Meet Ballet Black, the company committed to diversifying the world of classical ballet

Like other high art forms, ballet is often seen as an interest reserved for upper-class white people, but is this changing fast enough?

The world of ballet can be a rather pale one. The stark lack of diversity in this field of dance means that white performers are simply the norm, but a quick visit to the Royal Ballet Company’s website surprises me. I’m browsing the ‘What’s On’ page and as my mouse hovers near a thumbnail, I see a brown face staring back at me. A handsome brown face. It belongs to Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta. A quick glance at the principal casting for current performances of the Nutcracker shows a good number of ethnic minority faces.

Diversity in ballet is clearly an issue that should be discussed more, and it has been – partly thanks to renowned ballet dancer Misty Copeland. Earlier this year, she made headlines, and history, by becoming the first African-American woman to be appointed Female Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. In April, she was featured on the cover of Time and listed as one of the magazine’s most influential people in the world. Copeland, who is mixed race, has spoken openly about ballet’s race problem and the challenges and discrimination she’s experienced because of the colour of her skin.


Misty Copeland performing in La Bayadere, June 2015 | Source: Flickr

Here in Britain, there’s a company that’s working hard to change the overwhelmingly white and monocultural landscape of classical ballet. Ballet Black was founded in 2001 by Cassa Pancho to provide opportunities for classical dancers of black and Asian descent. In the fourteen years of running the company, she feels “there has been change for the better across the board” when it comes to diversity in ballet, and that audiences are open to seeing more non-white dancers on stage, including in leading roles.

Cassa, born to Trinidadian and British parents, founded Ballet Black not too long after graduating from the Royal Academy of Dance where she studied classical ballet. When writing her dissertation, she was shocked to discover that she couldn’t find one black woman working in ballet to interview, which ultimately led to the formation of her company. Although Ballet Black has received much praise from the industry and gone from strength to strength over the years, Cassa has had her fair share of challenges too. The main ones, she tells me, have been funding and institutionalised racism, which unfortunately isn’t surprising.

For Cassa, her top three proudest achievements for Ballet Black were performing at the Hackney Empire in 2009 (the same year Ballet Black also won the Critics’ Circle Dance Award for Outstanding Company), Senior Artist Cira Robinson being nominated for Outstanding Female Performance (Classical) at the Critics Circle National Dance Award in 2013 and featuring on the cover of Britain’s leading dance magazine, Dancing Times in February 2015.

Does she think more could be done to increase diversity in ballet? Well, Ballet Black is putting in the work to make sure that happens.

“Role models are the key for increasing diversity further and this is being done by Ballet Black, as well as other excellent professional dancers of black and Asian descent in the other major UK ballet companies.” Cassa believes that if more black and ethnic minority dancers are visible, then younger aspiring dancers are more likely to feel encouraged to pursue ballet if they can see professional dancers who reflect them. The company also incorporates a ballet school that teaches pupils from as young as three years old.

The company have a full schedule ahead and some big plans for next year, including a premier of a new triple bill at London’s Barbican Theatre in March 2016.

So what can we expect when the performers of Ballet Black return to the stage? Cassa doesn’t give much away but tells me they are reviving an audience favourite, Storyville, created by Christopher Hampson in 2012. She adds, “We’re also excited to present new works from Christopher Marney and Arthur Pita and hope that we can develop a new and even more diverse audience through our partnership with the Barbican.”

In the next five years, Cassa would have liked the company to increase its visibility across the country and grow to 16 dancers. However, a part of Ballet Black’s website states it hopes that a day will come when the company is not needed anymore, as classical ballet dancers from ethnic minority backgrounds will be adequately represented on stage and offered the same opportunities as their white counterparts. It looks like that will remain a hopeful wish for the foreseeable future as ballet has a long way to go before a company like Ballet Black has no good reason to exist.

Ballet Black’s Triple Bill will be performed at the Barbican Theatre in London on 18th – 19th March 2016. You can buy tickets for the show on the Barbican’s website.

For more information about the company, visit their website or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

*Originally published on The Voice of London

Are all artists really destined to be poor?

The ‘starving artist’ is a term thrown around often when we speak of art, creativity and money. But is the stereotype prevalent in 2015?

For London-based visual artist Mathew Viera, working a full-time day job to survive has become the norm. The fine art graduate, best known for his vivid abstract style portraits, feels that any time found to create at all is a blessing; currently, he only has the early hours of the morning available to do this.

He says, “The young artists coming through will find it hard because it’s always been difficult for an artist to establish himself or herself, it takes time. As long as you have passion, determination and are happy to put the hours in to make your work, promote it and everything else which comes into running your business, then you will achieve your dream.”

Mathew feels some new artists strongly underestimate the amount of work required to make it. “I do think that some artists need to understand that it’s not going to be handed to them on a plate, there is a lot of work to be done, keeping on the lookout for events and opportunities.”

thierry henry Mathew Viera

“The King” (Thierry Henry) by Mathew Viera. Source:

Many of us have our own ideas about what a starving or struggling artist actually is. We tend to picture them locked away in their rooms, pouring every fibre of their being into their work for several hours a day. They’re thought to show little to no interest in being paid for their talents and are usually willing to give up material desires for the sake of their art.

