Most of us would agree that listening to any particular genre of music has no direct impact on the likelihood of violence. This is not nineties middle America, and – unless you accidentally knock somebody over while twerking – music and violence are generally considered to be two separate entities. However, according to a nightclub owner in Croydon, South London, this isn’t what the Metropolitan Police have been saying.
Roy Seda, who owns the Dice Bar, has claimed that he has been repeatedly told he is unable to play bashment in his club because it attracts the “wrong type of clientele”. According to what Seda told Noisey, a licence officer in Croydon initially sent him an email making reference to, “What this borough finds unacceptable forms of music”. A few days later, he was invited to the police station because of a knife incident involving a man who was at Dice Bar earlier that night. In that meeting, Seda says he was told he was no longer able to play bashment music and if he did, it would risk closure.
“The penny dropped after a little while about what they meant when they said ‘change your clientele’. I think we all knew what they meant at that stage.” Seda explained to Noisey. “I like to stay away from saying comments like ‘they’re racist’, but I think the facts speak for themselves.” According to the Croydon Advertiser (who have covered this story extensively), minutes written by a police offer from this meeting referenced how the Dice Bar was “not adhering to the music policy” and that they agreed “not to play bashman or John Paul”, which we assume means Bashment or Sean Paul.
Seda also told Noisey how the Dice Bar wasn’t the first nightclub affected by the ‘bashment ban’. “There was a bar down the road called Yates and one day it kicked off outside and they were told "change the music, change everything, but Yates just sold the building and moved out within weeks. And then the licencing department came to me and said, 'We don’t want the Yates clientele coming to your venue,' But that’s like going to the manager of Tesco and telling them not to have Sainsbury’s customers in there. How the hell do we know who they are? But they wouldn’t give me a list of anyone – no gang members or anything.”
We gave Croydon council a ring and they denied that there was an official ban on bashment music in the area. “The police cannot operate a ban,” they explained. “Only the licensing committee would be able to make such decisions and neither the council or the committee has a policy banning any particular kind of music. The committee is an independent body that makes all licensing decisions. These decisions are based on the four licensing objectives, not on music types.”
We then got in touch with the Met police, who also denied Seda’s claims, and who would no doubt also refuse allegations of racism. “We have submitted a request to the London Borough of Croydon for a review of the Dice bar,” they told Noisey in a statement. “We have not requested a ban on any type of music at this venue, however the licensee volunteered not to host bashment music events in order to tackle the issues in his venue and make it safer.” In essence, they are saying that Seda himself suggested a bashment ban, which the police agreed would be a good idea. Why the Met police would believe an end to bashment nights would indeed make the club safer is not very clear.
While the Met and the council are (sort of) denying the ‘bashment ban’, it will hardly be the first time they have been accused of thinly-veiled discrimination under the guise of keeping nightlife ‘safer’. Artwork, a pivotal figure in Croydon’s early dubstep scene, and one third of Magnetic Man, told Noisey that Croydon council had always been like this. “When garage started, they banned garage music in Croydon,” he said. “They went to nightclubs and said, ‘You are not putting any nights on that are garage.' They’re idiots – it’s their way of dealing with things. I’d like to see them try and police it though. Do they have an expert that knows the difference between bashment and Ragga? Do you know what I mean? That would be funny, like, ‘What music is this sarge?’, ‘I don’t know, call for the Jamaican music officer’.”
The alleged ban has also prompted criticism from Nero Ughwujabo, the chief executive of Croydon BME Forum. He told the Croydon Advertiser: “Singling out Caribbean and specifically Jamaican music as being associated with crime and disorder is profiling – which is unacceptable.” In the same article, it was reported that Mark Watson, cabinet member for safety and justice, has written to Croydon’s Chief Superintendent Andy Tarrant for an explanation. He said: “The police should not be saying that certain types of music are unacceptable in Croydon. We want to have an evening and nighttime economy where all communities are welcome."
Ultimately, whether the ‘bashment ban’ is actually being implemented or not, the whole ordeal is a reminder of decade-old tensions between the police and nightclubs, and how the police have often been accused of institutional racism in relation to their policies. As Artwork pointed out to Noisey, the alleged ban is not dissimilar to the notorious 696 form (which we made a documentary about in 2014). “Back in the day, every DJ had to write down exactly who they were,” Artwork explained. “If there were any grime acts on the bill, they had to fill out this ridiculous form. When there were no garage nights in Croydon, suddenly all the main pubs just started playing pop music and the high street attracted a bunch of idiots, not a diverse mix of people who were listening to whatever. It’s just the wrong way of doing things, and it will never change down there.”