In the lead up to the EDL Charity Disco on the 29th of November, Charlotte chats with Alex Jones of the English Disco Lovers about the triumphs and pitfalls of spreading a message through disco.
Charlotte: For someone who has never heard of the English Disco Lovers, can you briefly explain what the EDL is and what you stand for? Alex: The English Disco Lovers is a satirical, counter English Defence League, movement. To many, the EDL acronym means Islamophobia, racism and violence. We’re looking to make it stand for equality and acceptance. There are a few different ways we’re doing this; Google and social media bombing, street level protest and charitable events.
Your message is inspirational! What inspired you to start the organisation? I come from a Quaker background, so have been around peace and equality activism from a young age. I suppose the desire to make a positive change just rubbed off. Then this is just my way of doing it – the humorous slant is just part of my character.
You’re hosting your latest English Disco Lovers Charity Disco on November 29th, can you tell us a little about what to expect from the event? Like our previous events, you can expect sets of disco, funk and house from some absolutely incredible DJs. In the past we’ve had the likes of Ashley Beedle and Yam Who? This time around Faze Action’s Simon Lee will be taking the headline slot and spreading the positive disco feelings.
Can you tell us about the charities you’ve chosen to support and why? We like to support local charities that fit with our ethos. We keep them local, because once again it’s a subversion of the EDL acronym. Where they seek to divide communities and cause tension, we’re more interested in bringing them together.
We’ll be supporting 17-24-30, a non-profit organisation that deals with hate-crime awareness and remembrance. After the event we’ll be working with them and Lambeth council on a campaign. I can’t say much more right now as it’s still early days, but keep an eye on what we’re up to via our website (www.edl.me), Facebook or Twitter.
With World AIDS Day two days after the event, we’ll also supporting PPC (Positive Parenting and Children), who provide support for children and families affected by HIV and AIDS.
You started online, spreading the “Don’t Hate! Gyrate!” message through Facebook and Twitter, any hot tips for similar independent start ups? Keep it positive, your content has to be the sort of thing that people enjoy seeing, reading and sharing. We started making our own memes and creating other original content, rhyming slogans like “Fewer xenophobes! More disco strobes!” worked really well. We try and keep posts regular and stick to original and relevant content. People would lose interest if we started posting stuff that they could find elsewhere. So I guess what I’m saying is find your niche and stick with it, don’t go trying to be like something else. Be unique.
You’ve received some backlash since starting the EDL, most recently from the Welsh Defense League, how do you deal with criticism? We keep doing what we’re doing. When tens of thousands of people see what you’re doing it’s rare for no one to criticise, especially when they can do it from the comfort of their bedroom. Although, I’m not sure telling us that we’re “full of shit” counts as criticism though, it’s not constructive to say the least.
If you were going on an intergalactic mission and could only take five tunes with you to help describe ‘Disco,’ what would you pick and why?
1. Donna Summer – MacArthur Park Suite
We couldn’t go anywhere without our Queen. This is a bit of a cheat as it’s actually a medley of MacArthur Park, One Of A Kind and Heaven Knows, but it is Donna at her best. Impeccable vocals and strings, it has heartbreak and happiness which is often the theme through disco.
2. Carrie Lucas – Gotta Keep Dancing
This is typical of Disco’s ‘smile through adversity’ bittersweet attitude. Sampled in Chamonix’s 77 Strings, the lyrics ‘I gotta keep dancing, smiling, to keep from breaking apart’ say it all. Yet the melody and arrangement are so upbeat that you have to dance.
3. Machine – There But For The Grace Of God
This is one to show Disco’s message of inclusion and anti-discrimination all while bouncing along on a fantastic rhythm. Co-written by August Darnell (of Kid Creole) it tells the tale of a not-exactly PC couple who want to move away from the Bronx – ‘Let’s find a place’ they say, ‘Somewhere far away, with no blacks, no Jews, and no gays’. Sadly we still have people like that around.
4. Chic – Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)
With its hints of swing and the 20s this is Nile Rodgers’ perfection. Joyous and full of the exuberance of youth!
5. Cerrone – Look For Love
So many of Cerrone’s to choose from but this wins because it’s what matters to everyone – the search for love. And I’d love to hit warp speed right at the 45 sec drop!
Besides your own EDL events, where are your favorite places/parties for proper Disco? Any hidden gems we should know about? Chapter 10 at Dance Tunnel in Dalston harks back to the sleazy basement days when the music was all that mattered. Very New York. If you want more of a funk/boogie night then Midnight Riot at Bar Music Hall (monthly) is fantastic. Great atmosphere and always busy. And if you just want drinks but with great disco the nights that Chris Coco plays at Prince Of Wales Brixton are fantastic. Lots of re-edits and gems.
You’ve achieved a lot thus far and were nominated for the The National Diversity Awards this year, where would you like to see the organization in five years time? What a terrifying question. We’re only a year in and it’s hard to speculate that far ahead. There are a few things we’re talking about that I’d love to see as part of the organisation in 5 years time. One of which is a new element of English Disco Lovers that gives back to the community, supporting our values of peace, equality and acceptance. This element could take the form of talks, DJing lessons or dance classes. Maybe even all of them? As you can tell these ideas are very early in the development stages, but a lot can happen in 5 years.
Want to the help the English Disco Lovers spread their message of equality and support some deserving charities along the way? It’s easy! Just boogie on down to the Prince of Wales, Brixton on Friday the 29th of November. Tickets are a tenner on the door or you can pre-purchase at www.billetto.co.uk/englishdiscolovers. CTC will be there, we’d love to see you too!