“Over The Bridge Podcast” explores blackness, the creative industries and cultural capital to ask ‘how do we dictate the culture?’.
Just over a month ago, Bilal, Tom, Kwaku and Patrick took their riveting discussions surrounding life as young black and mixed-race men live for the first time to launch season three of Over The Bridge Podcast, and this discussion was important.
The theme – ‘Dictating the Culture’. They set out to explore and define what “the culture” actually is, where and how it operates, how it affects and is affected by Black British people, and address the topic of “creatives”. To help them, they invited two incredible black women in the creative scene – Swarzy Macaly and Shanice Mears.
The conversation began by exploring what the meaning of culture to the panelists. After Tom’s anecdotal stories of watching West Ham football matches, as well as the general consensus of grime music being an integral part of their culture as young black men, the hosts started to discuss the cultural capital their perceived “black” culture may have. The theme of “high” and “low culture” was presented and discussed, and this left me feeling quite angry. Not at the panelists, but at the fact that black culture is generally considered low culture, as Patrick noted. How is it, that the very people who use our culture to increase their profits, simultaneously regard our culture as either unworthy or “low”?
Swarzy, Kiss FM radio presenter and curator of “Too Much Source”, was then introduced and her knowledge was invaluable in this discussion. The conversation moved to how Black British culture makes up “the culture” we often refer to. Our music, our fashion, our slang, our behavioural patterns; all of these things make up a shared Black British identity in the UK, which directly influences our culture. Having said this, a lot of our cultural gatekeepers aren’t black – Charlie Sloth and Tim Westwood are just two of many examples. In music alone, Swarzy told us of how few black people there often are in the room when creating radio playlists, and it is public knowledge that many label execs are not black. It seems to me that, what we create is both stigmatized when we create it, yet of great worth when we aren’t the ones profiting from it.
Shanice, co-founder of creative agency The Elephant Room and brand manager for GUAP Magazine, came to the stage and immediately addressed how London-centric Black culture is viewed in the UK. PSA: not all Black British people live in the London, and a lot of brilliant Black cultural moments are created outside of the M25. Following on, the hosts pivoted the conversation to creatives. The general consensus was that creativity was not limited to the creative industries, and thus the term creative is quite ambiguous. Creativity requires difference; difference in solution, difference in approach, difference in people. But, as Bilal asked, does creativity always have to be counterculture? (I’ll leave you to think about that).
My favourite definition of culture of the night came from Swarzy, which said culture is the ‘the personality and behaviour of a shared group of people in a particular era’. To me, this means that everyone is a part of the creation of culture, not just creatives. Although the creative industries may now be more accessible as traditional educational pathways are more contested, especially by Black people, everyone aids in creating or continuing culture. But then, who should be at the forefront of this specific culture? Creatives? Maybe academics; Patrick highlighted that they need to be a part of shaping our culture so we never forget where we came from. True. But where is our culture going? As the ‘shared group of people’ in this era continue to overlap in cultural traditions, with Black Africans and Black Caribbeans in the UK creating a new “Black British culture”, we could be heading towards an African-American-styled shared experience as Kwaku suggested.
All in all, this amazing discussion taught us that we are, and have been, at the forefront of creating and producing cultural moments in the United Kingdom, and we have to think about how we operate within this culture. Are we excluding and including based on “clout” rather than talent? Are we promoting authenticity or acceptability in the cultural faces we push forward? And, are we ignoring important questions as it is more comfortable to maintain the cultural status quo?
If you haven’t listened yet, be sure to catch this episode on your favourite podcast app. And if you wanted to experience a live show yourself, they’re having another one! This time, the topic is ‘Masculinity: Taking off the Mask’ at The Curtain Hotel, Shoreditch on March 25th. Grab your ticket NOW before they sell out, again.
As always, Over The Bridge love continuing the discussion, so be sure to follow them on socials @otbpodcastuk. I also like continuing on discussions, so be sure to comment or hit me up on my socials @jalekapo, and keep up with me on my website. “