Edward Adoo: DJ talks knife crime, diversity and how music unites us

Edward Adoo features in the latest Ham&High podcast.

Edward Adoo features in the latest Ham&High podcast. - Credit: Edward Adoo/Ham&High

"It's not just here in Queen's Crescent, or in Kentish Town. This has turned into an epidemic. It's across London, it's London-wide. People are losing their lives and no one knows what to do about it."

Broadcaster and DJ Edward Adoo is a passionate man, whether talking about knife crime or about his love for music's power to bring down barriers. 

On this week's Ham&High Podcast, Edward discussed how Queen's Crescent – where he grew up – has changed over thirty years, and how it feels to be turned down for work because his voice sounds too "urban". 

In a wide-ranging chat, he also waxed lyrical on the pleasure of DJing, and spoke of his sadness that the pistachio ice cream at Marine Ices in Chalk Farm doesn't quite taste the same as it did in his childhood.

Knife crime is an issue close to his heart. Though he now lives across the Brent border in Cricklewood, Edward grew up in Grafton Road, Queen's Crescent.

In segment for BBC TV's Daily Politics in 2018, Edward returned to Queen's Crescent to examine how knife crime had affected his community.

He said: "It was really personal to me. I wanted to take the viewer back to the area where I grew up and to explain what it was like, but to say: 'Look, this is the issue. This is what's happening. What can be done about it?'"

He said he feels the issue is compounded by fear. 

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"One thing about Queen's Crescent and Gospel Oak was that regardless of  your background or your status, it had that true working class ethic where everybody would be respected and given a chance," he said.

"The neighbours that I had were a true representation of that. And they would stick by you. And they were people who lived on my block, where they were from different parts of the world, from Bangladesh to Mexico or South America. 

"We didn't have a census form to say 'where are you from?', 'this is your background' or 'you belong in this certain class group'.

"It was about your manner, your personality, and your outlook on life. And I think that's what brought people together. But I think that suddenly changed in 20 years, and it made the area somewhat more toxic.

"It made people who would live in the area more, more vulnerable and frightened."

People coming together is a theme Edward returns too, particularly in the context of his work as a DJ. 

He spins records on a number of BBC stations, and has a long history of live sets – which he's desperate to get back to when the pandemic allows. One of his first regular gigs was at the old Eclipse Bar, now The Alice House ("Playing that West Hampstead set, I met so many great people").

"For me, DJing in London has been an honour and it's been a privilege," he said.

"In these trying times, it's been a struggle thinking about the next DJ gig because I, alongside other DJs, don't know when that's going to happen. 

"One thing I like, one thing which lured me into DJing, was about diversity, integration and people being themselves. We've got that societal view of how we are defined based on how we look and how we sound, but when we're dancing there's no one ticking a box saying: 'Oh, you're ABC1 or you're BAME or you're 52.'

"No one is judged on the dance floor."

Edward Adoo

Brought up in Camden, Edward Adoo know lives in Cricklewood. - Credit: Edward Adoo

Edward's always championed increasing diversity in the music, radio and broadcasting worlds and said: "I'd like to say I've tried to at least create more conversations. And I was, I was fortunate to get a call from Matt Hancock."

He was asked by the then-minister for digital to take part in a panel addressing diversity issues. 

He said: "I more or less said to Matt: 'Look, based on my experiences, I think the creative industry needs to be more diverse.'

"Radio, in particular commercial radio needs to be doing more because at the time, commercial radio, in my opinion: they had to do more.

"More work needs to be done, but they seem to be kind of going in the right direction. Back in 2015/16,  they weren't there."

Looking forward, it's getting back in front of a DJ deck that Edward's looking forward to most. 

Of the last year, he said: "It's been it's been crippling, it's been sad, it's been tragic. And I hope things turn around, so I can get back to DJing and just being happy watching people dance to tunes."