Fluid and diverse surroundings, expressive fashion, and bodies as commodities, not all so sexy?
by Siri Von Bothmer
We had a chat with three London based creatives about how the city influence them, what inspires them but also what is lacking in their creative surrounding.
Shaznay Martin, a film student based in South London, talks about how the creative scene and the fact that everyone sort of knows each other, despite the size of the city, really inspire her friends and herself to flourish creatively. Shaznay describes South London as people rather than a place, it’s the blend of different cultures that enriches her she says, the mix of all ethnicities, nationalities, and religions. Shaznay comes from Jamaican parents who moved to London in the 90s and she thinks her experience growing up in the community of South London, where many of her friends come from African and Caribbean diaspora, really gave her a unique and beautiful upbringing.
She believes that ethnic minorities, immigrants, and diaspora living in London might find themselves in sort of the same position; that their current place sometimes can offer opportunities different than from their ancestral homes. However, the current situation holds onto a system that capitalises on people and their bodies.
Shaznay talks about shared experiences within her community and how common collective experiences and understanding is what keeps them together.
“[…] I advocate heavily for intersectionality and it is the underpinning of all my principles and this influences especially my writing. The fluidity of London constantly reminds me that people cannot be grouped into categories or seen as a monolith. We are all different and come from different places and that is beautiful. In the media, we do not see this enough. I want to be a screenwriter and the main thing I want to see and create is black representation in a multitude of forms. Although it’s getting slightly better, black representation is pretty poor. We either have films about our trauma or films where we are the side character and nothing much in between. So the diversity of blackness in London inspires me to aim to tackle that. “
Shaznay also adds that she thinks the creative scene in London would benefit heavily from increased scholarships and financial supports for independent creatives. Not at least for people who haven’t done to university or who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Sarah Phenom, a 21-year-old content creator and musician based in London, Brussels, and Paris gives us a very positive vibe when talking about the culture and creative atmosphere London offers. She describes the city as very vibrant and diverse with tons of possibilities. There are so many creative people to connect with, which inspires her to continue pushing herself to go forward.
Sarah compares the situation and culture in London with her other homes in Brussels and Paris, meaning there’s a heavy distinction between determination and hunger. In Belgium for example, people tend to be quite comfortable, and that Brussels could benefit creatively by develop its inclusivity and embracing of different cultures. All things London has shown further progress in, shifting towards the better. As London is this melting pot of cultures, it should be treated as an asset rather than something to control or re-shape.
The fact that people are the core source of inspiration is also something that Chi Virgo, singer/songwriter, recognises. It is the inspiration of people she meets combined with her own daily experiences of being in London that influence her.
Chi, who didn’t grow up in London, tells us that she finds the creative scene a bit exclusive, that she always felt a little outside. When talking about fashion though, creative expressions and self-exploration are very outspoken and present in London. “It helped me not care about other people's opinions when it comes to how I look and what I wear”, Chi says.
The music scene however influenced her in another, not so positive way, but she thinks that the part of the creative process. UK has a certain sound, which is quite different from the music she listened to growing up, with MTV being a huge influence. Chi tried to change her approach instead of listening to her natural self. Now, in retrospect she thinks she shouldn’t have done that, looking back on her not so confident self.
Besides the outside feelings and impostor syndrome stress, Chi also tells us that London lacks a closeness to nature. “I wish there was more nature here, I lived in Cheltenham most of my life, so I was growing up surrounded by nature. I feel like when I have creative blocks or just feel crazy or something, nature helps me center myself […]”.