East Croydon Cool talks…is a blog series that explores topics of cultural interest via local area experts. This month we caught up with SeeOur7, a Croydon collective that brings together the vocal, dance and creative talents of 7 local artists and performers. SeeOur7 also provides a platform to showcase music and arts from other musicians and artists in the area.
What is SeeOur7 and how did it come about?
SeeOur7 is an artist collective who run events in the local area. We are built from a network of artists and friends in Croydon, and organise shows/parties that specifically focus on nurturing homegrown creative talent as well as providing a platform for artists to perform. Both in terms of events and our own talents/skills, we do a lot!
We run The SeeOur7 Show (our main showcase of local culture and music), the SeeOurSession (a bi-weekly party at Limitless VR) and The Study (a weekly dance study group)…in addition to performing and vibing together whenever we get the chance.
The collective started forming in its current state after an EP launch show by Locks, which other local artists (including Haz, Wolf and Sly) attended and performed at. With everyone hanging out after the show, the potential for building a local creative scene felt long overdue and underdeveloped – and so SeeOur7 was born.
Who is in the Collective and what do they each bring to the table?
The extended family is fairly large and involves all kinds of dancers, rappers, illustrators, filmmakers, etc. But the core group is composed of Hazman, Dio, Vociferous Sly, Locks, Essence and Inspiritive – we all have several crafts, primarily surrounding dance, rapping, producing, beatboxing and DJ’ing – but most of us do them all!
How would you define urban music culture?
Urban music is the musical expression of life in urban environments. All the energy of the streets, the sound of the streets, its beauty, its ugliness – so urban music culture is the celebration and creation of this music, and all the different forms it can take in movement, sound and visuals.
Where did you all develop your skills? Self-Taught/Trained?
It’s a mixture. Some of us are educated in what we do, especially the dancers. But many of the other skills we share: like beatbox, rap and DJ’ing – are self-taught skills that we gained through growing up in an urban environment and always being creatively restless people who want to learn how to do all the cool things we were being exposed to!
How do you work together as a group? What is the process when putting a collaborative creative project together?
We meet weekly. Whether that is to perform and/or collaborate. For example, when hosting The Study (a dance group session for all) we can practice routines, freestyle and learn from each other but we also meet to plan and develop other events. Regardless; constant communication is key. Everyone has different roles and luckily we have a big network of talented people! So things get done… just about.
Do you all work on your own individual projects too?
Yes, although these projects are definitely delayed or slowed down by what we do as SeeOur7. Some of us run our own businesses, some of us are music educators, and many of us are solo artists/musicians. Some do all of those things. We all have our solo projects though – and it often fits into what we do as a collective.
What do you think of the music/creative scene in Croydon?
It’s…fragmented. That much can be said. There are little things going on here and there, but nothing compared to the heyday of the 80’s and 90’s (according to our parents), or even the early 2000’s with the growth of dubstep and Black Sheep Bar/Bad Apple Records.
The stagnation of nightlife has definitely happened alongside the closure of several venues (including Black Sheep, Tiger Tiger, Yates etc.) and it has meant many locals have to turn to central London for events and nightlife instead, for the past several years at least. It just adds to the bad reputation the area already suffers.
That being said, we think the creative energy of our area is special. It is fierce, restless, dangerous, wacky and weird, and we believe this is proved by the amount of talented young artists in the area. The problem has been chronic underfunding, the lack of venues and the various social problems…all these things mean there have not been enough resources to provide enough platforms (or enough quality platforms) – to showcase this talent. We are hoping to be part of that change.
How do you feel about the current redevelopment/regeneration of Croydon?
Very interesting question. We believe in regeneration without gentrification. I think definitely a big part of what we are doing as SeeOur7 is trying to assert our identity and our culture – before things begin changing. We want to be a part of a positive change in the area that does not compromise on its roots – or end up betraying its communities.
We want to draw attention to the fact that the police tried to ban bashment and other forms of urban music in Croydon only a few years ago. But now that there is investment and regeneration, suddenly urban music is the new cool thing – and all the politicians who voted for that ban are now taking photos and smiling with Krept and Konan.
As one of the poorest boroughs in London, there is no doubt that the area has been deeply neglected by the government and needs regeneration, but communities have to be involved in that process. Urban music culture and grassroots organising is an important way of achieving that, and that’s where we see our role.
The idea is to bring people together and celebrate what it means to be from Croydon. That includes building a new culture and nightlife as well as providing a network for all the talented people who live here – and have already lived here – through the hard, dark and boring times the area has suffered. And to have a seriously fun time doing it….we deserve that at least.
Does money kill culture/creativity or help it flourish?
Hmm…well human creativity existed before money did, and if anything, money is just a human creation of value. But we have to acknowledge that creativity is now an industry. It is definitely about striking the right balance between doing what we do for the love of it, as well as ensuring we can run sustainably and have enough to reinvest so that we grow and keep building together for our community and our area.
Where would you like SeeOur7 to be a year from now?
Producing bigger and better events and performing at a few more festivals (we are in talks with a few festivals for this summer.) Other than that, just getting better as artists and ensuring our network and our community keeps growing!