Since March 2020 the world has not been the same. The glob­al reac­tion to COV­ID-19, regard­less of its ori­gin or your stance on the pro­pa­ganda wars, has caused a great many things to change and change dra­mat­ic­ally. The arts have been hit emphat­ic­ally hard, with artists of all dis­cip­lines forced to drastic­ally rethink their place with­in an already pre­cari­ous field. On top of all the oth­er men­tal and phys­ic­al health mine­fields that have been laid, even those artists blessed with steady income, who have worked hard enough to be pro­fes­sion­als were often left bat­tling for hard­ship and recov­ery funds, find­ing altern­at­ive means to pay bills and feed them­selves and/or their fam­ily. In the case of live per­formers, many had to face the very real situ­ation that their entire sec­tor was, and might remain, locked-off. Artist’s have mourned not only the loss of friends and fam­ily, but also their source of income, a career hard earned and, for many, their reas­on for being, reas­on to live and purpose.

As indi­vidu­als, grass­roots organ­isa­tions and major insti­tu­tions alike struggled, adap­ted or shut down for good, there was a haven cre­ated amidst the chaos. This was an oas­is forged in the heart of North Lon­don where cre­at­ives of all kinds came to express them­selves and serve their com­munit­ies in the way we have for gen­er­a­tions. This place is Village101…and this is its story.

In Octo­ber 2020 I was asked to come to a live stream­ing event called ‘The News with Jonzi D’. It brought togeth­er musi­cians, dan­cers, tech­ni­cians and engin­eers to respond to the government’s latest self-serving, profit-mak­ing, manip­u­lat­ive reac­tion to the deaths they have caused in mis­hand­ling (delib­er­ately or not) the COV­ID-19 situ­ation. I walked into the repur­posed ware­house and was instantly in awe; the glor­i­ous sun­shine stream­ing in from the sky­lights, the sheer space (hav­ing spent so much time in my yard), the hard, indus­tri­al beauty of the interi­or. More than any­thing, I was in awe of the infin­ite pos­sib­il­it­ies that such a space held, wait­ing to be unlocked by the right hands. I knew that the hands hold­ing the key to those pos­sib­il­it­ies were the right ones; the ones that had made the phone call for me to be there.

One of those hands was a young broth­er called Muti Musafiri. He is an accom­plished dan­cer, film­maker and cre­at­ive dir­ect­or who along­side musi­cian and cul­tur­al facil­it­at­or Marv Radio foun­ded Village101 in a repur­posed Hack­ney primary school in 2019. The broth­ers had acquired res­id­ence in the space through one of the con­tro­ver­sial guard­i­an­ship schemes cur­rently at large in com­munit­ies under the siege of gentri­fic­a­tion. These schemes were designed to under­mine the squat­ting move­ment, giv­ing people mar­gin­ally cheap­er rent to live in and ‘guard’ build­ings on land bought for ‘new devel­op­ments’, aka new flats nobody liv­ing in the area can afford, for­cing prices up and people out.

Instead of just ‘guard­ing’ the primary school, Muti, Marv and their many col­lab­or­at­ors trans­formed it into a com­munity ini­ti­at­ive for loc­al people and artists to express them­selves and use as space for their pro­jects, renam­ing it NuSchool. We all know how valu­able and expens­ive space is in Lon­don, so this was immensely appre­ci­ated by the com­munity cre­ated in that space. The extent of the cul­tur­al pro­duc­tion was incred­ible, with a con­stant flow of live streamed events, includ­ing inter­na­tion­ally-reach­ing open mics and Afric­an Lib­er­a­tion-themed per­form­ances, music record­ings, video and photo shoots and much more com­ing out of the space. At first the guard­i­an­ship com­pany, Glob­al Guard­i­ans, embraced the move and all its cre­ativ­ity, using NuSchool for pub­li­city cam­paigns, tout­ing Muti and Marv as poster-kids for ‘pro­duct­ive regeneration’…until it was time to kick them out, just as COV­ID-19 kicked in hard.

