve been able to strike up with fans of music in the run-up to the event. I hope that as we continue to develop Heritage of Ska we can grow and deepen this conversation so that future events more closely reflect what music fans want to see (and hear).

In the week or so running up to the Heritage of Ska launch party I started to ask people via our Twitter acccount (@HeritageofSkaUK) what their favourite Ska track was. I even started using the hash tag, #favouriteskatrack, with a view to getting a wider audience to contribute to the discussion. Initially, my reason for asking this question was one of simple variety. As the person in charge of Heritage of Ska’s Twitter account I had become rather bored of endlessly broadcasting to anyone who would listen (and no doubt a fair few that wouldn’t)  the fact that our event was taking place and, yes, exceptionally good value tickets were still available. After asking the question, however, I soon discovered I had succeeded in opening up a more playful, conversational form of engagement which we could hopefully use to develop interest in and support for Heritage of Ska.

To get things started, I put forward one of my favourite Ska tracks:

This seemed to be spark interest, particularly after I re-tweeted the message from my individual Twitter account (@francisclarke). In under an hour we had received our first reply, this time from Paul Evans, founder of Political Innovation, an project that puts on events looking at how new technology and other forms of innovation can support a more conversational form of Politics. I’d been in touch with Paul before and already knew he was an old school Dub fan. What I didn’t know, however, was that he he also had a deep appreciation of Ska.

I duly re-tweeted Paul’s nomination and, within the space of a few hours, had received another recommendation. This time the recommendation came from the legendary UK independent record label Cherry Red . Some of you geeks out there might recall that Cherry Red put out records by Pulp before they signed to Island and broke through into the mainstream. It turns out, however, that Cherry Red also re-release a lot of older music, including Ska. They recommended the late Laurel Aitken, a Jamaican singer who acquired the nickname as ‘The Godfather of Ska’ and was recorded by the legendary producer Duke Reid, with backing from the Skatalites. Unfortunately, Cherry Red chose simply to send a link to one of Laurel’s albums that they stocked rather than suggest an individual track but, still, it was more rewarding than the fairly limited response I’d received when on old fashioned broadcast mode.

As far as Twitter conversations go, I felt we were on a bit of a roll. My admittedly rather bold self-belief was duly rewarded when Brixton Buzz, an excellent online events listing magazine, chipped in with another recommendation. Their recommendation built on Cherry Red’s and was by Girlie and Laurel Aitken. The cherry on top (to keep the cherry theme going) was the fact that their track even had Brixton in the title. Clearly, the people behind Brixton Buzz had put some thought into their reply.

Keeping the conversation going

In the subsequent days leading up to the event I sought to keep the conversation going by sending out different Ska tracks to spark interest and discussion. My suggestions ranged from second wave Ska bands such as The Specials right up to the American Pie-era American Ska-Punk scene of Less Than Jake. While we did not receive any more song recommendations I still believe the approach I took helped produce a more relaxed and fun form of engagement, which hopefully encouraged more people to attend Friday’s launch event. I’m proud of the fact that our first Heritage of Ska event was picked up by a wider audience than might otherwise have been expected. Now the challenge will be to sustain that audience and attract new more people to future events. I am sure a more conversational more of social media engagement will play an important role in developing Heritage of Ska.


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