HE hails from the wild west of Ireland and plays reggae and ska forged in the tropical heat of Jamaica, but DJ Aidan Larkin is an Oxford icon.

Playing under the moniker Count Skylarkin, Aidan’s sets are legendary, whether they be in dingy pub backrooms, on the street for Cowley Road Carnival or in packed festival fields the length of the country with his Disco Shed – a regular garden shed kitted out with record decks, speakers and lights.

Like most musicians, the past year and a half has been tough for Aidan, with fans only able to catch online, socially distanced – and at one point, seated, sets and his regular nights cancelled.

This Saturday, however, East Oxford’s doyen of dub celebrates the return of clubbing with a show at his regular home, The Bullingdon – or ‘The Bully’ – on Cowley Road.

The show sees him DJing alongside a wishlist of reggae stars, with Mungo’s Hi Fi from Glasgow, Dub Smugglers Soundsystem and Kuntri Ranks from Manchester, and Deemus J from Jamaica via South London.

Not only does the show celebrate Aidan’s return to playing big indoor shows, it also marks 21 years of DJing in Oxford. Since his first set, being roped into filling in for a missing DJ at one of East Oxford Community Centre’s fondly remembered reggae nights, the bass enthusiast has been a fixture at the former Zodiac – now the O2 Academy, The Brickworks – now The Library, The Cellar – now closed, Tap Social in Botley, and The Bullingdon – where he returns on Saturday.

“I am incredibly excited for this Saturday night at The Bullingdon,” he says, speaking from his home just off St Clement’s. “It is my first Oxford gig in ages and also marks 21 years since I first put a needle on a record in Oxford.”

Oxford Mail:

Count Skylarkin in his Disco Shed. Picture by Tim Hughes

“It’s good to be back... I thought the time would never come.”

Despite the lack of indoor shows, Aidan has been busy, having played 13 festivals – and with two still to go.

“I’ve been flat out since the start of July,” he says. “I haven’t had a Saturday night off in months and have played everywhere from Wilderness here in Oxfordshire to Latitude, Standen Calling and Gilles Peterson’s new We Out Here Festival.

"I thought the bad times would never end and I was quite emotional when I got my first booking after the first lockdown. It was a wonderful thing. I felt I could be ‘me’ again – and go back to doing what I do, which is playing records for people and making them happy.”

And he is particularly looking forward to playing on a heavy-duty soundsystem, provided by Dub Smugglers Soundsystem.

“I haven’t felt a big reggae soundsystem hit my chest for a long time,” he laughs. “It hits you in your belly and your soul, and it is really going to test the structure of The Bullingdon.

"Never mind a face mask, for this show you're going to need a hard hat!”

  • Mungo's Hi-Fi with Dub Smugglers Soundsystem and Count Skylarkin play The Bullingdon this Saturday. Capacity is capped at 75 per cent. The venue is Covid-safe. Tickets are £15 from wegottickets.com

Thanks to Guy Henstock for main picture of Count Skylarkin playing Common People Festival