Today, the creative industries are an extremely popular career destination for many people, especially the young, as it can be exciting and hugely rewarding. However creative careers are also notorious for being financially unpredictable and unstable. The starving artist trope has been around for centuries, dating back to the late 1800s where it was a typical figure of Romanticism.

Among the new generation of artists and practising creatives a new mindset seems to have developed. Money may not be the first thing on their minds when they create but many are embracing opportunities that could lead to financial gain from their talents. Do people still buy into the starving artist trope today, or have we moved passed it?

According to Kenyan-born artist Dickson Kaloki, the starving artist will always exist. For him, the inherent assumption that artists are always struggling is due to art careers being seen as second-class and valued lower than other professions like law or medicine.

He goes on to say, “With the new generation of artists coming up, they have a different mindset where most of them think they can be successful overnight, if they play the game right, this is because of the rapid increase of successful artists across the world. The earlier generation did art for the passion or because that’s all they knew.”

Dickson is now able to make a good living from his work though getting to that stage was a tough ride. Like many other artists, he had to hold down a job to fund his education. In the first two years of his career, he sold three paintings and galleries weren’t interested in exhibiting his work. He went against his parents’ wishes by pursuing a career in art; they had hoped he would pursue engineering. He says that even though more people see art as part of their lifestyle and buy art more than before, it’s still difficult if an artist doesn’t have connections or representation from the gallery.

Dickson Kaloki painting

Painting by Dickson Kaloki. Source:

The advice that is given to new and aspiring artists is often similar. Work hard, give it your all, be persistent, don’t make money your top priority and everything will fall into place. Eventually. Hopefully.

Nevertheless, It’s difficult to ignore the need for money, particularly for artists who are based in London. The arts have suffered and continue to suffer major cuts. Recently, plans were made to close much-loved cultural centres such as East London’s Rich Mix and the Harrow Arts Centre, but thankfully they are still open today, and several of the capital’s studio spaces (London is home to almost two-thirds of the UK’s artist studios) have sadly been closed and/or are being redeveloped into housing. But there’s hope. Projects like somewhereto_ offer 16 to 25 year-olds across the country free spaces in their communities to pursue creative and enterprising endeavours.

So it seems that artists don’t have to be doomed to a life of poverty. Some artists naturally won’t want to make any money from their craft and that’s fine. But it’s also reasonable for artists to want to earn a living from their work (times are hard, guys!). Perhaps the stereotype of the starving artist will fade when arts careers are thought and spoken of differently.

*Originally published on The Voice of London.

Do emerging black artists in the UK struggle to gain recognition and visibility in the art world?

The issue of diversity within British art is a big problem. Numerous reports have shown over and over again how overwhelmingly white and middle-class the creative arts are in the UK and things don’t seem to be improving. Black British artists historically haven’t gotten enough props from the British art world and they still don’t. It’s only a select few that get to be truly celebrated and revered.

In the last 18 months I’ve been thinking more about the visibility and representation of black artists in British art, as well as how much art I view and consume from black artists. If you asked me to name 10 British BAME artists off the top of my head I wouldn’t be able to do it, and that bothers me, because if you asked me to name 10 white British artists, I’d quite honestly do a much better job.

I noticed there was a strong black art presence particularly late in 2014, with several exhibitions, shows and events coincidentally happening during and around October, aka Black History Month. For example, the work of Nigerian photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayode was shown at Tiwani Contemporary from September to November; Charlie Phillips’ crowd funded exhibition ‘How Great Thou Art: 50 Years of African Caribbean Funerals in London’ at Photofusion in November; the third solo exhibition of Britain’s award-winning artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen was held at the Thomas Dane gallery in November; the Pippy Houldsworth gallery exhibited the work of American artist Carrie Mae Weems and Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu’s work was shown at the Victoria Miro gallery. Not to mention that the ever-popular third annual 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair also took place at Somerset House in October.

I attended as many of these shows as I could but couldn’t help notice that most of these exhibitions showcased the work of mostly black American and other African diaspora artists. I decided to visit the Thomas Dane gallery on the last day of the Steve McQueen exhibition. It was a chilly Saturday afternoon in November. I slowly made my way into a dark room with a projector screen in the middle. When I entered there were maybe 10 people there, but the headcount soon increased to at least twice as much. All eyes were fixated on the screen, which continuously played McQueen’s new video work in a loop, a short film entitled ‘Ashes’. The work was unflinching and impressive.

But if this work hadn’t been produced by the Oscar-winning ‘12 Years A Slave’ director, would people have paid as much attention or shown as much interest? It’s questionable. What’s more, many people who are familiar with McQueen might not be aware of his background in art. I only learned this fact early last year when I watched an episode of the Culture Show on BBC2.

