Home Oral History Interview - Keith Mindlinkk

Oral History Interview - Keith Mindlinkk


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Filmed recording of an oral history interview with Keith Mindlinkk, founder of the venue Silent Whispers.

Established in 2000 at a time when the population in Hackney was changing, Silent Whispers in Homerton aimed to maintain an accessible space for young and old members of the local community to socialise and enjoy music. Well known international artists and established local acts performed at the venue which was also used as an audio engineering training centre during the daytime.


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Q. What your name is, when you were born, and where you were born?

KM. My name is Keith McIntosh, I was born in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and I was born in the 1950s. 1959 to be precise.

Q. You were born in St. Vincent, so when did you move here?

KM. I came to England in 1971, the 15 February, we will never forget because it was freezing cold.

Q. What are your early memories of music in St. Vincent?

KM. I came from a very musical family that is known as the best musicians in St. Vincent, a very political family I came from. My great-grandfather was a freedom fighter. He made Vincentians have a vote. Every morning I got up I heard my uncles practicing either the trumpet or the saxophone. It was like a family thing that we all had to learn an instrument. My early days of playing, there was a guitar in the house, but I was left handed so I used to turn it – like learn to play the other way, nothing very serious, I was just into the music and every morning my uncles running through their skills. I went to a private school in St. Vincent which was called the [inaudible] Preparatory School and as they say it was for elites. I didn’t know that.

Q. Were there any opportunities in school? Did you kind of build on your musical education or was that strictly something you did at home with your family?

KM. No. My musical experience for me really started when I came to England.

Q. In 1971?

KM: In 1971. My mother is a very clever person really. To keep me off the streets what she did is she sent me to piano lessons and lots of other activities like that after school, so it kept me away from trouble and kept me off the streets.

Q. Why did you move to Hackney or why did your parents decide to move? What was the motivation?

KM. Well, as I said my family is very influential within my island, even now there is a statue and my great-grandfather George A. McIntosh, which you can google, is a national hero. My mum having me at a very young age, at the age of 15, I mean in those days I will be honest my mum had me from a gardener who was a very black, black man. In those days that was a no-go, right, the colonial stigma and the brainwashing. It was sort of an embarrassment to the family, so what they did was they sent my mother away, kept me, and sent my mother away to England to learn nursing. But later on in life, obviously my mother left me at two months old, but later on in life she wants her son, as you know I got older she wanted her son. My grandmother decided, well it’s time that I came to England and met my mother.

Q. Some people they’d come over here for more opportunities and things and in your case it wasn’t necessary to do that?

KM. It had nothing to do with opportunity, I was chauffer driven to school, I was picked up from school. I had maids that look after me, dress me, feed me, I came from a different background in St. Vincent. The reality was is when I came to England that disappeared.

Q. So explain to me how it was for you coming to England?

KM. Well there is no more chauffer, there is no more maids, you had to go to school, you had to washout the bath, you had to do everything for yourself. I was not accustomed to that. It was difficult at first for me growing up with my mum, very difficult at first.

Q. So you said your musical experience started over here, and that was mainly through classes and things you are saying?

KM. No. My mum sent me to a lady, I will never forget her, her name is Miss Wright. She lived off of Holloway Road. I started learning classical music which I hated, piano. Yeah, Miss Wright. You know sadly she was a very old woman when I was like 12 years old. So that's when I started really getting into music.

Q. Did you have any sense then of what music was like in the UK or in Hackney, within the community? Was there music playing in your home? What was the sense of music not taught music but just the vibes that you're assimilating while you're here?

KM. You know, I like listening to music, but as I say, growing up in St. Vincent the kind of music I was exposed to was like, I don't know if you know these artists, but there were people like King Curtis, right, he was a great saxophonist, American, The Beatles, Sam Cooke, that sort of generation I was exposed to in St. Vincent. But being here, starting to learn music, I started to get exposed to Reggae music because of the pressure at that time as a young man being called a black bastard at school and things like that. I'm dealing with reality now, Reggae was something that was a very cultural music. It was something for my generation to hang on to. It was like a teaching. So I gravitated towards that.

Q. You just mentioned that socially, there was some tensions. Can you explain a bit about how that played out and how that felt for you coming over here from the Caribbean and then you're coming into this racial situation?

KM. Well, let me say this. In the Caribbean, I knew nothing about racism. I knew nothing about colour, people was people, because in my family I have got white people in my family, that is my aunt and my uncle and my great grandfather, great grandfather on my grandmother's side. So I didn't know anything about no racial barrier, really didn't. I was just innocent to everything. But, the second week I was in England, and I was taken to school by, now a great musician, his name is Patrick King (?) one of the great, great musicians, keyboard player. I lived in his mum's house. He took me to school for the first time. And coming from the West Indies, there is a discipline within the school, like for instance if a teacher asks a question, you are to sit there with your hands up and wait till you are nominated to answer the question.

