Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, sing Indeep … But DJ Richie Littler has probably saved several through his house music DJing and teaching for all ages – especially young people – at Grooveschool in Brixton. Simone Richardson learns more
It’s worth meeting Richie Littler just for his wonderful Scouse accent – but, despite being born in Wallasey on the Wirral, he has lived in South London for most of his life.
Grooveschool, the charity he founded, runs projects to nurture young people’s engagement and creativity. The aim is to make accessible something from which enjoyment and creativity can flow.
Groveschool’s website is full of testimonials from teachers and others to how it has changed the lives of young people.
Richie’s father introduced music to him through his record player. “I would spend time in the back room playing records, looking at the covers and reading the lyrics,” he says.
“At sixth form college, I found myself going to what are now legendary clubs back in Liverpool.
“Once I came to study for a degree in culture and belief systems at Thames Polytechnic, I met a few like-minded music lovers, record collectors and partygoers.
“Within a year or so, we had started our own student union nights. I spent my student loan on a pair of Technics turntables and away we went.”
After listening to the Beatles with his dad, at around 13 Richie started to buy his own records with any pocket money he got.
“Simple Minds and then the Stone Roses were my favourite bands. I’m currently checking out Tears For Fears’ new album.
“I used to listen to mixtapes after going to clubs and then I started to buy 12-inch dance records around 1992. My collection then moved into US imports, European and UK House.”
Music probably helped us all through the lockdown and Richie explains how he coped not teaching or doing the DJing.
“Lockdown was tough. We weren’t granted access to the space for Grooveschool that we’d just moved to and, although we kept going with an online provision, it really wasn’t ideal. But since everything lifted again last July we’ve regained our mojo.”
Grooveschool runs workshops on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings and members sessions on Fridays and Saturdays.
“We have a number of volunteer tutors and two senior members who assist,” says Richie.
Pupils can gain Rockschool Level One in Music Production.
“Mondays at Lavender Hope at the Deronda community hall in Tulse Hill is for the younger members, eight-12 years.
“On Tuesday we focus on DJ and live electronic instrument performance in our Brixton space; Wednesdays we go into more detail with music production.
“These sessions run throughout term-time
“Any beginners – or at whatever level you come to us – we will take the time to work out how best we can support you through your journey and provide a pathway.
“Pupils return again and again, benefitting from that consistency.
“Adult sessions are mainly private and we run one-to-one, pairs or small group.
“Our parent/child time slots are well received. They are mainly on Saturdays. So a birthday present or gift, for instance, may be four introductory sessions for £100.
“You’d learn how to put a track together and come away with an arrangement and quick mixdown of your creation.
“If you were concentrating on the DJ element, the goal would be a DJ mix.
“We get all levels coming for coaching, from beginners to Radio 1 breakthrough DJ artists or Beatport Number One producers.”
At the Grooveschool, Youth Innovation Hub, at 3Space International House in central Brixton, where our photographs were taken, it was great to witness students learning to record and DJ.
A lovely young lady, Amilia, was making a demo helped by another student, Sheriff, who is learning how to edit.
Another DJ student, Louis, is already doing well enough to have stood up to do so at Lambeth Country Show in Brockwell Park.
Richie elaborates on how the DJ training and can lead on to other things: “To begin with, it’s hopefully something of worth to occupy their time, with that they then continue their interest in.
“Some find they want to continue in further education and so it’s quite commonplace that they’ll apply to various colleges. In that respect we act as an important bridge in their transition in music education.
“Others also go on to work in bars and clubs and run their own events.”
Richie explains that Grooveschool and teaching music technology was driven because of a lack of, or non-existence of, this activity in schools.
“There used to be a gap between pupils having confidence in using tech and teachers who were still immersed in traditional ways with theory.
“Nowadays it’s improved quite a lot. You can now DJ as part of GCSE music performance, for example.
“We don’t get direct support from the government, unfortunately.
“What we do is very much performance driven, so we host fundraising events and the young DJs perform and gain confidence alongside more experienced artists at these.”
Richie still DJs himself: “I mainly get asked by friends for big celebrations or every now and again get a four-hour set somewhere, playing just vinyl, like recently at Brixton Art Club.
“From my time at Swag I have a rich collection of deep house and funky techno and it’s this I choose to mix together. My own musical tastes to just listen are quite varied.”
A top favourite from the many tunes he plays and enjoys – “That’s great for playing” is Revox (Justin Martin Remix) by Tim Green (Dirtybird Recordings).
Richie enjoys socialising as well as working in Brixton.
“I like the buzz, always have, its vibrancy, full of good people.
“Foodwise I like the brunch/breakfast at The Lounge and always have souvlaki from Mikos on Coldharbour Lane.
“I’ve always loved the Academy for gigs and we’ve done many workshops and fundraisers at the Prince of Wales and have a great relationship with them there.”
Grooveschool offers DJ lessons, to all ages and abilities.
“We do one-to-one, paired and small group sessions. We have some spaces and workshops that are free for those on low incomes,” says Richie.
“For those who can afford it, we ask for a reasonable contribution to the charity each term.
“For the older participants we do charge, It’s all reasonable, so please enquire.”
Grooveschool, Youth Innovation Hub, 3Space International House, Canterbury Crescent, SW9 7QD.