With the sup­port of Hack­ney Coun­cil and the dir­ect involve­ment of the may­or Philip Glan­ville, the broth­ers fought hard to hold on to NuSchool at least until the pan­dem­ic and lock­down reg­u­la­tions were less intense. The broth­ers won, and were reluct­antly relo­cated by Glob­al Guard­i­ans to a huge ware­house on the bor­der of Tot­ten­ham and Edmon­ton in August 2020. Their farewell event to NuSchool was a com­munity open day, invit­ing every­one in the loc­al area. Large groups of chil­dren ran around over the moon, everything was kept with­in COV­ID reg­u­la­tions and the huge cli­mactic drum circle, inter­act­ive dance per­form­ance and open mic ses­sion took ener­gies through the roof. The won­der­ful out­doors area and per­ma­cul­ture garden at the school was sorely missed, but it soon became clear that the new space in Tot­ten­ham was a level up and new world of cre­at­ive pos­sib­il­it­ies. Muti and Marv gradu­ated from the NuSchool, ready to build their village.

With Marv decid­ing to take up a huge oppor­tun­ity and move to Ibiza, Muti took full con­trol of the pro­ject in Autumn 2020. Invig­or­ated by respond­ing to the pan­dem­ic and the reju­ven­ated move­ment for Black Lib­er­a­tion in 2020, Muti decided not to hoard the bless­ing that they had fought so hard for. Instead, he opened up Village101 to his com­munity and bey­ond. Village101 provided invalu­able space for broad range of people, from chil­dren who needed a new place to hold their paint­ing classes because every­where else had closed their doors, to giv­ing inter­na­tion­al, award win­ning super­stars includ­ing Tinie, Chip, Ivori­an Doll, AJ Tracey and Bug­zy Malone loc­a­tions for their new­est music videos and inter­views. This simple, immense decision enabled and empowered people on every point along this spec­trum the oppor­tun­ity to flour­ish in the face of devel­op­ment­al, eco­nom­ic and mental/physical health related disaster.

Cham­pi­on B‑boy Kofi Mongo, one of the people I worked with on my first time there said, “you could make a movie in here” and months later I did. My upcom­ing visu­al album ‘Drum­mer War­ri­or Storyteller’ was filmed at Village101. Hav­ing access to the space allowed me to secure income, provide work for scores of people and com­plete a pro­ject that oth­er­wise would have been impossible to make. We had ori­gin­ally planned to film on my block; a major­ity Black cast and crew film­ing on my estate would have undoubtedly gen­er­ated phone calls to the police at a time when snitching on your neigh­bours was act­ively encour­aged more than ever before.

Sim­il­ar tales can be told by many, many oth­er people, as so much was cre­ated in this space; films, music videos, live broad­casts, dance work­shops, art pro­jects, com­munity health ini­ti­at­ives, well­ness ses­sions, anti-gun and knife cam­paigns, Ances­tral drum­ming circles.

Village101 became a safe space for people of all ages to express their ideas, enrich their com­munity, gain space to breathe and help oth­ers at a time when fear, manip­u­la­tion and viol­ence were skyrock­et­ing. While estab­lished powers failed, betrayed and fought against com­munit­ies and their needs, Village101 gave so much to so many, with no fund­ing or back­ing, just the will­ing­ness to say “yes you can use this space that isn’t being used, come in, you’re wel­come here”, at a time when so much is being done to keep com­munit­ies and people divided.

You would think that any­one who saw such power­ful work hap­pen­ing, espe­cially people who had power to help it con­tin­ue, would be thrilled. This is espe­cially true con­sid­er­ing the space is sand­wiched between two bor­oughs made up of large Afric­an, Carib­bean, Asi­an, migrant and work­ing-class com­munit­ies hit hard­est by the COV­ID-19 situ­ation. These bor­oughs and com­munit­ies are end­lessly demon­ised in the press with biased, reduct­ive crime stat­ist­ics, that are being ripped apart by gentri­fic­a­tion and could really do with some good pub­li­city demon­strat­ing loc­al people sup­port­ing each oth­er intergen­er­a­tion­ally, in mul­tiple, deeply sig­ni­fic­ant ways. Village101 was empower­ing and facil­it­at­ing Black, Brown and work­ing class excel­lence to unearth itself and in response, Glob­al Guard­i­ans did all they could to shut it down.

