"When you write you just have to write out of love. I do anyway. I have to love what I'm writing about." Zadie Smith
Brent-born Zadie Smith is one of the finest chroniclers of contemporary London.
Still resident in Brent, we discover whether where she lives is still important to what she writes and how growing up here has shaped her work and outlook.
Her award-winning debut novel White Teeth and 2012 book NW are set in Willesden and Kilburn, Brent. Kingsbury resident and member of the Blueprint Collective, Savannah, finds out what she was like at school, where she used to go and what it felt like to come of age in Willesden at the beginning of the 1990s.
"It’s [Brent] gone through such incredible change. It’s like a little story of England in one borough. [...] It’s the story of the entire country as told in miniature." Zadie Smith
"I was born in The Ends, and bred there: in fact, I spent the first thirty years of my life in a one mile radius. Born in a bedsit by Brondesbury Park Station, then moved to Athelston Gardens Estate further down that same lane, then down to a maisonette just by Willesden Green library, where my mum still lives. When I published White Teeth I moved to a flat in Chatsworth Road, just by Kilburn Station; when I married I moved into a house opposite the old flats. I never learnt to drive - still haven't - so I have walked those streets over and over, passing earlier versions of myself and my memories, at bus-stops, in the parks, in the pubs, corner shops and libraries.
Now, every summer I come back, happy to find my brothers both back in the old neighborhood, and now my nieces, and so many old friends. It is the location of my imagination, and my heart, and I feel very fortunate, as a writer, to have known first-hand the extraordinary borough Brent, officially the most diverse area in London. Where else could a writer hope to meet the whole world within a one mile radius?
To me Brent has never been anything less than the borough of culture, but I am delighted to see it officially recognized as such and thrilled to get to to play a role in the 2020 celebrations. Big up yourself, Brent! And we will."
Zadie Smith, 2020
How have Brent’s legends been coping during the ongoing pandemic, and what might it mean for their work and practice?
In this new video series, guest hosts from the Blueprint Collective catch up – in a socially distanced way, of course – with legendary musicians, artists, athletes and activists from across the borough to find out how they’ve been affected and perhaps even inspired by the COVID-19 crisis. Along the way, we dig deeper into our guests’ connections to Brent, discovering what they’ve been reading, watching, hearing and absorbing during this strange and frightening time – and hearing more about how they’re responding.
This forms part of Brent 2020 Unlocked.