Biggy C and the soundtrack to Black Queer British life

Spotify and Instagram help tell this story…

As Biggy C, Calvin Dawkins started his DJ career in 1989 at the legendary Heaven. Defined as an Urban DJ, he has been the house/resident DJ at hip-hop, R&B and ragga clubs among others Queer Nation, Fruit Machine, Bootylicious (Club Colosseum) and Urban World (The Scala) in London, Club Caribana in Birmingham and Manchester’s Homiesexual. With international reputation and prior to COVID-19 Biggy C regularly spun at parties in the USA, the Caribbean; and the European capitals of Germany, France and Italy.

Biggy C remains an important UK and international DJ; and an important creative artist with a clear and uncompromising voice as a British-Jamaican black queer man. For more than 30 years Biggy C provided the soundtrack to Black Queer British life; most recently creating a media sensation with his It’s A Sin: The Black Album in response to the soundtrack that accompanied the Channel 4 series which did not reflect a black queer experience at that time. It was co-created by Evidence to Exist Research Group (E2E) Director Marc Thompson.

Marc and Calvin followed that with an Instagram page blackandgaybackintheday.

However, since the start of the pandemic apart from a few online gigs, there has been no work. For many who make up his audience primarily black and brown queer people who experience greater visibility and safety at Biggy’s, that also means fewer safe spaces. While DJs struggle, Black Queer DJs are particularly vulnerable to economic hardship because of the Pandemic. Biggy C, gained an international profile. Notwithstanding Calvin always worked to supplement his income. The marginalised nature of his primary audience limited the economic gains of other more ‘mainstream’ DJs. In a discussion with E2E for this piece Calvin explains how he’s tried to deal with the impact of the Pandemic:

Prior to the pandemic I recognised my economic vulnerability, and I began to consider other creative options. Over the years I gradually developed photography skills. This is the perfect time to take a risk, and to develop my photographic creative practice more. When I travelled throughout the UK and internationally, I had a took photos and I’ve amassed thousands of pictures. I developed a love of taking photos at school, but I got distracted by my music career. The passion never left.

E2E was excited to work with Calvin on his recent application to the Arts Council for the Developing Your Creative Practice Scheme which aim to support creatives with funds to develop their existing or a new creative practice. Calvin explains:

“I hope I get the funding, but photography is not a new creative practice because I already have a lot of knowledge and a considerable amount of photographic material to use.  Still, I know I have lots to learn; and this is a good opportunity. So many people I know applied and I’m not that optimistic I’ll get it but I had a strong need to at least try to get the grant.”

The photos that accompany his application titled Africans in Naples, illustrates some of his creative photographic interest and ambitions; to capture the lives of black and brown people, often immigrants in locations with shifting demographics. “My photos (those existing and those I will take) tell the stories of people who are not often framed authenticity and with dignity.

E2E enjoyed the work to develop Biggy’s application and would be thrilled if he got the funds. For artist particulary at this point in time., any additional support would help as they strive to redevelop and rebuild artistic practices brought to a halt by the global pandemic. Nevertheless, Biggy remains optimistic and ambitious: “I do not know what the future holds for DJs, but my passion to tell stories either with music or with photos will not be dampened by this pandemic. Funding or not I’ll keep taking photo. I want to create a solo photo exhibition of photos accompanied by a Biggy C playlist of course. I am encouraged by those in my network who believe I can achieve this goal.

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