Brixton legend Blacker Dread in new documentary

Blacker Dread

Blacker Dread, whose music store where Market Row meets Coldharbour Lane was an essential part of an earlier Brixton, is the subject of a 90-minute documentary by the award-winning filmmaker Molly Dineen.

He also featured, 40 years ago, in Dineen’s first film.

Blacker Dread, born in Jamaica, is a reggae producer, businessman, one of the founders of Brixton Splash, and at the centre of the local community.

Being Blacker is Dineen’s first documentary for ten years and started when Blacker – who she first met when he featured in a film she made as a student – asked her to film his beloved mother’s funeral.

Blacker Dread's store on Coldharbour Lane
Blacker Dread’s store on Coldharbour Lane

What she has produced, the film’s distributors say, is a portrait – in equal measures uplifting, funny, exasperating and tragic – of the challenges, conflicts and quirks of being Black in Britain today.

Blacker’s extraordinary life has seen him experience three generations of educational inequality, racism, cultural isolation, lack of employment opportunities, crime and violence – but also an extraordinary sense of togetherness and community spirit, and a musical culture that has done so much to shape today’s UK music scene.

Over three years, the film follows Blacker and his family and friends through his jailing for money laundering, his daughter’s wedding, his youngest son’s education in Jamaica, and the spectre of violence and criminality cast over his life by another son’s murder a decade earlier.

Molly Dineen is today renowned as one of the country’s finest factual film makers, but she was a student when she shot Sound Business in 1981, a film that took her into the world of British sound systems, where she first met a young Blacker Dread.

Blacker Dread

Dineen’s new film is shot in the first-person style that she developed through films like Home from the Hill about retired colonial British Lieutenant-Colonel Hilary Hook; BAFTA-winner The Ark, about London Zoo; profiles of Tony Blair and Spice Girl Geri Halliwell; and The Lie of the Land – also a BAFTA winner – about British rural life on the eve of the fox hunting ban.

She says: “When I reconnected with Blacker I stepped into another world. He’s a wonderful character who has lived the most incredible life and Being Blacker looks at the social and cultural issues which have forged his path.

“Blacker Dread as seen in this film could only exist in this extraordinary world where family and music are at the forefront, but racism and violence are also everyday occurrences.

“And if you think any of these are things of the past in London then Being Blacker will prove eye-opening to say the very least.”

The RTO film distributed by Dartmouth Films is due to be broadcast by BBC2 on Monday 12 March at 9pm.

It is also due to be shown in venues around London, including Brixton and the British Film Institute on Southbank.

Film website

View the trailer:


  1. Blacker Dread is included in my book, Sound Reasoning, which I published at the end of 2017. The book is a compilation of photographs and interviews excerpts from my 1980’s archive of work that I did with various Sound Systems and Sound people in the 1980’s, with a brilliant introduction by Benzamin Zephaniah. As well as Coxsone Sound, the book includes Smiley Cutlure and Asher Senator, Philip Levi, Tippa Irie, Saxon, Fatman, Sista Culcha, Lorna Gee, Jah Revelationmuzik and Brother Culture and many more (and many were Brixton based). I lived in Brixton for 22 years until 2004, moving when I gave up my court battle with Lambeth Council to retain my flat in Rushcroft Road. Brixton was not only my home but I also did a lot of work in the community, including documenting the first Brixton Festival from the early 1980’s. I and my community in central Brixton were early casualties of the gentrification that started in the late 1990’s. Sound Reasoning, the exhibition, was shown at the original Brixton Art Gallery. Sound Reasoninh, the book, is a small scale production of only 1200 copies. It is a must for Reggae fans. Email to buy a copy on

  2. What an outstanding role model.

    From The Voice, 24/06/2014:

    “Blacker, real name Steve Burnett-Martin, 55, of Gipsy Hill, received £230,411 in fraudulent payments to his Coldharbour Lane record store as part of a £700,000 scam.

    The money was stolen from Sutton firm IMCD Ltd by employee Lorna Martin, of Selhurst Road, South Norwood, and paid into the account of Burnett-Martin, Martin herself and four other accomplices between September 2011 and August 2012.

    All six were convicted of money laundering after a month-long trial.

    Martin was also found guilty of theft.”

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