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Brent Locked In

 22 April 2020

A new video series exploring how Brent has shaped its icons

How have Brent’s legends been coping during the ongoing pandemic, and what might it mean for their work and practice?

In this new video series, guest hosts from the Blueprint Collective will be catching up – in a socially distanced way, of course – with legendary musicians, artists, athletes and activists from across the borough and finding out how they’ve been affected and perhaps even inspired by the COVID-19 crisis. Along the way, we will be digging deeper into our guests’ connections to Brent, discovering what they’ve been reading, watching, hearing and absorbing during this strange and frightening time – and hearing more about how they’re responding.

This forms part of Brent 2020 Unlocked.

EPISODE 12: IAN DUHIG

Born in Kilburn to Irish parents, poet Ian Duhig grew up with 10 siblings in a strong Irish community, working alongside some incredible characters that have inspired his work.

Retelling a story from a Kilburn pub Ian worked at in 1968, “He [Landlord, Butty Sugrue] persuaded one of his barmen, called Mick Meaney, to be buried alive. This was for the world record. It was like 65 or 66 days underground, and there was a big procession to a builder’s yard with Mick in his coffin.”

Named ‘the most original poet of his generation' by Carol Ann Duffy and having won the National Poetry Competition twice, Ian gives advice to Blueprint Collective member Savannah Mullings-Johnson for emerging poets.

“Take yourself seriously as a poet, and a poet in a larger world and enjoy it. Allow it to enrich your life. It does. If you allow it to enrich your life, you will end up writing the sort of poetry that enriches other peoples’ lives and they will want to read that.”

EPISODE 11: GUY GUNARATNE

Author and filmmaker Guy Gunaratne was born in Neasden. His debut novel In Our Mad and Furious City, is set in North-West London, examines race and class, and won last year’s Dylan Thomas prize and longlisted for the Man Booker prize.

In this Locked In episode, Guy speaks to Blueprint Collective member Savannah Mullings-Johnson about his complicated relationship with Neasden, gaining the confidence to not explain or contextualise his writing and how art becomes richer when it’s infused with an amalgamation of cultures, languages and senses.

Although writing was a natural extension, Guy didn’t grow up with the ambition to be a novelist and never thought it was a path for him. He recalls an early encounter with White Teeth, by fellow Brent author Zadie Smith, that motivated him to value and create art inspired by where he’s from.

“Picking it [White Teeth] up at the library and reading the first page; where it references Cricklewood and Willesden Green. I remember that being a shift in my mentality that the world around you is worthy of the page”

EPISODE 10: PATERSON JOSEPH

Born in Willesden, actor and playwright and Noughts + Crosses star Paterson Joseph trained at LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) after a council grant from Brent. His acting career now spans over 30 years and has appeared on stage, film and TV, playing leading roles in major productions.

“I wrote about 40 letters and I got 40 rejections, and then finally Brent listened to my appeal and they gave me the grant. So I would have never gone to LAMDA. I might have become an actor, but I probably wouldn’t have done.”

This week two Blueprint Collective Members (Mehaira Abdelhamid and Kamiah Chae) talk to Paterson about doing rolly pollies in Willesden with his 5 siblings, attending an almost entirely Irish infant school and opening the door for younger Black actors coming up.

“That’s all I ever wanted and I still want that, is that each generation just bursts up that ‘glass ceiling’ even further so that more can come through.”

Paterson rubbishes the idea that, in dramatisations of the past, there are characters that have to be played by white actors. He shows how a fascination with history, a hunger for knowledge and his willingness to immerse himself in his character’s circumstances are what really matters.

”The history of things, normal things, it’s fascinating. Let alone the history of people, of migration, of why that person went there, why that city is bigger than that city.”

EPISODE 9: EKOW ESHUN

Born in Wembley, British-Ghanaian writer and curator Ekow Eshun has a dizzying list of contemporary art names on his CV. He is one of the only people from Brent who has written extensively about their experiences growing up in the borough.

“Brent is intensely multicultural and it taught me, from the get go, this is how it’s supposed to be. This is how it is. That Brent isn’t owned by any single set of people. Brent is about all of us. For better or for worse.”

Ekow talks to Blueprint Collective Member Kes Eccleston, diving into growing up in 70s Britain, struggling to find a way not to be defined by other’s expectation and prejudice and putting Black visual culture at the heart of his art exhibitions.