I spoke to art historian and author Eddie Chambers on the evening he delivered a talk at Waterstones in Piccadilly Circus based on his recently published book, Black Artists in British Art: A History Since the 1950s. The book is the first comprehensive study of its kind. In his presentation, he discussed some of the key people and moments within the black arts movement in the UK over the last 50 years. Steve McQueen is mentioned in it, along with Yinka Shonibare and Chris Ofili, two black British artists who have reached similar levels of recognition, somewhat of a ‘celebrity’ status. I asked Eddie about his thoughts on the recent string of exhibitions highlighting the work of black artists.

“I think it’s a positive thing that there have been many exhibitions recognising the work of black artists lately. Could it be a phase occurring seeing that Black History Month recently ended? I hope not. Ultimately I would like to see black artists just be considered artists as opposed to their work being racially and ethnically categorised, as is too often the case.”

According to Eddie, the reasons surrounding the apparent lack of recognition for black artists in art history are complex. It’s an uncomfortable truth, he says, “that many black artists have achieved their most pronounced visibility in ‘black’ exhibitions, or in festivals and commemorations that have an explicit or implicit raced agenda.”

This ‘othering’ of artists of colour it is highly problematic and even dangerous because it invites pre-loaded assumptions and categorizations regarding their work and/or artistic practice; e.g. that it must be concerned with issues of race, identity, politics etc. Whether the work actually addresses such issues shouldn’t matter to the extent that the ethnicity of an artist and social and political context of the work overshadows the work itself.

So, what does this mean for the new generation of BAME artists? Is it more difficult for them to achieve mainstream recognition and success?

Chantelle Nash, also known as NXSH, is a photographer, artist and the creative director of the ELDK collective (an acronym for East London Dope Kids). She always used art as a form of expression but never saw it as a career path growing up. Focusing on her photographic practice through her university degree allowed her to grow and develop her ideas, skills, techniques and find herself through art in her own time. It was only at this point, she says, that she started to believe that she could engage with art as a career and decided to go for it.

Erykah Badu by NXSH Image source

Erykah Badu by NXSH. Image source

This is what she had to say when I put the above question to her: 

“Yes, I do think it is difficult to gain mainstream recognition in the British art scene. Before I start going into the “politics” of things, just on a fundamental level we, black people, make up a small amount of the population in England. I think it’s somewhere between three and six percent; there is an even smaller percentage within the art industry so immediately that can be seen as an obstacle to face. Then there is the subject matter some black artists choose to work with; as artists of any race or cultural background we tend to make works in response to our lives, experiences, history (cultural and personal) and surroundings. Works from black artists based around the topics mentioned might not fit in with the visual ideals that the mainstream art world/ buyers wish to engage in.

However there are black British artists who have managed to break through to the mainstream doing just that, for example, Chris Ofili and Yinka Shonibare to name two.

In my opinion there are two types of people in the “art world”: The people who purchase art as an investment and the people purchase art because they appreciate the work or it moves them in some way. From my observations thus far it seems that in the mainstream art world there are more of the former than the latter so you can see where the problem comes in for the unknown emerging black artist.”

Award winning North London pencil artist Kelvin Okafor has made headlines for a while with his highly detailed, lifelike drawings. Okafor, who is of Nigerian heritage, remembers having a love and fascination for drawing with pencils at the age of 8 and spent most of his early years trying to utilize its technical use. Last Spring he had his first solo exhibition at the Albemarle Gallery.

Corinne Bailey Rae. © Kelvin Okafor

Corinne Bailey Rae by Kelvin Okafor. Image source

Okafor is an amazing success story. As a leading young artist in his field who has won praise from celebrities and media outlets like the BBC and the Guardian, I was keen to pose the same question to him. These were his thoughts:

“I only think it’s difficult when someone from any race or gender (being of black ethnic heritage) limits themselves by thinking of lack, fear and injustice. I feel it’s extremely important to live like there aren’t limitations even when we hear it from others. I believe that with love, faith and dedication for something that one loves to do, anything is possible.

To be honest I try not think about how the artworld perceives my art through my ethnicity. I would like to think that my work speaks for me and itself.”

The Internet has been beneficial in enabling people to showcase their work on their terms, engage in important dialogues and create their own spaces in the art world. Zines such as Motherlands and OOMK and collectives like Lonely Londoners, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable and Variant Space are just a few brilliant examples of people who are actively working on and offline to challenge the status quo and make sure that marginalised voices are being heard. It’s not just the whiteness of galleries, museums and art institutions where our attention needs to be focused, but the whiteness that dominates art criticism and writing too. Too often, the work of black artists is discussed from a predominantly white perspective and it matters. ARTS.BLACK, an online platform that launched at the end of 2014, is worth mentioning here as it seeks to ‘further expand the places and spaces for critical thought on Black art’.

It’s an exciting time for the new generation of black artists in the UK even though the arts have become whiter. Not enough BAME artists get the support and recognition they deserve, even though it’s clear that they are just as cutting edge and contemporary as their white counterparts and are so much more than their ethnicities.

