Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts may have attracted the tourists, but in terms of serious cool it's hard to top Beat Dis. Run by a group of black jazz musicians from a community centre tucked away in a quiet Notting Hill square, Beat Dis is more than a music workshop, it is more even than a local internet radio station. It is a way of life.
From offices and studios rented from The Tabernacle, a lottery-funded arts centre, Beat Dis has started training people from the local community as programme editors, sound mixers, journalists, presenters, administrators - whatever they want to be. The training is hands-on and it is real. These are not pretend jobs and they are not pretend opportunities. Project leader Tony Thomas asserts: 'It would cost you £500 in the private sector to buy the kind of training we're offering. If you look at who's providing courses for the young and unemployed then we're putting most government-run organisations to shame. We're a bunch of musicians with degrees - but I'd challenge anyone to produce the results we have on the budget we've got.'
The BBC's community radio London Live's partnership in the Beat Dis internet radio project is an important boost. The community and the trainees are setting the agenda for this station and there are programme slots for local news stories, history, rap music, schools and colleges, and of course the world-famous Notting Hill Carnival. It is the authentic voice of a very diverse and vibrant community and the BBC is keen to tap into it.
Which is why the BBC is also installing two-way TV and sound recording equipment to boost Beat Dis' already impressive state-of-the-art technology. Santana recently played a little-publicised gig at The Tabernacle and soon shows like this will be simultaneously recorded and transmitted live on the internet. Journalism is also part of the package of creating community radio and on the afternoon I visited, BBC radio journalist Sian Lord was leading a training session on interview techniques - keeping celebrities or politicians to the point, and getting that all important sound bite without resorting to trickery. Around 20 Beat Dis trainees, many of whom will soon be on the streets with digital audio recorders, were bombarding her with questions.
For trainee Jimmy Sydney (33) work at Beat Dis is rescuing him from a series of dead-end jobs managing bars and restaurants. He wants to get out there and DJ. 'I left school at 15 and for me the internet training is boosting my employability and confidence. We work as a team and Tony gets a lot of respect.'
Come the Carnival Beat Dis will be live on air. The hours of training in sound mixing and journalism and the many other skills will soon pay off. As Tony says, his philosophy is to take on people for their enthusiasm, to train them and to help them learn from each other.
It costs a lot of money to run an outfit like this and Tony has no time for people who sit in committees and debate whether they can afford this or that piece of kit. If the equipment is cutting edge and it is available then Beat Dis has to have it. Tony says "What we don't do is train people on equipment that is two or three years old and then send them out to try and get work. The sound studios round here would just turn round and laugh at us. 'What? You don't know this?? It's industry standard!'" Catch them on www.portobello2000.co.uk!
NAME: Beat 'Dis Arts