“The ordinary, every day struggle for me was to find a way to be me and a way not to be defined by the experience, expectation or prejudice of all these other people around me.”

“I try and find ways to bring together work by Black artists and to offer a context for them that hopefully allows more people to look at each piece of work and understand it or engage with it for itself. And also engage with it in a larger way of looking at the world.”

Former Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Ekow takes us back to his realisation at Brent Town Hall Library that personal identity could be a bridge to understanding the world in a more sophisticated and profound way.

“It genuinely blew my mind because it seemed to sum up everything I’d experienced before and put that in the context of a much longer historical analysis, but also an analysis of cultural identity with a level of depth, insight and critical rigour that I’d never experienced.”

EPISODE 8: BILAL HARRY KHAN

This week, Blueprint Collective Member Kamiah Chae speaks to life-long youth worker and Cambridge graduate Bilal Harry Khan - a leading voice on issues of race, masculinities and social justice.

"I didn’t want to go. That was not my plan. My real plan was I wanted to be a bus driver like my dad. That was my actual plan."

With over 16k followers on Twitter and co-host of an award-winning podcast “Over The Bridge”, Neasden-born Bilal discusses the culture shock of going to Cambridge University, his career influences, what it was like growing up in Brent in the 90s and how lockdown has given him perspective.

"[Growing up in Brent ] you’re exposed to more traditions, cultures and celebrations. Which only makes you more appreciative of culture as you grow up."

"Change is measured by hearts and mind in this work. So if one person goes ‘I now see something I didn’t see before. I’m now aware of privilege, racism, whereas I wasn’t before’ that means I’ve done a good job."

EPISODE 7: ANDRIA ZAFIRAKOU

Blueprint Collective member Savannah Mullings-Johnson speaks to the Global Teacher Prize 2018 winner and Brent's Alperton Community School art teacher, Andria Zafirakou MBE.

Living on the same street that she grew up on in Kingsbury, Brent, Andria takes us on her teaching journey, from her earliest memory of making art to stepping into eerily quiet school buildings during lockdown.

"Best job ever. Hardest job ever. Most rewarding job ever. You change lives."

EPISODE 6: GENERAL LEVY

This week, Blueprint Collective member Tyrique Tagoe Wyse interviews ragga deejay, artist and Brent legend General Levy.

Bubbling up in Brent against ‘early beef in the hood’, General Levy has performed at venues from Stonebridge in Brent to Top of the Pops and across America.

“No rasta business in the house.”

Looking back on buying 50p kebabs and playing Pacman during school lunchtimes in Neasden, General retells his early career in the urban music scene and how, 34 years since his first show, he’s still INCREDIBLE.

“Genuine ‘I am happy today’ vibe - waking up one morning and seeing I got a top 10 tune in the charts.”

From the Brent 2020 team, big up Tia, Monique and Savanna.

NB. Contains swearing.

EPISODE 5: MARILYN OKORO

From sneaking out for runs to representing GB at the 2008 Olympics- Marilyn discusses with Savannah growing up in Stonebridge, coping as an athlete in lockdown and being a positive black female role model.

"Stonebridge, those are the streets that made me who I am and I’m always proud."

Marilyn was forced to wait 10 years to officially become a 2008 Olympic medallist, but focusing on her goals and not letting people dictate who she was and what she could do made her even more determined to continue with her track career.

"Prior to this I was all gung ho for my comeback season to athletics, I’ve had a few seasons of start stops and getting injuries or financial difficulties. I was trying to come out with a bang and then they said Tokyo was cancelled!"

"It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you go through or how much money you have. It’s what you’re going to do with your talent and how you’re going to achieve your goal."

EPISODE 4: BEN SMITH AKA 'DOC BROWN'

Rapper, comedian, actor and milk chocolate lover Ben Smith aka Doc Brown speaks to Brent 2020’s Blueprint Collective Member Tyrique Tagoe Wyse about what influenced his music, his first experience of rapping and tips for getting into the music industry.

“When I was young, I’d go to these drama classes after school at the Tricycle on Kilburn High Road, which is what Kiln used to be called.”

Smith started as a youth worker during his holidays at Uni. Spending his nights pursuing his music by doing battles, DJs and open mics; often influenced by his family’s music taste, a mixture of Prince, jazz, rare grooves and Nirvana. However, it was working on a Lenny Henry show that led to his career as a successful comedian, and later on, voiceovers.

