Two Nations Event

On Thursday 21st of June , Headstart, (the program which helps young people gain skills in the creative industry which I take part in), and I, ran an event at the FreeWord Centre called Two Nations. It brought together around 100 people from all different cultures and ethnicities and discussed the theme of dual heritage and how it relates to sport. Emotions were expressed through means of film, audio, photography, poetry and live debates on the night. Radio 1 DJ, Gemma Cairney, hosted the night and directed questions towards the panel of guests which included poets, athletes and therapists who were all of mixed backgrounds. Prior to the event I was interviewed by Reprezent radio to big it up.

Kaspian and I created a short video and an audio podcast for the evening. The first was an interview of Claudia Andrew, (a fellow SMJ), about her experiences growing up in a fairly rural part of South Africa and then moving to urban London as a young girl.

For the podcast, we were interested in who people cheered for in sport if they came from very mixed backgrounds. So we vox-pox recorded people’s opinions at Westfield, Stratford by the Olympic Site.

The highlight of the night in my opinion was a poem called Three Treasures by Hannah Lowe. She is British, Chinese and Jamaican. It listed items that were in her household that she grew up with that were typical of her three different heritages. It was simple yet painted such a vivid image in my brain and gave a real sense of what life is like growing up in a mixed background.

I also enjoyed hearing the general debating going on. I don’t usually watch debates on telly or go to them but I did find this one so interesting which was even more surprising since it had little relation to me. I am as close to being 100% English as possible and so always support England/Britain in sporting events. However, during the evening, one man in the audience raised a few points that I did find intriguing. He said how he was also very English and so found it difficult to relate to other countries and cultures. Being English, he thought, was fairly plain and possibly even boring which, I have come across, is what a lot of Brits of a younger generation nowadays think. But he explained how he travels a lot and found that in his travels, he came across many aspects of different cultures that he preferred and incorporates them in his ‘English’ culture. This really stuck with me and changed the way I look at other aspects or attitudes to life however different from my current own.

What he said was most relative to me and so I started to think; is my culture boring? And; what is my culture anyway?

The fact is, most of the English language and legacy today is based on many different countries and cultures from the past. More so than possibly any other country in the world. So why as a nation do we think of the Queen when you think of what is most British? And why do we fail to realise that our culture is so much more than pork pies or red telephone boxes? The fact is that the royal family are hardly British in their roots at all and one of the most iconic national foods of England is the curry which came from Asia! I am bored of this general sense of English culture and identity and wish this nation would start to celebrate the more interesting bits of our history.


About Joe Mason

My name is Joe Mason, I'm a 20 year-old Londoner living in Hackney, a host borough for the 2012 Olympic Games. Through this blog I explored how the Games affected local people. I was part of a group of students taking part in a program called Headstart. Now I use this as a platform for creative writing, audio, film, and digital.
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