The Scene Column: Break to the Beat

Music reporter Vicki McCarthy catches up with Barry Watson to talk about his Hip-Hop culture exhibition and project Break to the Beat…

It was recently announced that Reading and Leeds festival will be going ahead this year, and despite feeling cautious, it’s given music lovers (myself included) the much-needed hope of the chance of experiencing music events in 2021.

During the past year, many musicians, promoters, and venues have been working away behind closed doors, looking ahead to when their projects can be brought to fruition.

And last month, I caught up with someone who was doing just that. Step forward Barry Watson, who’s behind local Hip-Hop culture exhibition and project Break to the Beat.

I immediately wanted to find out how the idea was conceived.

“The idea came about after a KRS ONE gig in MK in 2019,” Barry explained, “Which prompted discussions about the Hip-Hop culture locally and how it would be great to celebrate and promote the scene.”

The first Milton Keynes Hip-Hop culture exhibition took place in October 2019 at the Open University where Barry works.

Having teamed up with colleague Sam Hazell, they approached their employer with the idea to host the event on the university campus.

The notion was supported by Sas Amoah, the chair of the Open University’s BAME network, so Barry and Sam got Milton Keynes DJs Moschops (Harry Webley) and Boothy (Luke Boothroyd) onboard too.

Barry elaborated, “Moschops and Boothy supported the event by playing records and demonstrating the artforms of scratching and mixing. After the event several pieces of artwork and memorabilia such as records, CDs, tapes, flyers, etc with local connections were displayed for 10 days in the Open University library for staff and visitors to view.”

And just as the team were getting into their stride, with plans to grow the project and organise more events, the UK went into lockdown. Which I guess gave the guys a lot of thinking time?

“Ha! Absolutely, plenty!” Barry laughed, “During the early lockdown, it became clear that a 2020 exhibition wouldn’t take place at the Open University. So, I decided that the best way to move forward with the project was to create an online space and to start to document some of the artistry displayed in the exhibition. It meant that people could view it in a safe online environment, which we hope will spark an interest with the folk of MK and whet their appetites until we can return.”

Barry continued, “The aim with both the website and the related exhibitions is to provide a platform where the Hip-Hop culture of Milton Keynes and the wider community can be documented and showcased. Although we have only just started to scratch the surface, we aim to show people how Hip-Hop has inspired and influenced some local creatives.”

Adding Facebook and Instagram as extra channels to support the project’s website, Barry and the team say that the Break to the Beat website will continue to be regularly updated as the project progresses and they look towards being able to host a 2021 exhibition, as soon as it’s safe to do so.

“Hip-Hop is for everyone!” Barry added, “You don’t necessarily need to be a fan to enjoy it. The fundamentals are peace, unity, love, and having fun. So, check out the website and find out more!”

To find out more, visit http://www.breaktothebeat.com

This feature was published in the April and May 2021 issue of Celebrate:MK lifestyle magazine. Read the full magazine above or by clicking on this link.

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