Episode 18: 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 in the borough 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.

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"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