Glob­al Guard­i­ans’ tac­tics have included threat­en­ing Muti with jail time, tak­ing out court orders, send­ing them to his mother’s home address and build­ing a case against him that will cost him thou­sands of pounds to defend him­self as it is out­side of leg­al aid para­met­ers. As the situ­ation came to a head, Glob­al Guard­i­ans even sent private secur­ity firms down, one of which set an attack dog on Marv when he returned to col­lect some of his pos­ses­sions and tried to allow a dance troupe into the space to hold their weekly rehears­al. The dog was videoed bit­ing Marv, inflict­ing a wound on his arm that left him hos­pit­al­ised, all while the NHS was over­whelmed. Glob­al Guard­i­an have made no attempt to invest­ig­ate this attack, and it’s unclear what the leg­al con­sequences are of such an unpro­voked attack, but it clearly demon­strates the lengths the com­pany will go to. It’s also worth say­ing here that the space was barely brought up to liv­ing stand­ards; for example, the space was not heated, with only elec­tric heat­ers ever provided for res­id­ents through­out a harsh winter, at a time when all the rhet­or­ic told us that get­ting sick could prove fatal.

In oth­er words, Glob­al Guard­i­an, a major com­pany com­pli­cit in the gentri­fic­a­tion of Haringey and Enfield, for­cibly drove out the Black, Brown, immig­rant and work­ing-class people it took rent money from to live in an indus­tri­al space that isn’t safe or fit to live in, then viol­ently attacked and threatened them to stop using the space they paid to live in…because they used it to help their com­munity. It is really dis­gust­ing, abhor­rent beha­viour, espe­cially when surely all they needed to say was “this is great, you’re bene­fit­ting loads of people, how can we help?”.

This part of the story becomes even more dis­turb­ing when the actu­al own­er of the land and build­ing is Haringey coun­cil, argu­ably the biggest bene­fact­or of the ini­ti­at­ives run by Village101. So much of the work Muti and the move­ment did improved com­munity rela­tions, men­tal health and well­being in the bor­ough. It would be in the interest of every­one in the com­munity, at Village101, the bor­ough and Glob­al Guard­i­ans – every­one except maybe those set to profit fin­an­cially from the gentri­fic­a­tion – to simply give the space to Muti and Village101, or work with them to find a sim­il­ar space for them to do their work. It feels incon­ceiv­able that with everything that has been said about the les­sons learned from the COV­ID-19 situ­ation and post BLM in 2020 about togeth­er­ness, well­ness, com­munity and anti-Black racism, that any­thing else could be done. But instead, Glob­al Guard­i­ans (and Haringey bor­ough through their silence) is choos­ing to run with court injunc­tions, set­ting dogs on people and viol­ent clamp­downs on com­munity work.

For­tu­nately, this isn’t the end of the story. As is typ­ic­al of Black Lib­er­a­tion move­ments, immig­rant com­munit­ies and the cre­at­ive prac­ti­tion­ers they cre­ate, Village101 has sur­vived the loss of this space. Village101 is a com­munity and a set of ideals that tran­scend any spe­cif­ic loc­a­tion. Muti and the move­ment are work­ing on loc­at­ing new spaces to build with­in whilst fight­ing the battles against Glob­al Guard­i­ans. Wider com­munity sup­port is really needed to demon­strate the value of the work they’re doing. As sup­port­ers, I Am Hip Hop Magazine are call­ing on Haringey coun­cil, espe­cially it’s may­or Adam Jogee, to engage with Village101 to sup­port what they are doing, in the same way Village101 have sup­por­ted the com­munity of the bor­ough through this toughest of times. To see more of what Vil­lage 101 has done and will do in future, head to their new web­site —

To end, Muti and the com­munity of Village101 have provided the fol­low­ing state­ment to demon­strate what Village101 stands for:

Village101 is a test­a­ment to how it is pos­sible to cre­ate social impact and eco­nom­ic abund­ance by bring­ing people togeth­er to share their gifts. 

