It's easy to take grime's central place in British music for granted.
Skepta and Stormzy are scoring massive hits and smashing festivals, while the sound can be heard everywhere from pirate radio to adverts on primetime television.
It wasn't always this way, though. A handful of mavericks helped open the doors to these artists, and few had a bigger impact than Darren Platt.
As the founder of Channel U the industry figure helped give grime broader visibility, providing a launchpad for countless careers.
Sadly, Darren passed away yesterday (July 14th). The sheer scale of tributes being offered is testament to his work, with the likes of Ghetts, Lethal Bizzle, MC NoLay and many, many more paying their respects.
Cat Park is currently a director at tenLetter PR, a company engaged in unearthing and promoting new talent from the world of grime and beyond. Cat worked closely with Darren Platt, and here she writes for Clash about his life, work, and impact.
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Channel U was my home for almost eight years and like so many others, it was my gateway to music.
Darren Platt gave me my first job in music. He believed in me, trusted me and gave me every opportunity possible to prove myself as the channel manager and later as a label manager for 360 Records. The incredible thing about Darren was that he did that for everyone. He was an eccentric man that pushed the boundaries and wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he felt passionately for. He supported the scene and provided an outlet for a young generations voice and allowed it to be heard on a mainstream platform throughout the country. He was influential in breaking acts such as N-Dubz and introduced them to All Around The World where they found their main success as a group. He funded videos for the likes of Devlin and Lethal Bizzle, releasing their music on his label and supporting them in to the next stage of their careers. He gave Lord of the Mics their platform to re-launch from for the release of LOTM3 and he opened the doors for the likes of Tinie Tempah, Tinchy Stryder, Chip, Ruff Sqwad and more.
To the viewers and artists it was hype and exciting but behind the scenes, Darren had to fight to support a raw and undiscovered scene. There’d be fines from OFCOM for playing videos that they deemed unsuitable and he’d have to pay the solicitors bills that went along with them. He’d have pressure from police who would watch the channel carefully and behind the veil of Channel U, Darren would fight against the oppression of the culture to ensure the voice would still be heard. It was far from glitz and glamour and Darren made many sacrifices to keep the channel going through tough times because he loved what it stood for. Nobody was investing in our scene then, nobody wanted to know and people certainly didn’t want to advertise on the channel so Darren was doing it alone.
In Lethal Bizzle’s online tribute to Darren yesterday, he referred to him as a ‘visionary’ and I couldn’t think of a better word to describe him. Darren would have a million ideas that he’d chuck at a wall and if one stuck, he’d run with it. He had an incredible ability to see the potential in things and he saw the potential in grime and UK independent music long before most others. He was always one step ahead of the times, as seen with his launch of his label 360 Records in 2008 that was the home to Lethal Bizzle, Devlin, Griminal and more.
Darren and Channel U enabled a scene to grow. From a whole generation of artists, would-be artists, managers, PR’s, video directors, models and more, his dedication played a big part in creating this scene we have today, the jobs that are in place and the amazing awareness of a culture.
Thank you for fighting for us and seeing it before anyone else could. Rest in Paradise my boss, my inspiration, my friend, Darren Platt.
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