I noticed very quickly the system was different, people “Miss, Miss”, you know, so I just sat there with my hat on, you know what I mean? The mick was taken out of me, cause I didn't know anybody. And to my surprise, one day, this is where it really opened my eyes, a white guy looked at me and say, you black bastard. I couldn't even comprehend at that time what he was saying, but my reaction was to punch him in his face, which I did, right. Which I was sorry for after, but it didn't sound good to me. It just didn't resonate with me. But believe me, I had no idea of the difference between black, white, Chinese, I didn't know no different because in the Caribbean everybody's one.

Q. Did that happen regularly, those kinds of things, the incident you just described?

KM. To be honest, it didn't happen regularly because you know what you start to learn is now you start to move with your own now, you start to gravitate in school to your own like you're Jamaican friends or your Antiguan friends. It was like a segregated trend now. You would be with other black people, other black guys, you know what I mean. So it was like that, although you had white friends, you would say hello to, and you had some genuine white friends. The first school I went to was Archery School when I came here, secondary school, I didn't go to a primary school. I left Archery School in 1972 because my mum moved to Hackney to Pembury Estate. I went on to Upton House School there is where I finished my schooling.

Q. Okay. How was Upton House, what do you remember of Upton House?

KM. Wow, Upton House was a lesson. Upton House was a boys' school. Lot’s of black boys in it. No girls. It was an experience. You had to stand up for yourself. I was never bullied. I was a defender of people, bullying people. I had a very tough time in school because coming from the family I came from, there was a lot of foundation within my principles. I had a very tough time, but later on it became easier as I got into the school and got to know people. I was very popular with teachers because I was the school only boxer. I’ve boxed for Upton House in the ABAs and schoolboy championships. I ran for Upton House, I played football for Upton House, I was very athletic, and cricket. So, teachers gravitated towards my athletic abilities.

Q. At this point, the music is that something that's in the background? Is it something that you're putting more time into, what's happening with the music at that time?

KM. No. At the time, music didn't come into it, music came into it when I met, my mum had a very good friend, Mr. Bailey, who is a legend who just passed away, Father Elroy Bailey. My mum wanted to keep me off the street and I was taking piano lessons, he had a soca band that used to do gigs up the River Thames and for parties and things. She suggested that I should join that band, which I then started to rehearse. I think it was Forburg Road, in a house in a basement of Filey Avenue. It was one of those two in a basement with Elroy father and Elroy was also in that band, that’s where we got our foundation from.

One day Mr. Bailey said to me, “look”, he is very strict, “It’s either you do boxing or you do music, you cannot do both. If you choose boxing, you can't come back to the band.” So I gave up boxing and went full steam into music where I started to get exposed now. After I left Mr Bailey’s band, I joined a band named Bridge Connection that was based in Tottenham. I think I was about, I don’t know about 14 or 15, but I joined the band named Bridge Connection which was based in Tottenham. Elroy joined the band called Black Slate, which went on to have success within the British charts.

Q. What were you playing at the time?

KM. Keyboards, I played keyboards at the time. As we went on, we did gigs like at Trendz, Phoebe's, it was called Phoebe's in my time, All Nations, all the clubs, because there was a lot of clubs in Hackney that catered for live music. I was exposed that way now and became really interested. I met a legend by the name of [inaudible] Collins(?) who got involved with the Bridge Connection band because he had a studio called Nice One at London Bridge. He had studios before that at Caledonian Road pressing plant. He was responsible for putting like 18 to 20 tracks on one album. He was the first man ever to do something like that. He used to come to my mum and got her to let me come out sometimes late at night to come into his studio and do some work and I was exposed that way.

Q. You mentioned the clubs, what it was like going to clubs in Hackney?

KM. It was magnificent. For me, it was magnificent because you was amongst your own people. The entertainment was fantastic. I mean Phoebe's, you know, you saw live artists from Jamaica, there was Shaka used to play downstairs. We were young, and jumping up to the music every Sunday, every Saturday. It was a matter of we're going to All Nations because that's where all the girls went. That is where everybody from Birmingham, wherever, South London, wherever, came to All Nations, because it had three floors and had little booths you can romance with your girlfriend. It was fantastic, it really was, not like today, we had somewhere to go and socialize and we looked forward to going out. We really did.

Q. What would you say were the most important clubs in Hackney? Because it sounds like you're talking about the 1970s. So in the 1970s in Hackney, what were the most important places?

KM. Yeah, I'm talking about the 1970s. The two most famous club that I can clearly remember, obviously it was All Nations. There was other clubs but out the borough, so All Nations, Phoebe's, there was lots of what we call at the time, shebeens, you call them house parties now. Shebeens were fantastic, that was another place where we went and meet and it went until the early hours of the morning. A person who is very famous for that is someone that’s called Chicken [Chicken the Thunderstorm] he’s stringing up at 5, 6 in the morning, 7, 8 in the morning when I'm passing to go to work, he's just stringing up. So that was the only sort of outlet we had at that time for young black people. The older folks, that was older than me, but they're the ones who were really setting up everything. There was St. Mark's Rise, famous shebeen, everybody remembers that. There were quite a few, there was Maxine's on Stoke Newington High Road. As I'm going along, I'm trying to remember them, but there was quite a few clubs. Hackney was the place, at the time for African-Caribbean or West Indians.

