For nearly 40 years, Mikey Dread has spent his August Bank Holiday on a corner of west London running one of Notting Hill Carnival’s most famous reggae sound systems – Channel One.
However, this year he’ll be south of the river in Brixton.
“We’re playing an outside thing at the Jamm. It’s without the sound system but I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
Like so many events in 2020, Covid-19 has dramatically altered Europe’s largest carnival.
Rather than one million people dancing around Notting Hill, Westbourne Park and Kensington, revellers will have to watch streamed performances from the comfort of their own homes.
Dread, who forms half of Channel One with MC Ras Kayleb, is among those who will feature.
“We’ve done a recording already,” he explains. “We went in there, did an hour and that was it.”
Channel One have been playing their selection of “conscious reggae, exclusive dubplates and uplifting steppas” at Carnival since 1983, when Dread was in his 20s.
“In them days it was a free for all. All you had to do was get power and start playing,” he said.
“We got power from this lady who lived just round the corner from Portobello Market and it took off from there.”
They played there for a couple of years, then moved to another area with the help of a friendly caretaker who gave them access to electricity through a pillar box.
For the last quarter of a century they’ve held the same spot near the junction where Leamington Road Villas meets Westbourne Park Road.
Indeed the duo have only failed to play on one day of carnival since then, when they decided to spend a Sunday taking in the sights and sounds with their children.
“After that I said if this is it, leave me out. It’s far too much walking,” he said.
While the DJ believes the lack of floats and dancers in Notting Hill this year will seem strange to many, he sees one definite advantage.
“I don’t miss all the paperwork you have to do. You can’t just turn up, get power and play these days.”
The Channel One sound system may not be in Notting Hill in 2020, but one of the stacks will be appearing in a slightly more unusual setting as part of an exhibition at the Museum of London.
When it opens on 2 October, Dub London: Bassline of a City will allow visitors to explore the capital’s dub reggae music and culture.
Dread believes it’s “very heartening” that all their efforts over the years are being recognised and people will be able to “see what it’s all about”.
However, he still hopes the stack will be back on his corner of Notting Hill come this time next year.
“A lot of people look forward to it. It’s what we do,” he said.
Dub London: Bassline of a City will be free to visit but tickets must be booked in advance on the Museum of London website
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