I’ll leave you with this final word from Chantelle.

“Fellow artists shouldn’t be discouraged by what I have said. Once you genuinely engage with the craft you love, it will be more than visible in the work you produce and the right people will gravitate towards it in time. That’s just my personal belief, my humble opinion, it has been working for me thus far. I haven’t had any mainstream “success” yet but if I do that will be why.”

Check out Chantelle’s website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram too.

Visit Kelvin’s website here and keep up with him on Twitter and Instagram.

Catching up with Remel London

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Remel London who is an accomplished and award-winning TV/radio presenter and host. I became aware of Remel last summer when she chaired a panel discussion at the Youth Media Summit at the BFI, where I was a volunteer for the day. Her wit, charisma and bold and upbeat personality instantly made me a fan and I’ve been following her moves ever since. Big shout out to Youth Media Agency who published the interview on their website. Check out our conversation below.


At the age of 26, Remel London has successfully carved a name for herself as a renowned radio and TV presenter and live events host within the UK entertainment industry as well as producing her own distinctive live events and productions. She’s the perfect example of why youth media is so important and powerful. Now that the second season of her amazing talk show, The Show Room, has ended (sob!), we caught up with her to discuss role models, women in media, where mainstream media gets it wrong and her future plans.

What made you want to become a presenter? Was it something you’ve always seen yourself doing?

Growing up, I always wanted to do things within the media, performance-wise and entertainment-wise. I loved things like dance and musical theatre and always wanted to be a part of it and find out more. My general interest in all things creative attracted me to it but I guess the main thing that drove me to become a presenter was wanting to know more about production.

Previously you’ve hosted for ILUVLIVE, worked as a presenter for Link Up TV and Sky 1’s What’s Up just to name a few. You also founded the popular networking and showcase event RateMePlz in 2012 and more recently, The Show Room. Tell me a bit about how RateMePlz and The Show Room came about.

I’ve always wanted to go to networking events because I feel like they’re really beneficial. It got to a point where people always used to send me music and ask for feedback because they know I’m associated with events, like ILUVLIVE and Link Up TV. So I was like, do you know what? I’ve only been in this industry a few years. I’ve got an idea where I can create a platform where you can meet people who are more established than me and get genuine advice while everyone is having a good time. I felt like there was a need for more people to get out there and meet each other. Now it’s changed a lot and there are more opportunities for that but at the time I felt there was a need for talent to be able to meet the industry properly.

Again, The Show Room was another platform for people who have talent. I wanted it to inspire others that any little talent that you have, you can come and show it off. Whether you’re an amazing cook or amazing painter, The Show Room is a place for new talent. It’s filmed in front of a live studio audience so anything can happen and it’s always going to fun!

You describe yourself as ‘self-made’ and you’re a firm believer in the DIY approach when it comes to media. Why do you feel it’s so important for young people to create their own media platforms and content?

There’s a lot going on out there, it’s over saturated and it’s very hard to break through. Waiting for an opportunity is, in my opinion, a waste of time. If you’ve got a talent or a skill, make the most of it and at the same time you’re practising anyway. Then when that amazing, big dream job does come you can say, “Look, I’ve done all of this by myself. Imagine what I can do with you and for you.”

Doing it yourself is a lot more fulfilling, so you’ll find more enjoyment from a product if you made it yourself. It’s also a good way to develop and grow.

When it comes to representation, groups such as women and ethnic minorities are generally underrepresented and misrepresented in the media. What has this journey been like for you, as a young black woman, trying to make a name for yourself in the entertainment and media industries?

I think I’ve had a lot of support. A lot of people have noticed that I’m very self-motivated and although I do everything by myself, it’s great to know that loads of young women encourage me and cheer me on. Older women have also offered me the same support. I think when women see other women doing well, it’s always good to carry on encouraging and motivating them. I feel like the network has gotten stronger and we’ve helped each other out.

Even though it’s a male-dominated world, I don’t think you have to wait for a guy to realise how good you are. Don’t let any little comments or negative feedback get you down because there’s always room to grow and there’s a lot of support out there. There’s a lot of women’s networks, women’s award shows, women’s meetings… There’s loads of stuff going on. I feel like we’re at a great time for women to feel empowered and it should carry on.

What’s been the biggest challenge for you in your career so far?

I guess, breaking into the mainstream. Once you’re associated with the urban world, they [mainstream media] do feel like you can’t do anything else. I’m not really a fan of the word “urban” but it’s what I’m usually associated with. This is going to sound weird but, it’s almost like, they think you can only talk to black people because you’re black.

Yeah, I get you. They box you in.

And it’s like, OK… but I can talk to anyone! It’s annoying that sometimes they don’t see the potential in young urban stars to be popular. Like, they don’t feel we can be popular. It’s the same with music artists, they think that a rapper isn’t likely to be popular in the mainstream world, but yeah they will be because if a song is good, then it will do well regardless of who’s singing or rapping.