Q. More than Brixton?

KM. More than Brixton, and people came from Brixton to rave in Hackney. I'm telling you.

Q. And for somebody who missed out on shebeens, could you describe to me the atmosphere and what it's like?

KM. You don't know what you missed. A shebeen was in a house and it was very dark. Right, so you have your girl in a corner, the music was playing. It's not like now, when you go out with a woman or you went out, you danced with a woman, you went out to dance with a woman. You didn't go out to stand up and talk to your friend. You went out as a group. The reason we went out as groups, I must say, it was a kind of protection for us also. When we did go out, we went out in groups because you had the Royal as well in Tottenham, when you were leaving places like that white guys would pull up in cars and jump out with baseball bats and balls with chain. So we had to walk in groups because it was like a deterrent, but it was fantastic. Shebeens were fantastic. You don't know what you missed. I mean, the young people now don't know what they missed. It was a very loving feeling. We had respect, because there was older people, so we had respect and manners for our older folks. We weren't rude. We didn't like sometimes how they spoke to us, but you maintain that respect, which unfortunately has gone out the window now.

Q. So there's different generations in the same place?

KM. Different generations in the same place. A lot of the older people now who have passed away, was much older than me. I could name a few of them, there was old boy Scorpion, this old boy, many people remember him. There was a man named Jiggsy - very short, played percussion. He was a dancer, the shuffling and, you know? We had also had youth centres that we used to go to like Richmond Road on a Wednesday. It was fantastic because, and then you had the church, is coming back to me on Stoke Newington High Road where they just built a new one. That was like a Friday night, you would pay 10 pence to go in, it was that 20 pence for a drink. We had our own little community. It finished at 11 o'clock because we were young, but we had our own little community where we socialized.

Q. It sounds like I did miss out on them.

KM. You’ve missed out on a lot. There was more love. It's not like now with post code and all this nonsense that is happening now. It was not like that.

Q. Right. But it wasn't without trouble. There was trouble?

KM. There was trouble, of course, you know, I mean, we had our troubles. We had our differences. But, we didn't kill each other. We didn't stab each other. I mean, there was fights where a man will cut you or something like that, but we didn't stab each other and we didn’t kill each other. We knew each other even though, maybe I live in Hackney and other people, Harlesden, Willesden, because we went out of the borough also to rave because a club in Willesden is still there. It's called The Apollo Club from the 1970s, the 1960s, and it's still there to this day. So, we travelled out Ladbroke Grove, Brixton, we travelled out as young people. We weren't like in one area. We socialized, broadly.

Q. And thinking about you, you said that you left Mr Bailey's band, and then you went into Bridge Connection?

KM. Bridge Connection.

Q. So what happened, let’s pick up the story from there.

KM. Right, Bridge Connection. As I said, we just used to play in the local clubs as I said to reiterate, Phoebe's, All Nations, all these clubs, but that band now it took a change. Some of the members left, a few of us stayed, new members came in. We now changed the band name to Mindlink Band. There was lots of bands in Hackney, lots of bands, when we became Mindlink Band we was exposed more to the reggae music and that's what we did anyway, the Jamaican artist. So when they came over it would be British bands that would actually back them. So, I started to play with people which opened my eyes to music, people like John Holt, Ken Boothe, The Abyssinians, Mighty Diamonds, Sugar Minott, Alton Ellis, B.B. Seaton, Owen Gray, the list is long. We went on to sign for an independent record label called Ice Records that was owned by Eddy Grant in [Inaudible 22:53]. He also had a studio named Coach House.

We went on to sign for his label was managed by his brother, Alpine. A few times we played with Eddie as we had gigs in a club called Jivani [23:07] some people remember it. We were regular at Ronnie Scott's. We were situated every Friday, not downstairs, but upstairs. Ronnie Scott's, that was run at the time by a man named Keith. People knew him ‘Rolls Royce’ Keith. We were there every Friday. Eddie would join us on stage now and again. But yeah, we did quite a few backing from artists coming over and British artists so my experience of playing started to pick up.

Q. So why Mindlink, what was behind that name?

KM. There is a few characters in Mindlink, I’m sure you met one of them, Louis, he was the guitarist at the time. I see Louis as a genius, bordering on madness and genius. You have to know him to understand, he is on that boarder. We wanted to have a name that connect with the public, and to link your mind, like I'm doing now with you. We're not just talking, we are linking our minds as well. So we wanted a name that can be linked with people.

Q. Upstairs at Ronnie Scott's, you had the freedom to play a little bit? It's not stuck to jazz upstairs?

KM. No, we played our own music upstairs, because Mindlink was a very creative band. When we did our music, all of our music was original. All our music was arranged and written by us. It was all original. One of them you have heard which is “World affairs” which is relevant to now. Right, so we did our own stuff and people really enjoyed it. They loved it.

Q. Did you play much locally or was it all kind of in West London?

KM. No, just Ronnie Scott's we played. But, when we were doing backing, we went as a whole band, even with our lead singer Hubey we went with our whole band and we would open the show. He would do a couple of songs before the main attraction came on. We played all over England, Birmingham, Manchester, we played all over.

