Community Magazine – Early days Break dancing (It’s not new!)

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Back in 1984 Manchester’s Broken Glass were the best-known breakdance crew in the UK, appearing on a whole host of national TV programmes ranging from the cutting-edge music show, The Tube, to children’s favourite “CBTV”, and even popping up at peak-time on a Saturday night (ITV’s “Some You Win”).

The Broken Glass Street Crew originally came together in the summer of 1983, busking in Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester city centre. They were true pioneers of British breaking (Kermit, a founding member, would be the first UK breakdancer photographed for a national publication). At this point in time, Manchester was at the heart of the underground Electro-Funk scene, from which the early British b-boys (and fly girls) emerged, and I was the DJ at the North’s leading specialist black music nights of the era, Wednesday at Legend and Tuesday at The Pier, in nearby Wigan.

I’d also taken over the Friday night at The Haçienda, then very much an alternative venue, and, in addition to this, would appear at the clubs Saturday night sessions, playing for an hour each week, and introducing their regular crowd to the New York Electro that held sway on the black scene.

The original break era was a life-changing period for so many people, who as a result would become DJs, dancers, rappers and musicians. For young blacks in particular, this was a truly inspirational time, and Broken Glass perfectly reflected this spirit of creativity.

Kermit eventually became one of the UK’s best-known rappers following his debut on “Style Of The Street”, firstly as part of the Manchester trio, the Ruthless Rap Assassins, whose “Killer Album” in 1990 was critically acclaimed as a major landmark for British rap. Kermit would go on to hook up with Shaun Ryder of The Happy Mondays to form Black Grape, scoring a Number 1 album and a string of hit singles, whilst a second ex-Broken Glass member, Dave ‘The Wave’ (now known as Davy T) has also sold over a million records worldwide, this time with various dance projects, including The Porn Kings and 2 Funky 2.

Hearing the news of Swanny’s passing on February 20th 2006 was obviously a huge shock for all of the Broken Glass crew. The following Friday night, Benji Reid dedicated the opening night of his new production, “Life of a B-Boy”, to Swanny. The performance at the Zion Arts Centre in Hulme. Manchester, was attended by members of Broken Glass. A particularly poignant moment was when, after paying tribute to Swanny, Benji mentioned that his newly born daughter, who was just a week old, was in the audience – a reminder that birth and death are intertwined, with all of us subject to life’s cycle.

Greg Wilson, August 2006.

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