POPULAR SOUTH London entrepreneur and philanthropist, Trevor Russell, the man credited with running one of the most successful nightclubs in the capital, “Night Moves – The Right Moves” in Shoreditch, east London, in the 1980s and 90s, has died aged 73.
Trevor Russell, who along with close friend Spencer Williams formed a unique partnership, which contributed greatly to London’s club, music and entertainment lifestyle, passed away peacefully on March 5 after battling long-term illness.
Born in Jamaica, Trevor migrated to the UK in 1955 age nine and grew up as part of the Windrush Generation that integrated early into the society. He became one of the original black entrepreneurs who believed that getting into business from an early age was advantageous to breaking down racial barriers which others frequently encountered.
While he did an apprenticeship engineering job with the government post office, Trevor along with Spencer (who was also called Wilton) and another friend Joe Eddey, formed a sound system called TWJ in the 1970s which became popular, firstly at West Indian house parties before moving on to hosting events of their own. The group later moved on to become the resident DJs at the Bally High Club in Streatham, south London.
Another close friend, Al Hamilton, who successfully hosted the popular Commonwealth Sports Awards, remembers Trevor’s tenacity to push the boundaries when it came to putting on events that took the black community out of its comfort zones.
“Those early settlers of the Windrush generation didn’t want to rock the boat, so to speak, so they would keep their functions at town halls and community centres, but Trevor had a different view that we could venture into more mainstream establishments and put on our shows there. He was one of the first persons who supported me when I wanted to host my sports awards in a five-star hotel in the West End.”
After the successful residency at the Bally High Club, Trevor and Spencer (who passed away in October 2016) started to host other events at various clubs and eventually secured a full-time occupancy at the Podium night club in Vauxhall which became a regular spot for live entertainment as well as popular shows like “Mr Batchelor” and various beauty contests. It was at the Podium that many UK acts also got their first break performing live PAs to an audience which was enjoying the genesis of the UK Lovers Rock scene.
It was from these ventures too that Trevor had the idea to run his own night club and he turned his attention in the late 1980s to take over “Night Moves” on Shoreditch High Street in the heart of east London’s then up and coming trendy neighbourhood.
Night Moves had been established as a favourite nightspot for the black community since 1979 when five Jamaican partners – Michael Graham, Archie Lemon, Trevor Coley, Randal Campbell and Paul Weston – ran it successfully in those ensuing years. When they were about to give up the lease to the venue in 1986, Trevor and Spencer took it over and operated the club under the same name.
Night Moves along with other venues like Dougies and All Nations at the time were classed as “Big People’s” clubs for the more mature and sophisticated ravers. Trevor also wanted to make it more relaxed and enjoyable for patrons by insisting on a high standard and protocol in dress and decorum that reflected the growing aspiration of black people in Britain at the time.
The club, which ran for about 15 years, quickly became London’s number one RnB, reggae, soul and rare groove hotspot operating on two floors. Entertainment included popular comedy nights and live shows featured UK and overseas artists like Louisa Mark, Janet Kay, Carroll Thompson, Sandra Cross, Deborahe Glasgow, Maxi Priest, Delroy Wilson, Sugar Minott, Winston Reedy, Peter Hunnigale and Tippa Irie to name just a few.
Trevor, however, did not limit himself to nightclub ownership as he also invested heavily into projects which would benefit the community on a wider scale. One such project was WNK Radio in north London which became London’s second major black station, behind Choice FM, with a commercial licence. The station remained on air for a number of years in the mid 1990s.
He was also the President of Burgess Park Academy Cricket Club in Peckham, south London, which boasted West Indies cricket greats Michael Holding and Joel Garner as its honorary patrons. The club was located close to the local estates from where the wide cross-section of young aspiring cricketers would get their first taste of competitive games.
Al Hamilton reflected that this was where Trevor, an avid cricketer himself, helped to bridge the gap between the parents and the youngsters.
“The parents had the traditional customs from back home where the children had to be in by a certain time, but these kids were born here and during the summer months with long evenings, Trevor took responsibilities for the youngsters who wanted to craft their talent at the cricket club. He forged a compromise with the parents,” Hamilton said.
This was just one of the many attributes which, Hamilton said, made Trevor a special person in his commitment to helping his community. “He assisted groups like the Nurses Association of Jamaica when they had fund-raising events at Night Moves. He would match the funds the nurses raised on the night, or even be the first to book tables along with his friends and associates when I launched the Commonwealth Sports Awards”, Hamilton recalled.
Hamilton also noted that in recent times after Trevor had retired from his business ventures, he was perturbed by the high incidents of knife crime involving black youths and also the fiasco around the Windrush scandal which affected people of his generation. “He had expressed strong views on these topics in our frequent discussions,” Hamilton said.
Another close associate paying tribute was Tyrone Grant, who worked closely with Trevor on community projects.
He said: “Trevor was a proud ‘Windrush’ man with an indefatigable drive as a council member of the UK Caribbean Chamber of Commerce and owner of several businesses. He not only passionately evangelised the need for the diaspora Caribbean community to be actively involved in setting up and running sustainable commercial enterprises, but also by example backed his words with practical and financial support for those who exhibited dedication and enterprise.
“Trevor would not shy away from a challenge. Whether in identifying a niche in the entertainment market and successfully creating a beacon destination of international acclaim, or in holding the debating floor for many a long hours, jousting with seasoned orators, he stayed forever firm in his conviction that fortune favours the brave. His achievements indelibly etched on the developing landscape of UK Caribbean businesses. Fair play was his motto and fair play is his legacy.”
Many others have paid tribute in his memory, including south London businessman Howard Lindo who said: “Trevor was like a brother to me and an iconic genius in the entertainment business.”
Trevor is survived by wife Jean and two daughters, Lisa and Laura, both of whom reside in the United States. Funeral arrangements are to be announced later.