I feel like we need to see that in the presenters as well. Presenters are a key part of a show being good. If you enjoy the show and you enjoy the presenter, why not allow that presenter to do a lot more? Young talent needs to be given the opportunity to do new things. Like, Ant and Dec are great, you know, but how many more shows are they going to do? Haha. We need to see more young talent come through and host some of the big shows because it’s time to see new faces.

With everything you’ve achieved to date, you’re no doubt a role model to a lot of young people. Who do you personally look up to?

At the minute, one of the strongest representatives for me is Oprah Winfrey. I know it sounds cheesy and it’s not just because she’s a black billionaire, but because she was unconventional at the time she came out, for a presenter. I feel like if I was given that break, that opportunity that she was given, I could do so much with it and I could be as big as Oprah or bigger.
I love that she didn’t look how they wanted her to look. At the time, there were loads of white male presenters, much older and blonde, blue-eyed people on the TV and as a minority, she came along and changed the game. She not only hosted the show but she took ownership of it as well. Having her own show, then her own production company and making her own productions, that’s exactly what I want to do.

I think I’m good at what I do, but once you see me take control of it, it will go crazy, it will get out of hand! that’s why I made The Show Room. Looking to Oprah as inspiration for taking something good, making it your own and seeing that she has a great team behind her encourages me to do the same.

On a UK scale, there are loads of women who are taking the lead themselves, like Angie Le Mar who’s amazing. She’s a producer, a comedian and a former Choice FM presenter. Also, Clara Amfo is killing it. She’s shown that the colour of your skin is not that deep anymore and that being talented is really important.

What advice would you give to young people who want to follow in your footsteps and get into presenting?

Practice as much as possible. Learn about the industry and what you want to do. I’m learning all the time and trying to figure out who have I got to meet. Have loads of meetings, ask people for advice. Get out there and let people know who you are. Introduce yourself to people and let them know what you want to do. Ask for opportunities and don’t be afraid to work for free because it’s all going to be a huge gain in the long run. Keep in contact with the people you meet and work with good people.

The second season of The Show Room finished last week (sadly). What’s next for you?

Well, everyone wants another season so we’re going to work on season 3! I want to work on loads more productions and plan on doing a lot more of my own now that I’ve done The Show Room. We’re looking for more people to work with. I’m also hosting loads of shows over the summer, going abroad and filming stuff. I’m going to be all over so if you’ve got an idea, get in touch and we can work together ’cause there will be loads more happening!

Visit Remel’s website

Watch both seasons of The Show Room on YouTube

My sit down with East London Hip-Hop artist Rageouz


Still from Rageouz’s ‘Eastside [Sup Preme]’ video

2015 has been a great year for East London Hip-Hop artist Rageouz. In January, he had everyone talking when he dropped the visual for his track ‘Eastside [Sup Preme]’ and shortly afterwards, he was selected as one of GRM Daily’s favourite emerging independent artists. I caught up with the 21-year-old for a chat about growing as an artist, his involvement with creative collective one50, originality in the UK music scene and his upcoming EP.

Rageouz’s route into music stemmed from growing up in a family full of music lovers. “My mum made garage music in the late nineties. When I was younger I just grew up watching everybody so interested in music around me. My uncle and aunty used to make music. My mum would bring songs home from the studio and play them. I feel like I got a great understanding of it from young,” he says.

Like so many other UK artists and MCs, he fondly recalls the days where he would spit 8 and 16 bars in the playground with his friends at secondary school, during the Golden Age of Grime. ”Even though I started in Year 7, I only really thought I started properly last year… As someone who enjoyed the hobby before, I feel like I’m a musician now. Before it was like, I was just another rapper but now I feel like an artist.”

Would he say he’s finding his place in music? “Yeah, definitely. I had to take a lot of time out to figure out what I really needed to do because I think a lot of people feel that music is just music, like you write some lyrics then put it on a track, or you talk about something and put it on a track. But to be an original artist, you have to know yourself. I am me in my music now. Before I felt like I was a lot more entertaining as a person than as a musician, so it was like, how do I put the entertainment in the music?”

Last Spring, Rageouz and fellow artist Ayar released their collaborative project ‘Authentape’, which received rave reviews. The project was hailed most of all for its quality, something that is often considered to be lacking in UK Hip-Hop. The two are part of a creative collective called one50, which also includes artist Preacher Soul and director Manny Grey. The team has been friends since school, with the exception of Preacher Soul, who Rageouz met at university. ‘Authentape’ was born after Ayar and Rageouz decided that working together on a mixtape was the best way to back out there, as they didn’t get to release much material previously. “We’ve kind of gone through these music stages together”, he explains. “We’d come to a new understanding musically, together, but we done it on different paths.” This new understanding clearly translates on ‘Authentape’. The musical chemistry between the two very different artists is one of the things that makes it so enjoyable to listen to, something that has been echoed by many fans. “Ayar is deeper lyrically whereas I’m a bit more bouncy, aggressive. I feel I’m a bit easier to understand on first listen. Ayar is a bit more poetic.”