“With rapping, comedy and acting, there’s so much pressure on how you present yourself and keeping that consistency of personality going. Whereas, when you’re doing voice overs, you can really experiment and do crazy stuff.”

“There’s no perfect happy ending when you’re an artist. It’s just a series of ups and downs. And the beautiful part is throughout all of those ups and downs, you’re still an artist. If you can do that, you’ve already won.”

EPISODE 3: RACHEL YANKEY OBE

England and Arsenal legend Rachel Yankey OBE, speaks to Brent’s Moeed Majeed about struggles at school with dyslexia and her first memories of playing football on the pitches of Queens Park, Brent.

"There were so many women playing football. It was like the biggest secret in the world. There was an England team. There was an Arsenal team. It just wasn’t in your face."

From shaving her head, pretending to be a boy to get a game, to being the first professional female player registered in England. Rachel is one of the original superstars of women's football, playing for Fulham, Arsenal and then Great Britain for the 2012 Olympics.

EPISODE 2: NIKESH SHUKLA

International award winning author, columnist and podcast content creator Nikesh Shukla is interviewed by Brent’s Moeed Majeed.

Born in North Wembley, Brent, Nikesh has written numerous novels for adults and teenagers. His debut novel 'Coconut Limited' was set in Brent. Listen to Nikesh’s story of growing up in Brent, feeling ok to be an Almost Kid and his journey being published as a person of colour.

“It took me a long time to know myself and that’s what I get from writing. It’s an opportunity to look within, to reflect and interrogate yourself, as well as the world. [...] It’s only when I started writing, and exploring who I was, that I started to ‘come out my shell’."

"Every time I go back to Brent […] I look at it and I see things I didn’t appreciate. That’s why it’s home because it’s where I’m from."

EPISODE 1: MARIAH IDRISSI

Brent’s Moeed Majeed, TV and radio host, interviews activist and international model, Mariah Idrissi.

Known as the face of modest fashion, Mariah made her name as the first Hijab wearing model for H&M in 2015. Listen to Mariah’s story of growing up in Brent, her advice on staying creative in isolation and navigating both her faith and social media.

“Brent prepared me for this lifestyle, being surrounded by so many different people of different backgrounds, religions and cultures in general. It prepared me for this international work I’m doing, being a woman of the world.”

31 July 2020

BRENT LOCKED IN: Episode 12

How have Brent’s legends been coping during the ongoing pandemic, and what might it mean for their work and practice?

24 July 2020

BRENT LOCKED IN: Episode 11

How have Brent’s legends been coping during the ongoing pandemic, and what might it mean for their work and practice?

17 July 2020

BRENT LOCKED IN: Episode 10

How have Brent’s legends been coping during the ongoing pandemic, and what might it mean for their work and practice?

10 July 2020

BRENT LOCKED IN: Episode 9

How have Brent’s legends been coping during the ongoing pandemic, and what might it mean for their work and practice?

03 July 2020

BRENT LOCKED IN: Episode 8

How have Brent’s legends been coping during the ongoing pandemic, and what might it mean for their work and practice?

19 June 2020

BRENT LOCKED IN: Episode 7

How have Brent’s legends been coping during the ongoing pandemic, and what might it mean for their work and practice?

12 June 2020

BRENT LOCKED IN: Episode 6

How have Brent’s legends been coping during the ongoing pandemic, and what might it mean for their work and practice?

05 June 2020

BRENT LOCKED IN: Episode 5

How have Brent’s legends been coping during the ongoing pandemic, and what might it mean for their work and practice?

29 May 2020

BRENT LOCKED IN: Episode 4

How have Brent’s legends been coping during the ongoing pandemic, and what might it mean for their work and practice?

22 May 2020

BRENT LOCKED IN: Episode 3

How have Brent’s legends been coping during the ongoing pandemic, and what might it mean for their work and practice?

15 May 2020

BRENT LOCKED IN: Episode 2

How have Brent’s legends been coping during the ongoing pandemic, and what might it mean for their work and practice?

07 May 2020

BRENT LOCKED IN: Episode 1

How have Brent’s legends been coping during the ongoing pandemic, and what might it mean for their work and practice?

22 April 2020

Brent 2020 Unlocked

Our response to the new challenges faced by artists and the wider creative sector.