Before there was Spotify, Soundcloud, Bandcamp or any of these fancy apps for discovering new music, there were the pirate radio stations. These illegal outlets could only be found through perseverance, existing somewhere along the FM frequency and celebrating black music often ignored by the commercial mainstream. Thanks to pioneer stations such as Dread Broadcasting Corporation (DBC), Radio Invicta, Kiss 94.5 FM, and London Weekend Radio (LWR), genres such as soul, reggae and hip-hop were proudly championed, and eventually led to the birth of jungle, garage and house music that dominated the rave scenes. This touring exhibition explores that era, using archival material that acknowledges a time when music was as empowering to marginalised communities as it was entertaining.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that new legislation saw the demise of over 600 pirate stations nationwide. But the cultural and historical significance of their legacy lives on, and it’s what makes this show such a brilliant homage. The black and white images from renowned photographer David Corio (NME, The Face, Echoes) are worth the trip alone.
The exhibition runs until 19th July, but there’s also a number of related events worth sticking in the diary. On 3rd July, Giles Peterson will be hosting a lunchtime discussion about Radio Invicta, Europe’s first soul station – and on the 19th, Logan Sama and the Boiler room will be closing the exhibition with a grime night in tribute to the Dirty Canvas sessions formerly held in the ICA bar.
For more information visit www.ica.org.uk/whats-on/shout-out-uk-pirate-radio-1980s