Both were determined not to conform to each other’s styles and wanted the tape to be as consistent as possible. Rageouz admits to feeling confused about why this isn’t happening more often [UK artists being distinctly themselves]. “I personally feel that a lot of people in the UK conform to each others styles…I think people are too similar, you know what I mean? And that’s only now. Maybe it wasn’t like that 5 or 6 years ago.”

Around the same time Ayar and Rageouz began working on ‘Authentape’ (around December 2014), Rageouz started producing, making a beat every day for a couple of months. At the moment he’s doing sound engineering, so he’s able to engineer for himself. Producing is something he wants to do more of one day so he’s making it a task to improve his knowledge in this area.

Rageouz’s musical influences span widely. It started with Dizzee Rascal, Kano and Wiley in his early teenage years. He also cites Skepta, JME (and the rest of the Boy Better Know group), Giggs, P Money, Griminal, Lethal Bizzle, Chipmunk in his early days and Ghetts as influences. The list is long and he takes his time, not wanting to miss out any names, eventually saying, ”All the best UK artists have influenced me at some point.” They tend to be on the grime side, as he admits he doesn’t listen to much UK rap. He also name drops Loyle Carner, Coops, Novelist and Stormzy as current inspirations in the UK scene. The last three are artists he would like to collaborate with in future. “I think me and Novelist would go well together on a track,” he muses.

Before we move onto his US influences, Rageouz tells me that when he was 16 or 17, he stopped listening to UK music as he found it too generic and opted for American music instead. I understand why because I did the same thing a few years ago for the exact same reason. At the moment, he’s particularly rating J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Vic Mensa, Mick Jenkins and Chance the Rapper. “I think there’s a lot to be influenced by now,” he says. “I try and listen to as much good music as I can, as I feel it helps me make my best music. But at times, it can be hard to remain yourself after listening to something so inspirational, so even though I listen to all these artists I don’t let it sway me.” He expands on this point by using Drake as an example. “I know a lot of people who listen to, specifically I think, Drake. They listen to a lot of Drake and they make a lot of Drake music,” he laughs. “If you’re not conscious of it, it can be hard. I don’t think a lot of people are ‘cause they’re making Drake music and they don’t even know.”

One year on from ‘Authentape’, the release of his forthcoming EP is around the corner. It’s a project that, he says, will help people understand him. “I don’t think they had a lot of me to understand in the first place, other than the mixtape I put out with Ayar and the [Eastside] video. This will let people know where I’m at now, definitely.” It will consist of six to ten songs and won’t have many features, as it’s his first serious project. He also plans to release a second EP before the end of the year and reveals that there could possibly be an ‘Authentape’ part two in the pipeline with Ayar. I really want that to happen, and I know I’m not the only one.

He makes it clear that Ayar definitely shouldn’t be slept on, and that we’ll be seeing more of him in due course too. “I think he knows what he’s doing, basically, as much as myself. He should be looked out for as much as I should.”

Rageouz isn’t too interested in categories or labels, saying, “I don’t want to limit myself, as in, the best hood rapper, or in terms of videos, say, I make the best hood videos. When we make our stuff, we try and make the best, that’s it.”

Rageouz is an artist with a lot to offer. His realness and self-assurance are unquestionable and inspiring, no doubt. There are many promising up-and-coming artists in the UK right now and we need to celebrate those who are being their authentic selves. Rageouz is someone who is taking his time with it all and it’s working. Everything he has done up to this point has spoken for itself. “I’m going to have a lot more to say,” he says with a smile. And when that time comes, we will have to sit up and take note.

Follow Rageouz on Twitter and SoundCloud

Keep up with one50 on Twitter and SoundCloud

Download ‘Authentape’ here

Film Review: The Fourth Estate

Cast your mind back to 2011 and think about which news stories dominated the headlines that year. The phone hacking scandal should be one of the things that pop into your head. The intense and rigorous scrutiny of the media that was prompted by the scandal was momentary and the dust settled fairly quickly. The Fourth Estate, a new no-holds-barred documentary directed by Lee Salter, examines the people and practises of the media industries and shows us how, post-Leveson, its flaws and inadequacies are not as few and far between as is let on.

The documentary is split into nine sections, starting appropriately with ‘Business’, that includes a definition of the term ‘political economy’. This approach works very well as it allows the viewers to draw their own connections and link ideas together as the documentary progresses. Though the approach may seem ‘scattergun-like’ to some, it actually makes for a reasonably coherent film. There is a lot of ground covered in the space of 90 minutes, with topics ranging from the history and business of the press, politics, representation and of course, journalists.

Contributors include Goldsmith University Professor Dr. Natalie Fenton, author and writer Laurie Penny, Chair of the Media Reform Coalition Des Freedman, Goldsmiths University Professor James Curran and The Guardian’s Joseph Harker.