Q. For reggae then, is there like a divide in the industry? Did you have to come to places like Hackney or Harlesden to listen to those reggae acts.

KM. Oh definitely. You have to come to mainly areas that was populated with quite a few Caribbeans at the time, because obviously there was no work outside that. So mostly it's either promotors that employed you, because they brought over artists from Jamaica or wherever and then employed you to back them. So it was mostly black clubs or mostly black promoters. There was a few white promoters, there was a black paper named, Black Echoes, which was very supportive to reggae music, especially a journalist named Penny Reel, a very important man to reggae music and he dedicated his life to writing about reggae music. Very important.

Q. He lives in Hackney?

KM. Penny Reel lives in Hackney. He's a legend in my eyes, Penny Reel. I mean he's ill at the moment, but he contributed, any musician from that time, I'm sure you've heard his name popped up quite a few times because he was prolific in the support of reggae music. The Black Echoes, and it went on to have the Black Echoes Award. So it started to open, so when you had the Black Echoes award, now, it wasn't just black people that came, obviously white people started to get interested. White companies starting to get interested, well what's happening here? Who is the artist? Matumbi got signed to EMI because of, I assume, because of the Black Echoes Award. The first one was kept in Stoke Newington at the time in a place called Astra Cinema, but it's not the Astra, I can't know the name now, it's a mosque now.

Q. Did you go to that awards?

KM. I was there.

Q. What can you remember about it, because it must have been quite an occasion?

KM. Oh, it was fantastic. All the bands, there’s musicians, that was ahead of me. So as a young musician at that time you want to prove yourself. You just want to get on stage and show these other musicians, like Jah Bunny or Jamba (?), who at the time his name was Delroy, he has changed his name. He's played in a lot of Lovers’ Rock and did a lot of sessions. Matumbi, Cimarons all these bands you wanted to associate with as a young musician. They were all in one place, Brown Sugar with Caron Wheeler who went on to sing with Soul II Soul. She was in a female group called Brown Sugar, really good female group. Then after a while, we realized we needed an outlet, so we went on to set up an agency called Knightsight Agency (?) in Clapton, above Mr. Meyers (?) . At that time an artist who was very popular at the time, our first artist on the agency, which we were shocked, and gave us money to go around and book clubs for promotion was Errol Dunkley.

Q. Okay. So it was an artist’s agency?

KM. That was our first artist. Yeah.

Q. So who else was on the agency?

KM. Obviously ourselves, there was local singers. I remember Lyn Gerald, she still singing, she was on that agency. I remembered there's a few of them, they can't come to mind now, will probably later on, but there was a few people signed to Knightsight Agency (?).

Q. So your character as an organiser is starting to come out now there?

KM. It’s starting to come out now.

Q. So you've got a band and you've got an agency. So how do things progress from there? Did you carry on playing music or you get into more the organisation behind the scenes of the industry?

KM. No. We carried on playing music. I mean, I remember doing just myself and Lynn got a booking at, Clapton Pond right next to Dougies, that pub there -- forgot the name of it now -- White Hart, it was called the White Hart at the time.

Q. The one that came to be Chimes, isn’t it?

KH. The one that came to be Chimes, it was called the White Hart. So myself and Lynn got a booking there, and I went there with just my Fender Rhodes and Lynn on vocal. It was still a way of being active musically, it's just the agency so we can create work for ourselves as well.

Q. Okay. Was it mainly local or did you go all over?
KM. We went all over, but localised, but we went all over playing music.

Q. It sounded like you were involved in organising for youth and also organising for the nightlife around Hackney. How do those things begin?

KM. Well let's put it this way, you said you spoke to Alan, right. Alan reminded me the other day, because we all went to school together, and from the time I was 12, 13 years old I always told Alan I'm going to have my own club, which he reminded me the other day. He said from a little boy, you always said that and whatever you said you have done. But, as I got older I got more involved in a community kind of settings now working with young people; there was Roots Pool, there was Triangle, there was quite a few centres that I was now actually on the committee and trying to do things for the younger people under me, now.

Q. Can we talk a little bit about that then? How does that kind of develop in Hackney? It sounds like there was a time when there was a few of those places that came up within a similar timeframe. What can you remember of the context of how that came about? What do you recall of it?

KM. Well, what I recall of like, if we're going to start with Triangle for instance -

Q. What decade are we in now?

KM. We’re in the decade now of the late 1970s going into the 1980s. Triangle started in a house in Colvestone Crescent, I believe in Stoke Newington, where other young people -they had opportunities that I did not at the time because in there you had musical equipment, drums and bands were formed from there. Bands like Cruise were formed from that setting. It was a place to socialize as well for younger people, which now if you notice young people has no way to socialize. You had a lot of youth centres where we could have gone and socialise, did activities, right, we were off the street. There's none of that now. Then you had Roots Pool that really came off of the street, Roots Pool, because it was like a frontline on Sandringham Road, in a house that was being squatted in as a little community centre. There’s a man, he’s still around, his name is Brownie who was in the frontline. I think the lady who worked for Hackney Council at the time, her name was Jane, and she came on there, and she was saying, look, if you guys get yourself together and get a committee, you can do things. Then you had Dalston Community Centre, right.