In this time of unpar­alleled dis­con­nec­tion, what we need more than ever are spaces in which we can come togeth­er to exper­i­ence the heal­ing power of cre­ativ­ity and community. 

Village101 is not a uto­pi­an idea, it is a real-world solu­tion to some of the press­ing prob­lems this coun­try is facing, such as:

Youth unem­ploy­ment
Viol­ence among mar­gin­al­ised youth
Rising levels of anxi­ety and depres­sion in young people

These are all symp­toms of the mul­ti­fa­ceted crisis of dis­con­nec­tion that is play­ing out on three levels:

1.Within the indi­vidu­al = men­tal health crisis

2.In soci­ety = rising social inequity

3.Globally = the cli­mate and eco­lo­gic­al crisis.

We work between levels one and two…bringing people togeth­er in loc­al com­munit­ies for mutu­al enrich­ment and eco­nom­ic empower­ment that uplifts the indi­vidu­al and the collective.

There are dis­used build­ings in all major cit­ies that could be turned into vibrant centres for learn­ing and expres­sion; Lon­don is home to many. We see Village101 as a blue­print that can be rep­lic­ated across the city and across the country.

We offer a solu­tion to these needs:

lack of spaces in which young, dis­ad­vant­aged / mar­gin­al­ised people feel safe to fully express themselves
lack of spaces that bring people togeth­er inter­cul­tur­ally and intergenerationally
lack of plat­forms and resources for under­priv­ileged young people to exper­i­ment artist­ic­ally and gain exper­i­ence needed to get into the cre­at­ive industries

Village101 embod­ies these principles:

Cre­ativ­ity is a life-giv­ing energy that can gen­er­ate abundance
A sense of shared inten­tion or mis­sion gal­van­ises people
When people come togeth­er and dir­ect their cre­ativ­ity towards a shared goal, we gen­er­ate cul­tur­al cap­it­al and social impact.

Essen­tially, Village101 is har­ness­ing the already exist­ing cre­ativ­ity with­in indi­vidu­als by cre­at­ing spaces in which it can be wit­nessed and nour­ished. By offer­ing safe spaces for con­nec­tion and expres­sion we cre­ate a fer­tile ground of mutu­al enrich­ment in which people’s skills and tal­ents can take root and flourish.

For more inform­a­tion, hit the web­site and fol­low @Viallage101studios on Ins­tagram. To help, share these details far and wide, write to the may­or of Haringey with your sup­port for us, raise com­plaints against Glob­al Guard­i­ans, and get in con­tact via the web­site with mes­sages of sup­port. Please reach out to us if you have access to fund­ing pots or buildings/spaces you know could do with an infu­sion of Village101 energy.

Much Love, Thanks and Blessings

Writ­ten in col­lab­or­a­tion with Zack Lewis-Griffiths

The fol­low­ing two tabs change con­tent below.

Apex Zero

An emcee, beat­maker, film­maker and writer from Lon­don with Gren­adian roots, Apex Zero has spent his life learn­ing and liv­ing Hip Hop cul­ture, using it to inspire and affect change. Based in Beijing for a few years and reg­u­larly tour­ing the globe, Apex is well trav­elled, and uses the les­sons this provides to inform his art and out­look. He is a mem­ber of the Glob­al­Fac­tion digit­al pro­duc­tion house and the inter­na­tion­al Hip Hop col­lect­ive End of the Weak.

About Apex Zero

An emcee, beatmaker, filmmaker and writer from London with Grenadian roots, Apex Zero has spent his life learning and living Hip Hop culture, using it to inspire and affect change. Based in Beijing for a few years and regularly touring the globe, Apex is well travelled, and uses the lessons this provides to inform his art and outlook. He is a member of the GlobalFaction digital production house and the international Hip Hop collective End of the Weak.