I was very much saddened to learn from my DJ friend Jamie Renton that Nick Skelton (DJ Skunk as he was known) died earlier this month. He was both a friend and a supporter of independent music over the past two decades, through his work, first at 209 Radio and later at Cambridge 105 Radio.
For me, what singled Nick out, was the warmth of his welcome to and support for the culture of migrant artists. He embraced local refugee communities in and around Cambridge. He interviewed many refugees, men and women, for his various radio shows. He would ask them to talk about their journeys to the UK and to illustrate those odysseys through the music they listened to, before, during and after their arrival here. His aim, as he said, was to help them settle in the UK, to make sure their stories were heard. He wanted to give them a platform and a voice, to combat the growing xenophobia not just in Britain but in Europe as well.
His dream was to get funding to train and enable some of those refugees to raise their voices and to have their own radio programmes!
Whenever I had a concert or a workshop in Cambridge over the past two decades, I would be greeted by Nick’s and his wife Kay’s warm welcome smiles. They made me feel welcome. This was special for me, not least in the “World Music” scene in Britain. There is an unmistakeable air around “World Music” that is neo-colonialist in colour. I have often felt that they favoured artists who looked ethnic, but sounded fusion. Artists who looked fusion, but sounded ethnic like me never seemed to be top of their priority list. With Nick, it was the opposite, and I always felt he respected me for whom I was.
I was lucky to be interviewed by him several times, including for Cambridge 105 in 2006. If you care to listen to it, it’s interesting that he largely edited himself out of the tape, to allow his guest to talk about her culture and heritage. It was measure of his modesty and of his interest in what refugees had to say: http://www.reemkelani.com/page_media_radiotv.asp
Rest in Peace and Power, dearest brother.