Which was run by white people, just off of Sandringham Road where the synagogue was. We could have gone there, but we felt it weren't accessible to us at the time. Anyway, what we decided to do is, when they have the AGM that become members and when they had the AGM is to overthrow them. That's what we did at the AGM, so now we became the committee. We started the campaign and we got the synagogue and then Hackney Council became involved. They gave funding for wages for senior coordinator, manager, secretary. They gave us money for equipment. We had a full studio. We had a stage where we could perform. We did many things.

Q. What was the purpose of Roots Pool as you saw it at the time?

KM. The purpose of Roots Pool as I saw it at the time with the energy of Mr. Collins and a young man at the time named Mikey, we knew him as Bill Trojan, because at that time cannabis was fully illegal, and at that time really it was to get people off the street, offer them a place where they can go and socialize. And for musicians it was like a dream come true, we have a studio now that we can go into that's not going to cost us. That was a dream.

Q. So was that a barrier then, studio fees and things were they high at the time?

KM. It was very difficult. I mean the studio fees, when Mindlink went into the studio, you had Mark Angelo and you had Easy Street in these studios, which was like £30 an hour. But £30 an hour! In those days £30 was a lot of money. So within the band you have to put a few pence down to save, we had to book at least 10 hours if you're going to do something sensible. It was about saving to book the studio. £30 an hour, you may say, oh that’s nothing now, but it was a big deal at that time because if you consider I was working 40 hours for £18.

Q. Wow. So that's a lot of work?

KM. Well £18 was a lot of money, at that time. That paid my rent, that bought my food and that took me out. It was a lot of money. I mean, bus fares was 1p.

Q. So then Roots Pool, so it made music making more accessible then you are saying?

KM. Yes, it was more accessible. It was a place to socialise. It was also a place when the artists came from Jamaica it was a place where they can come and you can connect with them.

Q. So it wasn’t just a “community thing”, you are saying there are people, big artists that came in, right?

KM. Not just big artists, we had government officials visit us like at the time the Archbishop of Canterbury, we had ministers visit us from parliament. It was serious because what we were trying to do is create a community without tension at the time, because obviously we were all on the road and you have neighbours. And you know at that time you have a lot of black people getting on the road, the neighbours, it's like, I mean we weren't afraid but it was seemed to be like anywhere black people are gathered it's afraid. You know what I mean which it wasn't really because we were very friendly, good morning, hello, the way we were brought up, as Caribbeans you're brought up to say good morning and good evening.

Q. From that story there, it sounds also that you started to understand how the administration aspect works because you were saying you went to the AGM and you did a coup?

KM. Yes it was a coup really, it was really. But it was a legal coup because it was done by votes, remember it wasn’t a coup that you go in and take over with an army, it was a matter of becoming a member and then you have your AGM, your Annual General Meeting where everyone has to stand down so started to learn now. And then you nominate a person and it was based on a vote, so obviously I started to learn the ins and outs of community work and committees.

Q. But you’re still working within Triangle and Roots Pool?

KM. Yeah, we're still working within Triangle, Roots Pool and Mellow Mix. Mellow Mix is still here and Mellow Mix has been there like for 20 odd years. Mellow Mix used to put on award show at Ocean, I was actually on the committee for Ocean. I was one of the campaigners to turn that library into a venue, Ocean. I must say, talking about Ocean, I'm very saddened to what the council did with Ocean. It’s not just the council, the neighbours protesting, that Ocean was one of the most high tech venues in Europe, in Europe! We had this venue in Hackney where people like Dionne Warwick and Parliament and all these big artists came to, but obviously there were complaints from neighbours. The council, again, Hackney Council who I am very disappointed with, I have been involved with Hackney Council for many years, I'm not saying everybody in Hackney Council is bad, but you had some terrible characters within Hackney Council.

Q. So you're saying that the council led to the demise of the Ocean?

KM. The council led to the demise of the Ocean in my opinion because of, I can't remember the guy who was in charge, you mentioned his name, I'm not going to mention his name, but you know who I'm talking about. Ocean could not count for 20 odd million, my problem was if that was a black run thing, somebody would go to jail, all that was swept under the carpet we demonstrated outside Hackney Town Hall for we didn't want Ocean to close, all that was swept under the carpet. Hackney Council listened to nobody and turned it into a cinema. I don't even know if that cinema is profitable now because I hardly see anybody going in there. The Ocean was a venue where we were able to put on events. I put on events there with an international artist called Fred Locks. I did it on a community basis. They didn't charge me the world because it was part of community work and bringing culture to Hackney. So Ocean is greatly missed.

Q. Now that the Ocean is gone, not now, not today, but when Ocean went, so what were the other opportunities. Is that what led you to form the committee that you formed, the group, the organisation you formed?

