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Baltic Profiles: Rory Taylor

Baltic Profiles: Rory Taylor

Over the next few months, we will be publishing a series of profile pieces about key figures in the Baltic Triangle and the innovative and creative minds behind everything Baltic.

From digital creators, guitar makers and tech entrepreneurs (and many more). We will be exploring their personal and professional lives and their role in making the Baltic Triangle what it is today.

Rory Taylor runs the Positive Vibration Festival, regular Reggae Socials at District and represents international reggae artists at home and abroad.  He is on a mission with Positive Vibration to bring reggae to a wider audience.

Rory came to Liverpool to study law in 2003.  He is an intellectual property lawyer who is also passionate about raising the profile of reggae in Liverpool and beyond. In 2013, as part of a collective, Rory began Positive Vibration with a small event in the Kazimer gardens featuring local DJs and a couple of bands.

Rory said: “We didn’t feel there was enough reggae in Liverpool.  It was cool, it went well, and in 2014 we did a 12-hour event in the garden and the pub.  We knew the Kazimer was closing down and we wanted to move to the Baltic, this vibrant and upcoming area.”

The creation of Positive Vibration Festival

“In 2015 we moved to Constellations and it was still a day event with a few bands and stuff. In 2016 we made a big decision – let’s do this properly!” and so the Positive Vibrations Festival was born. In 2016, its first year, it won the UK’s Best New Festival awards for its two-day event.

“We bring some of the biggest names in reggae music and dub, put on an international art exhibition, a panel discussion, creative and educational workshops for families and a market – it’s gone from this little garden party into a really big event!”

Rory and Positive Vibration have brought a range of acts to its Baltic-based festival include Lee Scratch Perry, Roni Size, Sister Nancy and many others.  Rory said: “Early on we put a flag in the sand. Reggae is the focus and all kinds of related genres and different art forms – a massive line up.

“There’s lots of music that influenced reggae and reggae-influenced a lot of music – so ska, dub, punk, two-tone, hip hop elements, drum and bass – it’s all linked.

The festival has continued to grow and connect with other projects including raising funds through a silent auction of reggae posters for the Alpha Boys School in Jamaica.

“It is a school that is educational and provides musical tuition for underprivileged kids that’s been going since 1880.  Without it we wouldn’t have reggae because most pioneers went through this school.

Rory speaks of how (to an extent) the festival has become a victim of its own success:

“The festival has grown so much so that we’ve actually had to take a step back this year. It’s such a small team and we’ve all got full-time jobs. It’s a lot of work – it’s a small festival in the grand scheme of things but we don’t really have the infrastructure for it to continue to grow as it is.”

Reggae Social events at District

Positive Vibration also hosts reggae shows in Liverpool throughout the year, mostly held at District, featuring artists such as Big Youth, Horace Andy, Benjamin Zephaniah, Dawn Penn and The Scientist.  They currently hold regular reggae socials with local DJs every month throughout the summer – the next one being 29th June.

“We have a close relationship with District because for me it’s a place for everybody – for misfits, for music that is underground that is not given a platform – there is a big black music programme at District, LGBT programme and everyone’s together, cool and feels safe.”

Rory and Positive Vibration have now moved into bookings and management and host tours across the UK and Europe: “We also have a presence in the north and south America, south-east Asia and in certain parts of the Caribbean and also collaborating on shows in Italy and Mexico and looking at doing stuff in Tanzania and Tel Aviv.  It’s mad that we’re a UK company curating tours for Jamaican artists in China!”

From its early beginnings as a one-off in the Kazimer garden, Rory’s Positive Vibration has spread across the globe:

“This has all grown from an afternoon in the garden- this small and perfectly formed garden event has taken over my life.  It means a lot to me. For me, especially as a non-Jamaican, to ensure what we do has integrity is so important and we’ve worked hard to gain the trust and respect of Jamaicans and the Caribbean community.

“Reggae is not given the platform it deserves. It has influenced so much music and continues to do so, even when you listen to chart music, they are taking a reggae beat and a dance hall beat, and they’re not acknowledged.

“Our primary objective is to give reggae music and all related genres a greater platform, especially in the UK and for people to take it seriously because people don’t.  It’s more than Bob Marley – he’s number one of course he is. He didn’t start it, it’s a culture, it’s dance, it’s patois, it’s food, it’s everything.  Fundamentally what we’re trying to do is a give reggae a platform to a wide and varied audience.”

Promoting Jamaican culture in Liverpool and beyond

Rory also works with the Jamaican High Commission and tourist board, linking up with organisations and charities as well as artists and musicians. For an example of Rory’s close working relationship with the Jamaican High Commission, Rory was contacted to look at ways of promoting the Jamaican netball team whilst based in Liverpool:

“The netball world cup is coming to Liverpool in July and the Jamaican High Commission got in touch as the Jamaican team are coming over and they want to create a village for the athletes.  The Jamaican High Commission contacting this white beardy boy from Lancashire – it’s mental!”

Even though this particular collaboration didn’t come together due to unforeseen circumstances, it is an example of how Rory and his team have become an integral component in promoting Jamaican culture throughout Liverpool.

Rory is extremely passionate about what he does and what he is trying to achieve and is very much aware of the responsibility he is carrying and the legacy he is working to continue.

“Everyone can enjoy everyone’s culture.  The more reggae the better, but when you’ve got people diluting and exploiting a culture – especially a culture that’s not your own then I’ve got no time for it. Integrity and credibility are number one.”