The DJ brings a turntable on wheels to each London Underground station for passengers to play vinyl

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London is buzzing with street entertainment, from guitarists and beatboxers to dancers and artists – but Street Soundsystem is unique. Using a trolley on wheels, musician Nick Garcia has built a portable record player and sound system to bring this new music scene to every London Tube stop.

And there’s no catch — he doesn’t ask for money or followers (though he does livestream on Instagram). At its core, the initiative just plays vinyl on the street for the benefit of passers-by, and he even lets others bring their records to play.

“I think people really like it because they’ve never seen anything like it before,” Nick said. “It’s a weird thing to see that kind of extraterrestrial object on the sidewalk.” Based in Slough, Nick started building the Trolley in lockdown – he’s DJed in bars and other indoor venues across London, but he’s always had an interest in playing outside and bringing his record collection with him.

READ MORE: “I took a tour of London’s hidden underground tunnels and the tube network is so much bigger than I imagined.”

He added: “I don’t drive, so I just thought, ‘How on earth am I going to get a turntable onto the road in a fully portable way, where I can take it on the bus, train and subway can?’” Along with some friends, he’s been working on the trolley over the past year and has ended up driving it around town since last September, but it hasn’t been an easy task.

“We did a lot of testing with different components and batteries and so many experiments,” Nick explained. “Sometimes we put it on the road and it completely failed, so you had to go home and change a little thing. But we are getting there now.”

“I think people are just so happy to have a space that’s open to listen to music”

The project was also a response to the pandemic as he started Street Soundsystem after seeing the impact Covid would have on music venues. “We realized that from now on there’s going to be so much anxiety about listening to music indoors,” he said.

“And now I think people are just so lucky to have an open and relatively safe place to share experiences and knowledge. You can stop by for 30 seconds or two hours.”

To be respectful of others about volume levels, Street Soundsystem visits different parts of London when they go out, which is at least once a week. He hopes to eventually visit every single tube station in London.

“People always say we should go to Leicester Square or Oxford Circus, for example, but I’m more interested in playing in communities and neighborhoods,” Nick said. “There is no financial motivation for this – we don’t ask for money. It’s all about getting to know people.”

This is useful when Street Soundsystem is more of a community initiative than a one-man show. “We wanted to create something that is freely accessible so that people can interact with it when they see it on the street. The main point of Street Soundsystem is that people can engage with it,” he said.

Passers-by encouraged to dance on the street

In addition to her impromptu performances in London, Nick also live streams his sessions on Instagram to allow access for people who can’t get out and see them. But for those who can attend in person, Nick encourages them to bring records and contribute whatever they want – whether it’s recommending vinyl to play with, accompanying the music, or even dancing to it.

“We want to create a space where all kinds of creativity can flourish in an organic and open way,” he added. Because of this community effort, Street Soundsystem always plays different types of records. “I always have some reggae, Moroccan and Arabic music, jazz and soul in my bag, but I play everything,” Nick explained. “We can go from Bach to Beyonce, and I love playing both of those things. Everything is welcome.”

Nick doesn’t have big future plans for Street Soundsystem – he stresses that what they’re doing now is enough and he’s happy with the positive impact it’s having on the community. However, he would love to collaborate with dance groups and street dancers, as well as poets, singers, MCs and even artists.

“That’s all it has to be and that’s magical because people stopped and we talk and they smile and they dance,” he said. “I hope it inspires a lot of different creative projects and inspires other people to do similar things in public spaces.” You can meet Nick and Street Soundsystem across London and find out more about upcoming sessions and locations on their Instagram.

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