INTERVIEW: Soweto Kinch

Soweto Kinch - The Flyover Show 2012Words by Helen Knott 

It’s about preserving ideas and versions of Britishness that aren’t often celebrated, which should be celebrated.”

The Flyover Show is back on Saturday 20th August, returning to its old home beneath the Hockley Flyover.

But if you’re relatively new to Birmingham, you might not have been to The Flyover Show before – after running annually for five years from 2008 it has been on hiatus since 2012.

The Flyover Show’s founder and curator (and a MOBO-award-winning jazz star in his own right) Soweto Kinch admits to some initial trepidation that people may have forgotten about the event. But he has been relieved by the positive reaction, “people have been saying this is exactly what we need. It has been missed, especially in the realm of Black British Brummie expression.”

Indeed, in a year when The Drum has closed and Simmer Down Festival has been cancelled, Soweto Kinch believes this ‘one-day festival of music, art and dance’ is more important than ever to Birmingham’s inner-city communities. “I think that whilst there’s great, new opportunities opening up in some venues across the city there’s a real absence of stuff happening in Ladywood, Hockley and Handsworth. It seems like resources are being pulled away from places that need it.” Kinch is keen for The Flyover Show to counteract this and to celebrate the “rude health of Birmingham’s arts scene”.

Consequently, the theme of this year’s Flyover Show is Birmingham artists – with all but headliners Eska and Ernest Ranglin coming from Birmingham. Soweto Kinch is full of enthusiasm for the acts that the festival will showcase. “Ruben James is a pianist and features on my latest album. He plays with Sam Smith too, so watch this space… Amerah Saleh, I think she’s a really exciting poet, you should be looking out for her… Truemendous – if you don’t know her music check it out. She’s a very industrious woman, I don’t know anybody who’s released three independent albums and got all the videos she’s got online. She’s got more Youtube videos than me.”Ernest Ranglin

But an appearance by the 82-year-old headliner – the legendary jazz/reggae guitarist Ernest Ranglin, should be very special too. And it’s a bit of a coup for Soweto Kinch, “bringing him (Ernest Ranglin) to Birmingham feels like a real privilege. He’s normally doing big ticketed events and charging huge fees, but I think that the opportunity to play in front of a diverse audience, and certainly a community with a strong Jamaican and West Indian heritage, was music to his ears.”

Kinch is currently playing on Ranglin’s farewell tour, appearing at high profile gigs in places like Glastonbury Festival, The Barbican, Montreal Jazz Festival, Istanbul Jazz Festival and Philharmonie De Paris.

Ensuring that The Flyover Show is a community event is also clearly important to Soweto Kinch. Of course the jazz and hip hop fans are welcome, but he’s also keen to reach out to more diverse communities – including the audience that attracted Ernest Ranglin to the event. Kinch has formed a Community Interest Company (CIC) called UPRIZE to run the festival and to take forward other projects and ideas, “so it’s not just a flash-in-the-pan festival but an entire philosophy of how work is created, of Eskahow ‘diversity’ is promoted and what the arts ecology of Birmingham really looks like.”

The fact that The Flyover Show remains a free event is also key. “It’s very important,” explains Kinch, “because as well as attracting the jazz acolytes and the hip hop heads who already know these artists, there are so many people in communities such as Ladywood, Hockley and Handsworth that will never know that they like classical music, for example, until they have the chance to hear it.”

In the years since the last Flyover Show in 2012, where over 6,000 came to see a line up with Maxi Priest at the top, Soweto Kinch has further developed a successful broadcasting career – presenting a weekly jazz show on BBC Radio 3 and a TV show on Big Centre TV (“I’m Mr Media now” ). And alongside preparations for The Flyover Show 2016 he’s currently putting the finishing touches to new album Nomagram, his first since 2013’s The Legend of Mike Smith.

Nomagram is due for release in October and is “based on principles of sacred geometry, numbers, and healing – that sound can give us visions of the best versions of ourselves and can literally psychologically and physically make us feel better.” You’ll be able to hear tracks from the new album at The Flyover Show on Sat 20th August.

The Flyover Show 2012So a fair amount in the diary. And Soweto Kinch admits to feeling busy, but it’s a good busy. “It’s all consuming so I’m not sleeping very much,” admits Kinch, “but I had an epiphany a couple of days ago, you know, I’m doing a lot, I’m really tired but it’s a great job! I was at a friend’s birthday party on Wednesday and Rodney P just walked through, gave me a high five and there was a little bit of ‘Rodney P just said hi to me! I’m living the dream.’”

But there’s little let up in sight; having taken a four year break from the festival, Soweto Kinch has big plans for its future.

“The idea is for it (The Flyover Show) to grow, to move to different cities,” tells Kinch. “We’re starting to speak to Hull about doing a Flyover Show next year there, as well as Coventry, London and Manchester. We’re keen to keep exporting this model of creating work in unconventional spaces and celebrating the things that people normally dismiss.”

The Flyover Show returns to Birmingham on Saturday 20th August, running from 12:30-9pm – taking place at the same event site, underneath the Hockley Flyover in-between Great Hampton Street and Soho Road.

Entrance to The Flyover Show 2016 is free, welcoming all ages all day – but to ensure your place at the front of the crowd, and on the mailing list, visit www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-flyover-show-2016-tickets-26326530361

For more on The Flyover Show, visit www.facebook.com/TheFlyoverShow

For more on Soweto Kinch, visit www.soweto-kinch.com

For more on UPRIZE CIC, visit www.uprize-cic.com

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