Steve Peake is a serial social entrepreneur with interests in African cultural, social and economic development and promoting sustainability and conscious / ethical lifestyles in the West.
The Director of Indigenous People, Steve studied various aspects of cultural sociology while completing a BSc in International Relations and an MA in International History at the London School of Economics. He focussed on the so-called ‘ethnic revival’ in Western Europe since the 1960s, the impact of the communications revolution on the emergence of transnational and global identities and institutions and the impact of colonisation and de-colonisation on indigenous African cultural and social institutions. Through his studies, Steve became aware of the core human need for a sense of cultural and spiritual belonging and identity, without which people begin to feel alienated and isolated. He also studied the impact of urbanisation, industrialisation and the increased role of technology on our lives, and their role in dislocating us from nature. This results in alienation and unhappiness, depression and anxiety. Finally, he became familiar with the works of thinkers such as Karl Jung and other eco-spiritual thinkers about the need for a re-discovery of a sense of connection with nature if we are to avoid the considerable costs associated with increased alienation and dis-connection.
While at the LSE, Steve was President of the European Society, reflecting his committment to internationalism, was the Student Union DJ and organised a series of legendary parties at Carr-Saunders hall of residence.
While studying part time for his MA, Steve worked as a researcher in the House of Commons for Donald Anderson MP, who was Labour front bench spokesperson on Foreign Affairs. He also spent a summer as an intern at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs in Washington DC.
After leaving the LSE, Steve spent some time working in the environmental movement where he became familiar with the ideas and principles behind the United Nation as Local Agenda 21, which sees local communities as the primary agents for environmental protection and the promotion of sustainability. He became a student of ‘transition culture’ – a new set of values and beliefs that we need to adopt if we are to rise to the twin challenges of peak oil and climate change.
After narrowly missing out on a job at the British Foreign Office, Steve first visted Ghana in 1994 when he attended the academic colloquium at the Panafest – a gathering of thinkers and artists seeking to pursue an Pan-Africanist cultural and political agenda. He met the Kakatsitsi Drummers in the car-park at Capecoast University, who gave him a lift back to Accra and a connection was made. After they asked him to become their manager, Steve conducted a research tour of UK festivals before organising the first Kakatsitsi tour in 1996, using funds borrowed from an old LSE friend who was working as a bonds trader in the City of London.
Since ’96, Steve has organised 15 tours by Kakatsitsi Drummers, including collaborations with Australian Aboriginal group ‘Red Centre Dreaming’, the !Gubi Family of San trance dancers from the Namibian Kalahari and Mbilou a Bwiti ‘Nganga’ from Gabon. These tours have included high profile appearances at WOMAD, Shambala and Glastonbury, as well as numerous smaller festivals and venues across the UK. Steve has worked with the indigenous musicians & dancers to develop a very strong educational dimension, which has seen them visit primary and secondary schools from Cornwall to Shetland, promoting positive images of Black and African people, tackling negative stereotypes and discrimination and promoting the many health and wellbeing benefits of participation in community drumming and dance celebrations.
Running parallel to his work with Indigenous People, Steve has been a leading promoter of ‘conscious’ events, first with the Ecotrip DIY Cultural Caravan which organised a festivals space in 1996. He organised a series of underground parties in South London which combined dance culture with the raising of awareness about the non-violent direct action movement. After becoming alienated by the dubious working practices of many of his anarchic colleagues, Steve left to focus on Indigenous People, before returning to event production promotion with the Liquid Spiral Collective. Liquid Spiral was a collective of artists that organised a series of acclaimed underground events in London in 2001. Wishing to work in a more structured, professional manner, Steve joined forces with Dominik Schnell of ID Spiral and Ross March of the Liquid Connective / Liquid Records to create The Synergy Project, a series of conscious indoor festivals held at the SEOne Club in London between 2003 and 2008. Synergy brought together DJs, live bands, poets, performers and artists with activists and campaigners from leading Non-governmental organisations such as Greenpace, Oxfam, Actionaid, Friends of the Earth and Amnesty International. At its peak, Synergy attracted more than 2500 people aged 18-65 to each event, gaining international recognition for its unique mix of entertainment and awareness raising.
In 2005, using profits from The Synergy Project, Steve and a team of fellow Synergistas set up the first Synergy Centre in a disused warehouse in the deprived South London community of Camberwell. With funding from Southwark Council’s Neighbourhood Renewal Fund, the Centre delivered a Youth Inclusion Project in the after-school period using activities such as digital music production, drumming and dance classes and a Synergy Youth Council to divert local young people away from anti-social and criminal behaviour and gang membership.
The Camberwell Centre was forced to close in 2009 when the owner of the warehouse sold the building. After spending some time living in Ghana, Steve returned to the UK in 2011 and in 2015, he and a new team agreed a temporary lease on a disused night club in the heart of Brighton. The Brighton Synergy Centre hosted a wide variety of events put on by Brighton’s progressive community, culminating in it hosting “The World Transformed” – a conference organised by Momentum to run parallel with the Labour Party’s conference in Brighton.
In the face of considerable opposition from the local police, Brighton Synergy was unable to restore the premises licence on the building and bring it back into sustainable commercial use. In April 2018 they vacated the building which has since been demolished to make way for a budget hotel.
Steve is currently living and working between the UK and Ghana where, in addition to continuing to work on Indigenous People, he is working on plans open an Accra Synergy Centre. He is also working with renowned Ghanaian traditional flute player Dela Botri to develop the Ghana Association of Traditional Performing Artists to advocate on behalf of a sector that has been neglected by the main stream Ghanaian music industry. This is due to the marked westernisation of cultural values and aesthetics that has been underway in Ghana for some time. While in Ghana, Steve is also working on medium terms plans to create a Synergy Eco-Village in the Volta Region of Ghana.
For more information on Steve’s philosophy and vision, please explore the following links :
Indigenous Ecology & The Modern World – Some thoughts about the value of indigenous ecological wisdom for westerners seeking to adopt more environmental sustainable and responsible lifestyles.
Rhythm & Health – An introduction to the social and individual health and educational benefits of rhythmic drumming or dance.
Bio-Cultural Diversity – An introduction to the concept of ‘Bio-Cultural Diversity’ and the growing recognition of humans as intrinsic parts of ecosystems.
Synergy Centre Mission Statement – some of the outline goals of the Synergy Centre model.