This article was first published on The Croydon Citizen on 01/11/2016
“The greatest event that has ever been held in Croydon”: A review of Eskimo Dance, Boxpark Croydon
The day that news of Eskimo Dance coming to Croydon broke was the day that a certain segment of South London society entered a collective meltdown.
Facebook and Twitter feeds became a singularity of “OMG ESKIMO DANCE IS COMING TO CROYDON”, WhatsApp groups descended into unbridled chaos, and some of the most unlikely members of Croydon society outed themselves publicly as fans of people who go by the name of “Lethal Bizzle” and belong to “crews” called “Slew Dem Mafia” and “Cold Blooded”. As my friend and I drove to Eskimo Dance on Saturday night whilst listening to pirate radio, she said in all earnestness, “I actually cried when I read the line-up” (yes, my friends are a bit simple).
Forget grunge or Britpop or even the So Solid years; for discerning urban youth who came of age in the mid-2000s, the soundtrack of your life was grime. Your first kiss was probably to Dizzee Rascal’s ‘I Luv U‘; London geopolitics were deftly negotiated to Mr Wong’s ‘Orchestra Boroughs‘; I singlehandedly nuked my first year’s student loan playing ‘Forward Riddim‘ repeatedly in the university pub. And if grime was a religion, then Eskimo Dance was Mecca – the site you trekked to around the country to pay homage to the scene’s figureheads.
For the uninitiated, Eskimo Dance is a decade-old UK club night put on by grime godfather Richard ‘Wiley’ Cowie. Over the course of several hours, various MCs take turns to spray their best lyrics over grime beats with the sole intention of getting the crowd as hype as possible. The more excitable the crowd gets, the more likely the MC will get a “reload”: where the DJ pulls back the track to the beginning and the MC gets another chance to go again. Sometimes, things take a more gladiatorial turn with MCs ‘clashing’ against each other to see who can whip up the crowd into a frenzy the most. It sounds ridiculous. It’s actually incredible.
There is something almost beautifully liturgical about 2,000 people yelling “I’ll crack your skull” in unison
The roster of artists was impeccable: P-Money, Jendor, Fuda Guy, Ghetto, Cadell, Novelist, Merky Ace, Solo45, with surprise guests JME and Thornton Heath road rap group Section Boyz, ably accompanied by some of the best producers (Rude Kid, Preditah) and DJs (Maximum) in the game right now. On the face of it alone, this was set to be a fantastic night. The real question on everyone’s mind: how would the gritty roots of an Eskimo Dance translate in what is, ultimately, just a glorified food hall?
The answer: ahhhhhhhh-mazingly.
Once you made it through the gauntlet of sniffer dogs and security searches, you were met with this sight:
The bass rocked the entire building. Plumes of smoke bellowed from the stage. The air was filled with appreciative gunfingers. It was then that I knew everything that was going to be alright.
I met people who had travelled from Scotland and Nottingham to come to Croydon
Let’s not forget, this wasn’t just a grime rave. This was also the opening night of the forty micro-restaurants and eateries that make up Boxpark Croydon. From Coqfighter (fried chicken) to Dum Dums (artisanal doughnuts) to Lazeez (tapas) to Bao Bao (Thai), all of them looked to be doing a roaring trade. Fortunately my wallet wasn’t too troubled: an old school-friend who is now the regional manager at MeatLiquor Croydon meant I was able to get the entire squad a free meal.
And, the best bit?
There was no trouble at all. No pushing and shoving, no drunken fights, no drugs, no stabbings and no litter afterwards.
I have no idea about the ongoing prospects of Boxpark Croydon as a food destination. But as a destination for A-grade club nights and gigs, it has put Croydon back on the map. It is proof that Croydon can pull in the best talent and attract people from across the country (I met people who had travelled from Scotland and Nottingham to come to Croydon!). Boxpark Croydon may well be the much-needed injection the town needs for its ailing night-time economy.
Boxpark Croydon could well be the saviour of our ailing night-time economy
Over the course of ten hours, MCs sprayed, DJs deejayed, punters played, and everyone left without a spot of bother. I lost my voice, I found new friends. I got to see Croydon’s incredible Street Pastors at midnight, making sure that everyone heard the gospel and got home safely. Eskimo Dance was honestly the greatest event ever held in Croydon.