KM. No. What happened now, we had an organisation called Art Foundation in Clarence Road in Clarence Mews which at the time was run by a man named Brenton. He is still around. He's still got a centre for his self now. I joined that centre. They didn't have a committee at the time, so I formed the committee. I said, look, if we're going to apply for funding, we need to be serious, we need to have a committee, we need to start with a chair, secretary and a treasurer. We need to have members and we need to hold Annual General Meetings, which I started to understand now the politics of community work, which we did. We now had a centre now, I initiated a few things like contracts with renew deal, and the unemployment office. We were running a sound engineering course for young people and for old. We had age group right from 18 to this, from 20 to this, and from 30 to 65. We had different age groups coming in. The equipment was from Rising Tide because Ocean was not finished yet and Rising Tide was not finished, but all this equipment was ordered. So what I did is, I made a deal with one of Ocean’s coordinator, Rising Tide’s coordinator, Gabby, who I'm sure you know, which they agreed that we can use this equipment until Rising Tide is completed. So by having all this equipment, we were able now to go and look funding with other independent bodies and at that time it was a very small place and we had 70 to 100 people coming a day.

Q. When was that again?

KM. This was like 1998, 1997 or 1998 the location was off Clarence Road, Clarence Mews, and then the building was sold off. We all split up. Well, we were split up, but the three of us- I was the secretary, Brenton was the chair and Eddie I think was the treasurer, he's passed away -we decided to look for a building. Well, I found this building in Hamilton Sedgwick Street. It was a derelict building, completely derelict. The three of us went and looked at it. My other two partners were thinking it was too big and so got them scared, but I was determined. I got a little funding, I got a little help from the person who bought the previous building, so I was able to build up some rooms, clean up the building, build up some rooms and take the classes I was doing from the day now.
So I still had Ocean’s, Rising Tide’s equipment. As we went along, the money we got from renew deal, we developed the building. We had 70 young people a day come through. We had 100% pass rate in City & Guilds Sound Engineering. We just didn't saw a focus in that, we had a day for job search. We had a day where we sat down and spoke to young people about, what you want to do in the future. People who left the centre, the door was always open for them to come back if they needed help, or needed to talk to anybody, because we didn't want to see young people getting into problems. You know what I mean, I see them now, nowadays they’re like 30 odd going 40 now and they’re still telling me thank you. As I walk up every day, people are saying, why don't you open your next Silent Whispers?

Q. At the time when you're doing the classes, was it already called Silent Whispers?

KM. No, it was registered by Company House as Sounds Good Multimedia. Silent Whispers only came about when we renewed the lost contract. So obviously we lost so we had no income now to sustain the building rent rates, whatever. It was suggested by a partner, we should turn it into a club. So the name came up and it was called Silent Whispers.

Q. Why did you call it that? Where did it come from?

KM. It was suggested by a lady named Elaine Paul up to this day I haven't asked her why, but I just liked the sound of the name, Silent Whispers so we went with that. She was very instrumental in the community. She won awards for her work within the community. What we did is now, we linked with young offenders, we bought the material, but young offenders, they came and paint the whole place, and they loved it because it was a way of them getting away and being there. People of community work we linked with them and they came, so the community really build, paint, and build that place. And Silent Whispers, it was like a place for the people because it's one place where they can come and see international artists for £10.

The price never moved. We had things in place, anybody who is 65 they didn't have to pay to come in. Anybody who is 65, if our drink was £3, they will pay £2. We had policies in place for people who have served their time within the community, but I must say on record there's always a campaign against black organisations, right. This is Hackney Council too; they were horrible people because they didn't want to fund us. I lost two homes trying to keep that centre alive. There was a campaign from certain police officers who didn't want to see the centre being funded. We went and we got a drink licence, we had the best licence in Hackney, we had a late licence, we had the gaming licence, we had the best licence in Hackney. We were always fought against until eventually we had to close.

I made the decision to close in 2010 because I could not sustain any more financially and there was problems happening. But yeah, there was a campaign against that building and there’s always been a campaign, if I am honest against black organisations in the community that always tried to do something in the community. It was difficult getting funding from Hackney Council, the Arts Council or whoever, you have to jump through too much hoops.

Q. Why do you think they didn’t

KM. Look, we are born in this world, we don’t know nothing about racism when we're babies, we know nothing about violence, we know nothing about hate towards anybody. But as we get older, we start to develop. I’m telling you there was a lot of racism within Hackney Council because I worked for them for 19 years for Hackney Social Services. I experienced this personally for myself. The councillors, when we went for our license councillors are ridiculous, they never go in the community and visit the community to see what is actually happening in the community. When we applied for our planning, I got a letter from the director of planning to support our planning, but yet there were councillors sat in front of me, where you had an objection to the licence, which you allow to. And a lady came into court and objected against it, and there were councillors sitting there saying, “oh, I am concerned.” I am concerned, because you have never come to the building, you have never spoken to me, you don't know where the building is, you only sitting there because the licensing has come up. How fair is that? You are a councillor. You need to connect with people. You need to get out there and see the community and see the people that need help within the community.
I mean man, is it Reading Lane where the council now? let me say this on camera, Hackney Council spent a lot of money on customer service I know that. The customer service right now is disgraceful. The training, the way people behave, the lies they tell, it's in a shambles to me. It’s in a big shambles. Hackney Council need to be reviewed. It really does. The way they do things, and you got a lot of people in Hackney Council who have been working there for like 40 years, 30 years, old school, they’re not prepared to change and move with times.

