Review: Beats & Eats at Matthew’s Yard

By - Monday 21st April, 2014

Shaniqua Benjamin chats to the organisers of Beats & Eats, a monthly music night, while enjoying the sounds and succulent food

Cigna Spine. Photo by Elikem Akaplu and used with permission.

Once a month in Matthews Yard, the two ingredients of fresh food and melodious music are blended together to create Beats & Eats, a fun-filled night where all individuals can come and simply be themselves. Saturday April 5th was only the sixth event, but the word has spread and Matthews Yard was bursting with a crowd of all ages – John Paul Butler, one of the Beats & Eats founders, describes the event as having “a real family vibe [where] people are happy to bring their kids.”

John Paul and Ian Anantharajah originally started a music night back in February 2013 – Ian said, “we wanted to create an event for the community for aspiring artists to have a place to play”. This did not prove to be very successful, but after seeing the popularity of the Croydon Bake Off, they made the decision to combine the selling of food with the music event and in August, the first Beats & Eats took place.

Beats & Eats co-ordinator, Dan Singaratnam, says that the “event is about us showcasing Croydon positively… The aim is to give local talent a platform to perform so they can promote their music”. What is so special is that this particular event showcases music across a variety of genres, performed by talented musicians of different ages.

Muna’s response from the crowd was so positive that she is returning to sing at Beats & Eats again next month

Cigna Spine is a band that has only been playing together for a couple of months and was performing for the second time at Beats & Eats. Their unique sound is very reminiscent of the songs of old – founder, vocalist and guitarist, Al, says that he is inspired by “all the music I’ve ever listened to in my life”. The four members of Cigna Spine have enjoyed playing in front of the “diverse” crowd and watching the other acts perform – drummer, Elena, says that it is “nice to see some young kids having their stage presence. I have a lot of respect for them, as I still get really nervous”.

Also performing for the second time was RnB and soul singer, Muna. Muna had written her own material as a young girl and studied music at college, but after a bout of illness, setting up her own business and a five year break, she decided to pursue music again in January of this year. Her captivating set of RnB and soul had the crowd on their feet, dancing and singing along. Muna’s response from the crowd was so positive that she is returning to sing at Beats & Eats again next month.

Muna. Photo by Elikem Akaplu and used with permission.

Regular Beats & Eats performer, Paul, who goes by the name of Fire Blazing, “wants to help the kids today”. Fire Blazing believes that Beats & Eats is a way of giving young people another option, saying that “we’re trying to help them in any way we can to bring out the creative side of them”, and a number of young people did show their creative side on Saturday night.

Seventeen-year-old Daniel, who goes by the stage name Oxiane – another second-time performer – was joined onstage by nineteen-year-old first-time performer Toby, who calls himself Elevated_T. RnB singer, Oxiane, commands the stage and rapper, Elevated_T, draws you in with his flow, but both young men write their own material and perform with a chilled, mellow style. Oxiane likes performing at Beats & Eats, because it is very different to his usual crowds, which has broadened his audience.

Fifteen-year-old Anjelo Disons has been making music for a year, but this was his Beats & Eats debut and he will be making a return next month. Anjelo is a gifted singer and guitar player whose acoustic set proved popular with those in attendance – his rendition of ‘Just Hold On, We’re Going Home’ by Drake was especially mesmerising.

Anjelo Disons. Photo by Elikem Akaplu and used with permission.

An important element of Beats & Eats is the showcasing of local food as well as musical talent. Chef George has had a West Indian food stall on Surrey Street Market for fourteen years and is said to serve “the best jerk chicken in Croydon”. His stall has been a regular occurrence at the event from the beginning and it seems to have been a hit with the crowd, as they enjoy the famous and freshly cooked jerk chicken.

Neil Ridulfa is a savoury baker who has also been supplying refreshments since the event started. Neil’s produce is grown and bought locally from Sutton Community Farm and then cooked locally, as he believes that if you do not support local projects, then the money will filter off somewhere else. Neil thinks that Beats & Eats has become such a success because “you have live music and fresh food. Everyone enjoys those two things. You put it in a great venue and it just lights up”.

We will try our best to help young people and show them there’s another way, rather than a gang

Gemma Johnson, also known as Gemma the Baker, was selling her baked goods for the first time at Beats & Eats after asking the organisers, “where’s the sweet stuff?”. Gemma had a mixture of traditional and unique treats on offer – including courgette cake, chocolate brownies, Eton mess cupcakes, Guinness chocolate cake and flapjacks – that were light and visually appealing, making them ideal sweet treats for a family night out.

“We want talent. We will try our best to help [young people] and show them there’s another way, rather than a gang”, said Fire Blazing. Beats & Eats is a Croydon venture that is drawing the community together and creating the good vibes that are so desperately needed. It is also a way of channelling expression – Fire Blazing says, “Anyone can come to events like this and play any type of music… They’re expressing themselves in the right way”.

John Paul says that Beats & Eats is like “a mini festival” and he would eventually like to expand the event into a full-scale festival, but for now they will be at their home of Matthews Yard. The next event will take place on May 3rd and you can find further information by visiting their Facebook page or following them on Twitter: @beats_eats.

Shaniqua Benjamin

Shaniqua Benjamin

Shaniqua is a writer and poet, born and raised in Thornton Heath, which she is proud to call her home. She has used her passion for making a difference to found a platform, Young People Insight, which empowers the voices of young people and encourages community engagement. When she’s not writing or trying to cause change, she loves reading, scrapbooking, watching films and listening to music.

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  • Saif Bonar

    Really well written piece Shaniqua! Stick with it.

  • Shaniqua Benjamin

    Thank you Saif, I appreciate it.