Promo company in Bloods and Crips row

The organisers of an Edinburgh club night have come under fire as a result of a controversial theme which appears to make light of gang violence in the United States.

The ‘Old Town vs New Town’ event from on-going student hip hop night Gin N’ Juice Edinburgh is to take place on Monday February 9 at the Liquid Rooms, representing the latest in a number of nights popular amongst Edinburgh students.

The original event description made some striking references to gang culture. “To glorify the thug life, like Bloods vs Crips,” the event’s Gin N’ Juice girls would be distributing red and blue bandanas free to partygoers, “enabling easy identification of other members of the same cultural affinity” – a direct reference to the colours used by the Bloods and Crips. The description continued, “distinctive hand signals are optional”, referencing the signals used by the gangs to identify their members.

In comments to The Student, Simon Bays from the event’s promotion company SEPE Ltd, which also runs a number of other club nights across Edinburgh including Broke! Edinburgh, Temple and Mansion, reacted angrily to controversy over the theme.

In a statement that ended in two paragraphs of Charlie Brooker quotes, Bays said: “If I believed that our recent ‘Gin n Juice’ event description had in any way impeded the lives of those struggling with a life of gang violence in Los Angeles, I would wholeheartedly apologise. If I believed that our recent ‘Gin n Juice’ event description had in any way impeded increases in racial equality or social equality (both of which we strongly advocate), I would wholeheartedly apologise.

“However, I believe neither of the above situations to have been true and I am not willing to apologise for giving people who love being offended something to be offended about. Having already changed the event title and description (in a futile attempt to save the time taken to write this response), the fact that this ‘scandal’ remains in the Edinburgh student news cycle and I am still being asked to comment is proof that these people care more about making mountains from molehills than the actual issue.

“Having employed, done business with and made friendships with hundreds of people from a vast range of racial and social backgrounds (none of whom have expressed their offence at this event), I’d wager that we at SEPE do more to combat racial and social inequalities than any of the people creating this issue.

“For the record: I personally prefer spending my weekends watching South Park and listening to Richard Keys than responding to ridiculous accusations of racism and bigotry, but I am not a racist, a sexist or without conscience. I just have a sense of humour, there’s a difference – and anyone who disagrees is more idiotic than our event description was ignorant.”

Since the publication of the initial Facebook event description on 2 February, the organisers of the event have altered the description and theme of the event to remove most of the gang references, along with the original accompanying poster which depicted two black men holding guns facing each other in red and blue bandanas. This appears to have been changed by the organisers in the face of criticism from Facebook followers of the event’s page.

The Student contacted two of the main critics of the event’s Facebook page.

Ryan Marinello, a local promoter, said: “I find that this person, working as a club promoter, working for a large promotions company, and running regular hip hop club-nights, has shown a staggering amount of ignorance that has proved too much for many to stomach. I pointed out that the promoter was a white male from an affluent background and was told that this was of no relevance. It is beyond belief, the lack of awareness.”

Eva Yuma, a former Edinburgh University student now living in Washington, DC, also criticised the event’s theme: “Basically my feeling is that having a Bloods vs Crips party is an extreme exercise in white privilege. Clearly to them, the degradation and slayings of impoverished black youths is something so trivial, so apparently entertaining that it could become a party theme.

“I’m African-American myself and if these people were hip-hop fans like they claim to be they would know that this is not an accurate or helpful way to show solidarity with black people. Trivializing and tokenizing black people’s struggles is the opposite of what hip-hop is about.”

Edinburgh University Student Association’s Black and Minority Ethnic Convenor, Faatima Osman, told The Student: “The main issues were racism in terms of trivialising issues of violence within historically oppressed ethnic groups, in particular African-Americans. Also classism in terms of emphasising the whole new town/old town divide and differences between the social groups who tend to live in each.

“Furthermore, it is up to the oppressed to decide when a certain action hampers their liberation, it is not to be decided by the hegemonic group.”

A spokesperson for the Liquid Rooms said: “The event is an outside promoter and the event has been changed due to public concern.”

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