Resistance with rhythm in Brixton

Extinction Rebellion members joined Africa reparations campaigners to block Brixton Road from Max Roach Park to Windrush Square earlier this month. Simone Richardson meets an XR drummer and finds out why …

A big coalition of groups including Stop the Maangamizi and XR Drummers London joined in the action to support the African Emancipation Day Reparations Groundings in Windrush Square.

Richard Mager – of the XR Drummers group – explained why they were involved, saying: “The protest was a solidarity protest for our band. XR recognises that the climate crisis is a symptom of a much bigger problem of governments and corporations exploiting people and the environment for profit, so we support social justice demonstrations.

protesters block road
Brixton Road blocked outside the Tube

“We recognise that it’s particularly important to support the BIPOC community, because people of colour are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis in the UK and the rest of the world.”

Originally from Grimsby – a port town on the East coast of England, Richard moved to Lambeth 16 years ago.

“I have moved to another area, but stay connected to Brixton through local groups and drumming.

“I lived in Brixton since moving to London in my twenties and, despite recently moving to a different area, remain connected to the area through activism and friends.

“Brixton has a great vibe and buzz and the people are great.”

street drum band

The first Samba-inspired bands in XR started in early 2019, but the music Richard’s band plays comes from an older movement called Rhythms of Resistance, which started about 20 years ago.

“A friend asked me to join a protest and if I would like to play a drum,” he says.

“I went along and loved it immediately and continued going to practices and protests regularly.”

Through the lockdown drumming was an essential that Richard valued: “People found it an uplifting and safe way to socialise and exercise by meeting outdoors as soon as it was safe to do so.

“This emphasised to us the importance of outdoor green spaces.”

Richard works as a mental capacity advocate “amplifying the voice of vulnerable adults”.

Richard’s advice for anyone wanting to learn and join drumming is that it’s really fun.

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“They do not have formal teachers or leaders for drummers as all Rhythms of Resistance music is freely available on their website for anyone to learn how to start an activist band, but more experienced members of the community help new people.

“It’s really fun and friendly and people enjoy it from the moment they come to a practice. We provide instruments or can advise on where to get them.

Anyone wishing to join can look at the XR Drummers London website to find details of rehearsals and how to contact the drumming team.

Background to the annual Windrush Emancipation Day groundings

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