Q. And you’ve experienced that because you’ve worked there. Have we come now to the point where you decided to form that alliance of the performers in the clubs or we're not there yet because you were talking about Silent Whispers and a campaign to close it, you’re saying?

KM. Right. What happened is now, when that campaign started and I was being pressured by the police and noise pollution and once I put in for my licence, I decided that I couldn't fight them by myself. So I went around to the few black clubs there was Visions up the road, few black clubs, there was the club watch and there was the pub watch. I attended a couple of the club watch meetings which was attended by Hackney Council and the licensing police but that soon, that was like abandoned. When the people who were running that and showed real interest left, it was sort of abandoned. But what they left was a constitution that was written by the police and Hackney Council. So what I did now, I took it up now and called it the club watch and took up that constitution and went around to the few black clubs that was left. And I said, listen, have you been getting this from the police? And you say, yes, yes, this sergeant came, and I said, well, what we need to do, we need to form a committee, right?
So it started off as the club watch, but as we went along, it was suggested by another person in Hackney who has had a lot of wars with Hackney Council. His name is Dr. Adoo, I don’t know if you’ve heard of this man. This is a very powerful man, you need to interview him, Dr. Adoo. It was suggested by a few members, you have the Turkish community, you have the Indian, why don't we call it the Hackney Black Entertainment Network. It didn't mean that other people couldn’t come, It didn't matter what colour you are, as long as you had a club you could have attended it. But we wanted this name because we're not useless, we want to show that we stand for something. Anyway, it was named the Hackney Black Entertainment Network which was attended by people from sound systems, DJs, musicians, SIA club members, because they had the same problem.
So we met once a month with the police, Hackney Council. We would arrange meeting with people from the SIA. We would arrange meeting with noise pollution. So we basically solved what problems there was in the black community clubs, in that meeting. It was good too because you had everybody under one roof. So if there was a problem with the police ,or problem with Hackney Council, or problem with licensing, it would be discussed. Now it went on for about four years or five years, a lot of licence came out of it because when licence was applied for, it was just there. We would say to the police if you have any objection, say it now. Hackney Council, if you have objections, we have the forum, say it now, right. So everything was minuted. Visions was able to get a 6 o'clock licence, we were able to get our licence because of the committee.
But there was still a fight from authorities. So, I decided one year we're going to have a seminar and we're going to give out awards, cups and things like that which was paid for by Eddie of Visions. He spent over a £1,000 buying trophies and things like this. The licensing office, they still got it in their office, they were given an award for their attendance because they always attended. David Tuitt of Hackney licensing, he’s still there, was given an award. Jimmy Magic, everybody was given an award who attended the meeting. It was like a morale building program. But where it went wrong now, as soon as all these people got their licence or everything was on a level, they stopped coming to the meeting and they started, what happened is there is a club up the road, I can't remember, just up there. They attended the meeting once. It was black people and decided they’re going to set up their own thing, which is still running now.

Now Hackney Council funded that with leaflets, every single thing they funded. We had to pay for our own administration, our own paperwork, everything. And Hackney Council funded that organisation, which is still running up today, that's called the club watch or the pub watch now.

Q. Why do you think they funded them and not you?

KM. To be honest, this mentality, you know that I can't figure out. If you're black, get back. You understand me. I can't figure it out. But it's like black organisations, they have the most pressure for anybody to listen or even try to fund it, which is helping the community.


Q. We were just talking about the Hackney Black Entertainment Network, is that what it is called?

KM. Yes.

Q. You were talking about the police, you were talking about the different pressures that the black club owner in Hackney face. What is the typical pressures that a black club owner faces?

KM. The typical pressures we faced, they would turn up at your club obviously they have a right, but they would turn up at your club and intimidate you. It weren’t you’re coming to make sure everything is running, it was more an intimidation. It weren’t one or two and the way they marched into your club, right. Sometimes you would apply for like temps, temporary event notices, they would turn it down on the basis of some stupid reason like how are you going to line up the people, stupid excuses. The same with Hackney Council, they would turn down your temporary event notice on some petty, real petty excuse.

No, I understand that the licensing office within the police and the council is very small to the amount of clubs there are, and I know they can’t get around to every club, so what they’d do is, they will turn this and turn that down, especially the TENs the temporary event, that’s the pressure because you’ve promoted your dance, you’ve put in for your TEN and they turn it down, you can’t have it, you’ve lost your money. That’s a pressure. It is the same with Hackney Council.

Now, look, when you put in for license, the council send out letters to people, it only take one person within the community to object and it has to go to committee. Now, how fair is that? You know if 99 people didn’t object and one person object, it has to go to committee. Now how stupid or how fair is that, isn’t that pressure?

Q. That is but then that’s just an example isn’t that the same for everybody, black or white?

KM. It’s the same for everybody, but what you’ve got to remember when I was at Silent Whispers for seven years doing what I’m doing before I applied for a license, before I applied for a license I had no complaints to the council, no complaints to the police. As soon as I applied for a license then the objection started. I had one woman who was like not too far from where the Silent Whispers was, she came into the chambers and she was saying, she is worried because of her little children. I said to her what do you mean. Silent Whispers finish at 5 o’clock in the morning 6 o’clock, what are your children doing at that time in the morning, you have little five or six-year olds, they would be accompanied. I blatantly told the committee she’s racist, I blatantly told them. I said, come on I’ve been there seven years and this woman has never complained. And as soon as I tried to do things in a legal manner, she’s complaining, she is racist. She went so far right.

