By Alfred Western
Brent is by far the most diverse area I have ever lived in. Coming from Brighton, a city with a population that is almost 90% white, I had never experienced such a variety of cultures, ethnicities, and religions in such a small area before. However, when I observed the population of our street during the NHS claps every Thursday at 7pm over lockdown, I couldn’t help but notice that most of the residents of our street were white, affluent families with young children. In the 2011 census, Brent was 63.73% Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME), and yet there were only two or three households on the street that weren’t white. I felt that I was missing out on an opportunity to understand what it really meant to be from Brent, to live in Brent and the culture of this wonderfully diverse borough.
Enter Vent Documentaries, a series of podcasts by Vice in partnership with Brent 2020, London Borough of Cultures, where young people who have grown up in the area tell ‘the stories we care about’. Series one focuses on identity, from a wide range of perspectives and covers topics on race, citizenship, life skills and much more.
The overall style of this series is incredibly refreshing. In a world where so much of what we hear is experts giving their opinion on everything under the sun, to have answered (and in many cases quite straightforwardly) the questions of teenagers and young people about everyday issues, which we all worry about, is a breath of fresh air. Even topics as seemingly trivial as how people stay friends after leaving school are covered with an incredibly relatable and personable tone.
A personal highlight for me was Episode 6, Outnumbered by White People. Amelia, a black student from Brent studying at the University of Surrey investigates the awarding gap at universities, where black and brown students are far more likely to be given grades unrepresentative of their ability, which subsequently leads to a huge racial imbalance in senior positions at big employers. She talks to some big names, including the writer Nikesh Shukla, radio and TV presenter Gemma Cairney and Bob Shenning, the Managing Director of the BBC. The lack of ethnic diversity at our higher education institutions is glaringly obvious to any casual observer, but the effect that has on non-white and especially black students is something we don’t hear nearly enough about.
If you’re looking to take a break from the heavy issues around us right now and want to feel some kinship with a local borough, I can’t recommend Vent Documentaries enough.