Lockdown may have seen the end of The Sisters of Reggae, but two of them – Shirley Slattery and Debbie Golt – are sticking together with gigs including Upstairs at the Ritzy in Brixton. Simone Richardson finds out more
Dynamic duo Miss Feelgood (Shirley Slattery) and Debbie Golt now DJ as the Vinyl Sisters with a regular Ritzy gig that also showcases and encourages other female DJs.
Shirley has had a typical South London life. Her parents from southern Ireland rented in Battersea, where she acquired a love of reggae music that grew with her in London.
She has lived in Lambeth, South Norwood and Croydon, where she went to school. Plus, of course, shopping visits with family and friends to Brixton where she has now DJd in many places, some of which are no more, including Mango Landin’.
“Lockdown was spent with my daughters and almost three-year-old grandson,” she says. “I read loads, did lots of decluttering, met friends for walks and did a lot of eating.”
“During lockdown Sisters Of Reggae split up. This was not our decision. We wanted Sisters Of Reggae to continue.
“Debbie Golt and I decided it was important to keep the female DJ relay that had been run by the Sisters going as it had been very successful and we loved doing it.”
Debbie started the relay before Sisters of Reggae got together.
“We had a monthly residency at the Ritzy. Four (female) guests would be invited to play their favourite reggae tunes on vinyl for 30 minutes – experience wasn’t needed, just a passion for the music as help was at hand from us.
“We play mostly reggae, a little bit of soul and Debbie plays some African music, the female DJ relay is mostly reggae.
Appearances will continue every third Sunday throughout the year.
We don’t plan what we will play beforehand. It depends on the crowd, we go with the flow.”
A recent Vinyl Sisters gig Upstairs at the Ritzy saw sessions from guests Zeena, DJ Sherinne , DJ Ezzy Rascal and Sistren Shirley.
They kick off around 7pm with a warm-up welcome set from Debbie and Shirley.
Four 30-minute sets make up the Outerglobe Femxle DJ Relay.
Guests are “womxn with fabulous reggae vinyl collections who may not play out that often, may never have played before and/or do play out and want to try out new sets”.
“We are on hand to help anyone who needs that – and find that even novices find their way very soon,” says Shirley.
Vinyl Sisters take over for two and a bit hours until midnight – with MC mighty MAD-X.
“My father’s parents were Jewish and came to West Hartlepool around the turn of the 19th century from Poland, and my mother has Scottish/English mix,” Debbie says.
“They met in London in the mid-40s in the Civil Service Film Club.
“I was born in St George’s Hospital, Hyde Park Corner – now demolished.
“I lived in a little village called Burnham in Buckinghamshire till I was 15 and then we moved to West London.
“I studied and worked up North for a few years in the 70s before moving back to London in the early 80s. I live in Fulham now – have done for over 35 years.”
Debbie began playing out with Rock Against Racism in the late 70s and has weekly and monthly radio shows on Resonance FM and Threads Radio.
Lockdown had less effect on her than many.
She works from home so lockdown, despite being “interesting and busy” for her, did not change that much.
However, “Not being able to go out to anything, DJ out or socialise was a big change, as was having to make my radio shows from home.
“Resonance FM, where I have a weekly show The Outerglobe, with African diaspora music, including reggae, shut the studios and is still not open, so I made and make my shows from home with Zoom interviews, digital music I have been sent, and digital home recording, which kept me engaged and mentally active and takes a couple of days a week – still does;
“I was invited to do Outerglobe Abroad wider music shows on Threads Radio Lunar monthly in lockdown, being able to go into the studio fairly early on.
“I was also invited to do a lot of DJing online with other DJ crews I am part of for Zoom parties, including the Foreign Office Crew with whom I was also able to do some filmed sets, and I learnt how to DJ on Mixcloud and did quite a bit of that too.”
She also went for a lot of walks by herself and with friends and her daughter moving back was “great company”.
Debbie also joined a daily “airy matters” Zoom chat that someone she met a festival started. “It went on for nearly a year and was a brilliant anchor for the day”.
Explaining her love of Brixton, Debbie says: “Brixton is such a music-oriented well-mixed place and people who come to the Ritzy gigs genuinely love their music and some have quite deep knowledge, plus it is a very friendly and appreciative crowd.
“It’s great playing to them and pushing the music just that little bit further – although we always play big favourites as well alongside more adventurous sounds.”
The next Ritzy Sunday gig is on 20 February.
Shirley also plays on the third Friday of every month at The Railway Tavern in Tulse Hill.