I won my case within the chambers. She went so far. It’s comical. She went so far that the final day she brought a black person with her into the chambers. That black person being with you because I’ve accused her of being racist, come on I know black people don’t know their selves. Do you understand me? I know a lot of black people don’t know their self. She would be on your side because you’ve brainwashed her, she does not understand what you are doing to our people. So this is where all the pressure these pressure as I say, the police, they would just turn up at your club, “the noise too noisy. You’re going to turn off, now ain’t you.” I’ve had police talk to me like that and the people I’ve got, I’ve got a country and western dance in my club and there’s all big people, and they’ve come in there, people are drinking their tea and “you’re going to finish now”, no because I stood up to them.

Believe me I weren’t afraid of them or Hackney Council because I believe in talking the truth. The police are too wicked. When it came to black clubs and licensing, they were too wicked, the same with Hackney Council. I mean how much black clubs you’ve got on this high road, there used to be all black clubs. They used to be black businesses. Is there any now?

Q. Very few.

KM. So how do you think that happened? They have achieved what they wanted to achieve. Hackney Council and the police, a lot of counsellors need to see this interview. You need to get real. You need to come out on the street and meet people. You cannot sit in an office and make a decision, just like you’ve made a decision with licensing how can you do that, because it doesn’t affect them, does it? And who drinks more than some counsellors. I know counsellors that are bloody alcoholic. Do you understand. They’re wine-heads and they’re sitting on the team in the chambers deciding on whether you should get a license. It’s amazing. It’s amazing. It really is.

Q. So when did you start Silent Whispers? What was the date?

KM. 2000

Q. When did Silent Whispers finish?

KM. Silent whispers closed in November 2009. It was nine years of pressure.

Q. So since then, what have you been doing in the interim? Have you still been involved in music?

KM. Of course. I’ve just come back from tour. I mean I play with people like Joyce Sims from America because I play different genres of music. I’ve just come back from Reggae Geel in Belgium. I’ve done Glastonbury, and Dawn Penn, I’m Dawn Penn musical director at the moment. So yeah, I’m still very much active within the music, but in my everyday life I am constantly being asked when are you going to start the next Silent Whispers? Because Silent Whispers was like for older people and as I see it was the only place they can actually come and see a live international artist for £10.

Q. What are the barriers for you to set up something like that in Hackney? Are you still based in Hackney?

KM. Of course I’ve always lived in Hackney.

Q. What are the barriers to you doing that now?

KM. The barriers for me doing that, one I’ve got to find a suitable building with not too many neighbours around because you have to think of noise pollution and obviously people’s privacy.

Q. Is that difficult now? Is it more difficult?

KM. No, I’ve seen a couple of buildings. The difficult is the rent, the funding getting the rent to pay because rent has shot up ,so that’s where the difficulty is now. Do you understand? I mean Hackney Council should be looking to fund things like that, because there’s no way for people like my age group now. I mean I’m 50 odd now, 59 I’m not afraid to say and you talk to anybody that’s 59 and up, there’s no where for us to go.

I’m not a pub man. I don’t go to the pub and drink. This is why the councillors need to see, when we talk about violence, black clubs was always stigmatised about violence. No, there were one or two idiots who caused problem. Let’s talk about English people now: You go out, you drink, you get drunk, you vomit up the place, you piss up all the place within Hackney, you fight, and you put glass into people’s face, but yet you will get a license, this need to go on the record. Who are the people that are causing these problems within the borough? Which ethnicity that is causing these? But you’re going to turn to me at 11 o’clock, you’re going to say you stop giving license. So even if I wanted to open a club in Hackney, it’s going to be a fight.

Q. Is there anything that I should have asked you and haven’t asked or anything else that you’d like to say?

KM. Well, I’d like to say, Hackney have some of the most talented and vibrant musicians that we are not catering for. Believe me, some of the best musicians in England has come out of Hackney: Alan Weekess, Winston Reedy, Light of the World, Paul Todds, Mindlink, Bob Marley guitarist, Junior Mervin, he went to Brookhouse. He went to Brookhouse School. There’s many, many, many musicians and singers, Ginger Williams, as I’m going along, but believe me, they need to do something where artists like this can, Rupie Edwards, come and work, perform because people want to see them and Silent Whispers was the only place, the only place where people can come and spin a £10 and come and see like five, six artists in the same night on the same stage.

Q. All right Keith McIntosh. Thank you very much. Thank you.

KM. I’d like to thank you very much for playing an interest, but I’d also like to insist that counsellors need to see some of these interviews. They really do. It’s the only way things can be changed. They need to hear the voice of people who have been working in this community. I’ve been working in this community for over 30 odd years. I see people get CBE and MBE. What did they do? But that’s the way of the world so thank you very much for inviting me.