Born from an aspiration to subvert the meaning of an acronym, there’s an organisation combatting extremism with peace, love and unity. They are the English Disco Lovers (EDL), and if you’re in England, like disco and want to live in a world riled by love, instead of fear, then you’re welcome to their party.
Whilst the English Defence League attempt to veil racism and homophobia with supposedly legitimate political concerns, English Disco Lovers’ initial aim is simple and transparent. They use music as a medium to celebrate and strengthen communities.
Started after a night round a campfire, a plan was hatched by then-student Alex Jones to take back the English Defence League‘s acronym. In the autumn of 2012, Jones and some friends launched their own EDL Facebook page, using the name English Disco Lovers. “The interesting thing was that Alex wasn’t particularly a big fan of Disco,” Sam Moffett tells me. “But after he met me, I decided to plough it into him.”
I’m enjoying an afternoon drink with Moffett, one of the organisation’s core DJs and a driving force behind its disco themed events, to discover more about this unusual socio-political movement. Although now more cantered around the mantra of ‘don’t hate, gyrate!’, often countering the marches of right-wing extremists with impromptu disco parties along the routes, EDL had a simpler initial mission statement.
The idea was, through careful use of search engine optimisation and online campaigning, to get their website to top Google results when searching for ‘EDL’.
Thanks to intervention from an unknown hacker bringing down the English Defence League’s website, they achieved this aim briefly last summer. Although this is no longer the case, there are a growing number of people wanting to make a peaceful stand for equality and acceptance.
But is the English Defence League unhappy with a bunch of brightly dressed partiers trying to pinch their acronym? “When you put on anything even the smallest way opinionated, there will be people that won’t like it,” Jones tells me over the phone. “That’s just the way of the world.”
Jones says his relationship with disco has changed and matured, thanks in part to Moffett’s encouragement. “It only can do, when you’re seeing people blasting out tunes about love, at a bunch of people chanting behind a police line.” By advocating dancing in defiance instead of forceful counter-protesting, EDL offer a safer way to voice opposition for far-right marches without encountering the violence plaguing those events.
Moffett himself became involved after encountering the EDL, vibrantly counter-protesting at a March for Britain in Brighton during 2014. He approached them and said they need a DJ, to be told it would be him if he wanted. There’s no arguing with Moffett’s DJ credentials, having been resident at legendary London nightspots Limelight and The Wag.
He’s clearly passionate about disco and its place within the history of dance music, gleefully talking about old records and the impact of people like François Kevorkian, Larry Levine and Mel Cheren. He’s also critical of many aspects of the modern clubbing experience, he bemoans the prevalence of “Lifestyle House” and the rise of “International Beige”. He’s also adamant disco has a proud heritage of encouraging inclusion, being a hedonistic culture embraced by black, latino and gay minorities driving the 70s. Although there were once strong divisions between these communities, the shared love for Hi-NRG music united all under a message of acceptance and perseverance.
Now EDL organise talks and debates, fundraising club nights and make festival appearances across the nation. You may have seen them at Boomtown, March of the Mermaids or rocking the BN1 Stage at Kemptown Carnival this summer. The organisation is now looking to centralise their shows, with an eye on raising significant amounts of money for charitable organisations that share their beliefs. It’s felt they should be using the enormous grassroots support they’ve established to help people working with communities.
Whilst hate-crime, racism and Islamophobia are still, in some quarters, difficult subject matters to broach so the EDL are striving to provide a platform for the debate. If you want to stand up against intolerance, want to protest against nationalism or simply love a good party, you should check out what they do. As Moffett says at the start of every EDL gig, “We are the English Disco Lovers… You are the English Disco Lovers.”
English Disco Lovers are holding a free beach party at Fortune of War, Brighton Seafront, on Fri 5 Sept, 9:00pm – late.