Make Some Space: Tuning into Us

Keynote by Emma Warren

Departing from her recent book about London’s Total Refreshment Centre, Emma Warren will elaborate on the importance of physical space for cultural life and extend ideas of improvisation as community communication.

The building used by Total Refreshment Centre (TRC) began life as an Edwardian chocolate factory, on a residential street in the borough of Hackney, London. It currently houses an influential recording studio, rehearsal rooms and artist studios, which provided a key space for new London musicians including Shabaka Hutchings and The Comet Is Coming among others. Between 2012 and summer 2018 it also housed an ad-hoc, under the radar music venue which played a central role in developing London’s rising jazz and jazz-ish musicians and their audiences. It offered space to play and hang out before the artists had fans, reach or any money. The list of musicians affiliated with the place is long: Nubya Garcia, Moses Boyd, Theon Cross, Kokoroko, Ill Considered, Alabaster dePlume, Yussef Kamaal and many more.

TRC has been a haphazard and collective effort, with the kind of upsides and downsides that come from people-generated environments. It is a story that allows us to look at how London’s new instrumentalists took flight. But it also allows us to see the way in which these places - unfinished, malleable, made by us - support culture more generally.

Author Emma Warren will use her book about TRC as a lens through which to consider the ways in which culture benefits from physical space, and the ways we benefit from it, too. She will draw a line between TRC and spaces like it and the unexpected relationships, and ways of relating, they can create. These ways of relating include what happens practically and socially when we enter a space in which we can commune with different types of people across generations, ethnicity and musical genre. It also contains ideas about what happens when we enter a space where we are accepted as we are; where we can bring a version of ourselves we recognize and believe in.

She will extend ideas of improvisation as community communication, asking what happens when musicians and their extended community of listeners, dancers, doers and promoters deal in the profound economies of doing stuff together. It’s about us, not I.

Emma Warren has been documenting music culture for decades. She was a founding contributor to influential DIY music magazine Jockey Slut, wrote for national and international publications and made radio documentaries for the BBC. She worked as the lead editorial mentor at Brixton youth-run publication Live Magazine. Her longform interviews for Red Bull Music Academy included Brian Eno, Steve Reich and Björk and she currently has a monthly show on Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide FM. She published her first book ‘Make Some Space: Tuning Into Total Refreshment Centre’ in Spring 2019 on her new imprint Sweet Machine and in summer 2019 published a pamphlet with Rough Trade Books: ‘Steam Down: Or How Things Begin’.