A record shop in Brixton has held its first monthly reggae open decks event since the start of the pandemic.
Lion Vibes in Brixton Village Market is home to some of the oldest original reggae vinyl records in the world.
It hosts an event called Selector Thursday’s on the first Thursday of each month, where people can bring their own reggae and dub records to play.
Shop manager Ben Bell said: “It’s not about making money. We’ve got the shop, we’ve got the space, we’ve got the sound system in there. It’s a nice way for people to come together and really focus on the music.
“It also gives people an opportunity to learn how to select or DJ. It’s a way of starting that journey.”
The shop opened in 2015, but Lion Vibes started out as a stall opposite Brixton station in 1997.
Back then, owner Matt Downs would sell pre-releases from Jamaica. He then started visiting Jamaica to produce music for his own label Lion Vibes before shipping it back to Brixton.
Brixton’s relationship with reggae goes back to the late 1960s when the genre first emerged.
It’s mentioned in the lyrics of many songs and featured on many album covers.
Before the pandemic tourists, mainly from Europe and the United States, would visit the reggae shops in the area on their way to big events.
“Notting Hill Carnival was like our Christmas,” Bell said.
“That weekend you would get tourists coming over, who would go round all the record shops and then go to carnival and fly back the next day. It was like a pilgrimage for people.”
The industry as a whole has been hit hard by the pandemic, as sound systems have been unable to play.
Bell added: “The way our business works is very related to what is going on in the sound system world.
“If one of the big sound systems like Channel One Sound System are playing a certain tune that’s just come out everyone will want that record. So not having that has slowed us down.”
Fortunately, the store had its online business to fall back on.
Despite being able to stream a lot of records digitally, people are still interested in buying original reggae vinyl from the shop in 2021.
This is one way of supporting the industry which has suffered badly from the Covid restrictions.
Though Carnival is cancelled this year, people can also support sound systems at smaller events as restrictions are eased.
The next Selector Thursday’s is on 2nd September.
Feature imaged credit: Brixton Village