Over 22–23 July, CAAT organised a full weekend of workshops, speakers, training and performance to build resistance to the arms trade. On the Saturday evening, over 260 people attended Dance To Disarm: a night of live music, DJs and spoken word to raise funds for CAAT and build solidarity through music. Below, long-time CAAT supporter Alastair Binnie-Lubbock gives his reflections on the evening.
After the first full-on day of engaging workshops at the It Starts Here weekend, where campaigners got together to plot the shutting-down of London’s DSEI Arms Fair, the Dance to Disarm gig at Shoreditch’s Rich Mix was a great way to let off steam while keeping the anti-arms energy going.
Stop the Arms Fair campaigners come from all walks of life so the night was an excellent and all too rare opportunity to socialise as a group, and to welcome others who just came to be entertained. Oh and what entertainment!
First off was the spoken word of Mizan the Poet who explained how he’d got involved in Campaign Against Arms Trade’s London group after reading the book ‘Shadow World’ by Andrew Feinstein, which has now been turned into a film. His powerful poetry took aim at the Iraq War (‘Shock and Awe‘), the government’s ‘anti-terror’ Prevent programme (‘1984′) and the proliferation of child soldiers (‘Stolen’).
Then Camden-based rapper Awate came to the stage, dropping powerful social commentary with tracks like ‘Out here‘ and ‘Uncontrollable Dopeness‘. Brimming with sharp lyrics and on-point sentiments, he interspersed his tracks with humorous asides and insights into his life as a refugee and a young black man living in London. The crowd went wild as he prompted: “If you hate arms dealers and property developers make some noise!”
Along with being some of the most politically-conscious hip-hop you’re likely to hear on a night out, both Awate and Logic (who was next up) got the people bouncing with their hands in the air. Logic is a stalwart of positive conscious hip-hop collective People’s Army and wowed the audience with tracks like ‘Spectator‘ about the Israeli occupation of Palestine and ‘Question Everything‘ which could be the song for our ‘Fake News’ times.
The set also featured one or two intimate acapella verses and a guest spot from People’s Army stablemate Big Cakes. Backing them up was DJ Harry Metcalfe from Ghostwriterz bringing some hard-hitting beats. For his finale, Logic got everyone dancing and singing along to the anthemic chorus of his version of Madcon’s classic ‘Beggin’.
Keeping the people bouncing and thinking, Ninja Tune Records founders Jon & Matt (also known as Coldcut) took to the stage with some heavy basslines and psychedelic visuals, including dissolving tanks and machine guns, and some great photos from past Stop the Arms Fair direct actions. Their set spanned everything from disco and jazz to breakbeat and jungle. One track that stood out was a remix of Roots Manuva’s ‘Witness’ paired with the brass section of the Tom Jones classic ‘It’s Not Unusual’, showcasing Coldcut’s incredible ability to seamlessly blend music of different styles, genres and time periods.
DJs Gin and Hero from the feminist DJ collective Resis’Dance topped off the night with some classic floor-filling house, dancehall and garage bangers. Having previously supported other amazing activist groups like Black Lives Matter UK, Sisters Uncut, Movement for Justice and many more, the Resis’Dance DJs know how to bring a uniquely fun and celebratory vibe to the dancefloor, while creating a safe and inclusive space for all.
Thanks to good planning from the organisers, the next day’s workshops didn’t start until 1pm as many stayed until the small hours shaking it in the service of the anti-arms trade movement. A movement that, as it turns out, takes many shapes… including throwing shapes!
It was, as Awate said, “a night to come together to build community, show solidarity and be proud of speaking out against the arms trade”.
CAAT would like to thank everyone who came to the event and particularly all the artists for putting on such an amazing show. If you can, please support the artists by going to their gigs and buying their music, which can be found using the links throughout this article.
Are you hungry for more Dancing To Disarm? How about outside an arms fair?! Come party and protest with CAAT on Saturday 9th September as part of the week of action against the DSEI arms fair in East London. Find out more about the plans for the week of action and how you can get involved at stopthearmsfair.org.uk/
Dance To Disarm raised over £2,200 for CAAT! If you fancy putting on an event yourself to raise funds to challenge the arms trade, please email: fundraising[at]caat.org.uk