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During the s pirate radio was the only means of hearing new and culturally diverse music. It was a period of creativity and technical innovation, one where Black British musicians were carving out a space for themselves on the airwaves. We caught up with radio presenter Lindsay Wesker who ed then-pirate radio station Kiss FM in Wesker who helped legalise the station and became head of music recalls what it was like when he arrived on the scene: "The UK Black music scene was absolutely buzzing," he says, "there were tons of pirate radio stations, the clubs were full, the record shops were doing brisk business and the UK acts were really starting to make noise.
Not only did stations likes Kiss give a platform to British Black London fm pirate radio stations makers, they reinvigorated the careers of American soul legends. Something like Unfinished Sympathy will be around forever. Reggae stations in particular were hugely influential in supporting Black musicians, says Wesker: "On Harlesden High Street, there were three reggae pirates within a yard stretch.
All of these stations played their part and many Black acts got their first play on these stations. By the end of the s there were pirate stations operating nationwide and 60 in London alone, but the DTI Department of Trade and Industry who regularly raided stations, kept them on their toes. On top of raids, inter-station rivalry meant occasional sabotage. Kiss even had to hire security to protect their rig at one point, though Wesker maintains that despite this all of the DJs knew each other and socialised at clubs, parties and in record shops.
With many of the venues no longer around to tell the story of the Black music scene Wesker's memories are crucial: "It's a real shame that a space like Phoebes on Amhurst Road is no longer there," he says, "I remember doing some great club nights there with Tim Westwood and, down in the basement, I got the chance to experience the mighty Jah Shaka sound system.
The young people of today now rave and socialise in much more integrated venues — thankfully! The spirit of pirate radio is still alive if you know where to find it, and Wesker has hope for pirate radio's longevity: "As long as there is an audience, they will thrive.
Not even internet and DAB radio stations have affected them! Lindsay Wesker and Dave VJ both have weekly radio shows on www. The best things to do in London. The must-read London articles. The coolest London events from our partners. By Kyra Hanson Last edited 6 months ago. Report a problem with this article. X close. Londonist in your inbox Plan your day ahead or read the day's London headlines with our daily s.
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London pirate radio history