In addition to exploring the media business as a whole, and those who run it, the film also offers an insight into the challenges that many journalists (new or otherwise) may face at work particularly at the hands of their editors. Former Daily Star reporter Richard Peppiatt recalls his experience working at the tabloid paper as one where he felt uncomfortable with some of the things he was asked to do, and the way he was asked to cover certain stories. He particularly took issue with the paper’s coverage of Islam.

The way minority groups are portrayed in the media has a huge impact on the way society views them and the film deals this topic in a frank and thoughtful way. A sizeable portion of it is devoted to issues of gender, race and class representation and it is good to see the subject of transgender representation mentioned, however brief (considering that there simply isn’t enough time to discuss everything in detail). One of the film’s pleasant surprises is a spoken word piece called ‘Cog’ from the lovely poet and actor Deanna Rodger. It is very effective, although it goes on for a little while.

The documentary does a fantastic job showing how problematic the UK’s media business is and insists that it needs to take a good look at itself and do a lot better. The influence of the media means that it affects the way we experience the world, and the documentary highlights the link between political power, financial power and representation.

It also makes it clear that although all these problems and issues exist, there is still hope for the press to become truly independent and critical outlets for the public (rather than acting as propaganda tools with often little regard to public interest) and the media business to operate with a lot more integrity and dignity than it currently does. It’s an important watch for media and journalism students especially. The main message I took away from the documentary is that, as shitty and corrupt as the media industry can be, change is possible and the next generation of editors, reporters and journalists can be a part of it.

For more information about the documentary, check out the Fourth Estate website and follow its social media profiles for updates on further screenings.

Bloggers Love Fashion Week

Bloggers Love Makeover Table

Last month I was invited to the third season of Bloggers Love Fashion Week, which took place on 25th and 26th March at the ever-so-cool Fourth Floor studios in East London. #BLFW is one of the hottest blogger events around and is sure to satisfy all your fashion and beauty cravings. I attended Day 1 of the event with my friend Athira (she blogs here) and discovered some fab brands which I’ll share with you below…Joe Browns

Joe Browns is the perfect brand for those who are after something a bit different to what the high street offers. The brand takes inspiration from all over the world and the bold patterns and colours and unique silhouettes are definitely eye-catching. I love the brand’s Spring Summer 15 collection, which I thought had a vintage and kitsch kind of feel. Joe Browns is also available at Debenhams.

Norenzo jewellery 2

Norenzo jewellery

I had the pleasure of meeting Sabreena, the owner of Norenzo Jewellery and her friend Heather who were both lovely. Sabreena’s gorgeous handmade pieces will add the finishing touch to almost any outfit and I wanted literally everything on the table!

Gossimar Wings jewellery bath tub

Before we move on, how cool is this setup? Online jewellery boutique Gossimar Wings specialises in statement/fashion pieces and is the perfect choice for anyone who’s after affordable, show-stopping jewellery.

Iris Sandals 2

IRIS is a luxury sandal and accessory brand that epitomises elegance and individuality. Specialising in handmade embellished leather designs, I really love the colours and details of each piece and think we’ll be seeing a lot more of IRIS very soon.


If you’ve always wanted to design your own custom jewellery, then you’ll absolutely love Mink & Stone. Founder and creative director Miisa demonstrated on her iPad how easy it is to design pieces on the Mink & Stone website. I was impressed by the massive selection of materials to choose from (which includes beads, stones, crystals and more) and love how accessible, simple and fun Mink and Stone makes the process of designing your own jewellery.

Niki P 2

NIKI P bags and silk scarves are truly unique and show stopping. The pieces’ distinctive designs and prints are hand drawn by Niki herself and made with high-quality fabrics which are combined with 100% leather.

Just Trade 1

Just Trade 2

Sophie Todd and Sophie Hearne from Just Trade

Just Trade is an online shop that sells fair trade ethical jewellery. The company collaborates with producers in Peru, India and Ecuador to produce jewellery. Fun fact: See the cute rabbit and badger pendants in the top photo? They were carved from Tagua nuts from Amazon rainforest. Cool, huh? I was drawn to Just Trade’s pieces because they seem a bit different and I like that they’re quite characteristic. The fact that the jewellery is fair trade is a bonus too!

Tuff Love

TuffLove top SplashTextile designer Naomi Tuffery founded her company Tuff Love two years ago after she graduated with a degree in Textiles and Surface Design. She specialised in print design and sells silk scarves, tops and accessories through Tuff Love. Naomi’s tops (above) were a big hit on the night and it’s easy to see why. I was very kindly given one at the event (thank you Naomi <3) and can’t wait to wear it in summer. It’s so comfortable and I’m in love with the print. My top is called ‘Splash’ and you can order it here.

Overall I had a great time at the event and am looking forward to the next one. A big thank you to the brilliant Danielle who organised the whole thing. Be sure to check out Bloggers Love and follow them on social media to stay updated with their events and other bits they have in the pipeline.

My favourite #AdviceForYoungJournalists

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 12.17.55

I’m sure some of you were aware of the recent hashtag #AdviceForYoungJournalists on Twitter which started last week after financial writer Felix Salmon tweeted a piece he wrote for Fusion entitled ‘To all the young journalists asking for advice…’ His advice, in a nutshell, was “don’t do it”. Ouch. I like Vox editor-in-chief Ezra Klein’s response to Salmon which is, thankfully, less pessimistic and assures me I’m not doomed. Slate’s Will Oremus simply he advised young journalists not to take career advice from older ones. Some of the advice offered on Twitter was funny, some of it quite pompous, some of it was filled with enormous shade from those who presumably hate the industry they work in. But there was also tons of genuine and super helpful advice too. I’ve rounded up some of my favourite tweets below. 

Please read and bookmark this if you’re a non-white wannabe journalist because it’s brilliant.

And here’s me offering my own advice…

Writer Laurie Penny offered lots of useful advice, check out this Storify to see all her tweets. Here are some of my own pieces of advice, as a fellow young journalist:

  • Be a nice person.
  • Be proactive. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. Become a go-getter if you’re not already one.
  • Try to say yes to things because you never will know what an opportunity may lead to.
  • Network. This might not be the easiest thing to do if you’re shy or don’t consider yourself the networking type but it’s good to get into the habit of it and build relationships. Maybe start by asking yourself why you want to network and come up with a plan and decide what your goals are.
  • Get off Twitter/Facebook/Instagram sometimes and go out and do/make stuff. Start practising journalism now. What’s stopping you?

I’m sure Salmon meant well with his piece but if you really want to be a journalist, you can. Believe in yourself, work very hard and don’t give up because now is honestly the most exciting time to be a journalist, regardless of what others might tell you.

On Jourdan Dunn’s Vogue cover

Jourdan Dunn Vogue

I’ve waited a long time for this to happen. You see, I love Jourdan. Growing up, I’d seen her appearing on/in several magazines but it was after I discovered her online cooking show ‘Well Dunn’ on Youtube a couple of years ago that a girl crush began to develop. Aside from her stunning looks, I loved her infectious, fun-loving personality and admired the way she has boldly spoke out about racism in the fashion industry.

So, I’m over the moon that she’s British Vogue’s February 2015 cover girl. It’s long, long, long overdue. Not just because Jourdan finally has her first solo British Vogue cover (considerably later than her white contemporaries), but because a solo black model hasn’t fronted the magazine in 12 years – not since Naomi Campbell in 2002. I mean, it’s kinda ridiculous/embarrassing isn’t it? The fashion industry should fully represent their audience and the diverse world we live in.

The announcement of Jourdan’s cover came not too long after The Fashion Spot reported that in 2014, white models had five times more cover appearances than black models did and several magazines including Vogue UK (shocker!) did not feature a single model of colour on their covers last year. Meanwhile, Kate Moss and Cara Delevingne both had two British Vogue covers each… *side eye*

I’ve never bought the “black faces don’t sell magazines” bullshit that is sometimes said by those high up in the industry. To me, it’s just a lame excuse to try and justify discrimination. I’m not a Vogue reader. The last time I purchased a copy was when Jourdan covered Miss Vogue’s second issue in April last year. Her cover this month is undoubtedly a big triumph and it’s incredibly beautiful. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another decade or more to see a model of colour grace the cover of British Vogue, but we’ll see. I won’t hold my breath.

Youth Media Summit 2014

06082014 youth media summit bag+mag

As someone who loves media, I always imagined that one day I would work for a major media organisation. I hardly considered other options. It was only recently that I thought about getting involved with youth media and possibly creating my own platform in the future.

Last Wednesday (6th August), the Youth Media Agency held their second Youth Media Summit at the BFI with 450 delegates representing more than 150 youth media platforms and 40 mainstream media. 

I was a volunteer at the Summit, which was very hectic but heaps of fun too and I would happily do it all again. Spoken word artist Samuel King opened the event with his brilliant poem ‘Fatherless Britain’, which was a great way to kick things off. The day was incredibly inspiring and delegates were treated to music and spoken word performances, as well as masterclasses and talks which were delivered by a range of youth and mainstream media. Networking and collaboration were strongly encouraged throughout the event, as these were amongst the aims of the summit. It was a pleasure to meet so many young people like myself who are interested in media.

I particularly enjoyed the ‘Careers in Media’ discussion, where three women from the BBC, Channel 4 and Creative Skillset shared their tips on how to make it in this competitive industry. Something that was stressed a lot during the talk was the importance of having a genuine passion for something and being proactive. It’s not enough to say “I want to be a [insert dream media job here],” you need to show that you’re passionate and produce your own work. Another tip from the panel: remember to actually share your work so people can see it. Don’t be shy!

It was great to be involved with the Youth Media Summit because the event showed me how important youth media really is and why it is vital for young people to create their own opportunities and showcase their creativity. If you’re someone who dreams of a career in media, start doing whatever it is you want to do now. Talk to like-minded people and share ideas, and never forget the value of collaboration.

Check out the tweets from the summit here.