Miraa May encourages young people to be vocal on political agendas

The moment you invite a friend to south east London, you’re met with the “ha! So you want me catch a flight to come and see you?” banter. Then you tell them you live in Catford and the response is “ha! What’s there do in Catford?” 

Whilst getting to Catford isn’t half as difficult as it’s made out to be, it is true that there’s only so much to do, especially for young people. However, the first Young & Vocal night happening on February 24th, aims to change this. The event will take place in Catford’s shopping centre; known for its vibrant community, two poundlands and the Tesco superstore which closes at 7pm.

Organised by Team Catford; a group of Lewisham based consultants specialising in community engagement, regeneration and placemaking

Catford will be welcoming an amazing lineup of musicians, DJ’s and visual artists, in light of the regeneration soon to happen in the area.

One of the artists on the line up is Miraa May: singer/songwriter born in Algeria, raised in Tottenham. Her 2016  EP titled N15 is “an ode to [her] ends.” I spoke to May about what being “woke” means to her, as well as her views on regeneration and the importance of being confident in who you are, as you are.

This line of conversation is the ethos behind Young & Vocal, which is the first of a series of events that aim to provide opportunity, and to create spaces for young people in Catford to develop their creativity. Young & Vocal want to encourage young people to use their creative talents as a vessel for positive social change. It is about understanding the importance of championing local views, and ensuring the vision for the future is both intergenerational and inclusive.

gal-dem: What does the term “woke” mean to you?

Miraa May: I don’t really like the term “woke” because it has become oversaturated. I think it’s important to be aware of what’s going on around you, and it’s about having a higher level of understanding. It’s when you find yourself caring about things beyond the superficial.

You refer to N15 as an ode to your ends, and from following you on social media I get a sense of your pride in Tottenham. Why is representing that important to you?

I was born in north Africa, and I moved to north London straight away. I’ve grown up here, this area has helped shape me into who I am. I think it’s important to show where you’re from in the rawest form. I know I’m about to do really big things, and they’re going to take me all over the world. So my first visual at least, had to be an ode to my ends.

“I was home sick and I was thinking rah, this little Tottenham girl is in Miami, in Salaam Remi’s studio house”

When was this idea formed?

I wrote all the songs on my last EP when I was in Miami. It was my first time away from home, on an international flight. I was home sick and I was thinking rah, this little Tottenham girl is in Miami, in Salaam Remi’s studio house. It hit me then, and the Americans I met couldn’t comprehend my personality. They were expecting this girl from “London”, but they got this girl from Tottenham instead. It was a lot for them to digest, and I like that about myself.

What is it about London that has made you, you? Especially in comparison to growing up in Algeria for example.

I feel very blessed that we came to this city. Despite everything that’s wrong with London, it does have so much freedom and you don’t feel like you’re alone, because you find so many like-minded people.

It’s definitely given me independence as a woman. I was very shocked when I went to Algeria last year, because I’ve grown up here all my life and no one can tell me how to be here. There’s an “I can do what I want” attitude in London, and obviously in Algeria it’s not the same.

“It’s okay to make places look nicer, but is that our priority right now? Is that where the council’s money should be going?”

How do you feel about regeneration in regards to Tottenham, and as a whole?

To me it’s like someone bringing you a present, and you know deep down it’s not for you, it’s for your rich cousin. It’s okay to make places look nicer, but is that our priority right now? Is that where the council’s money should be going?

The people of Tottenham, or anywhere else, are what make it so amazing. It’s the people, their work ethic, the local businesses and the community. I think they should be the priority.

Do you think we as young people speak up or do enough?

There’s always more that you could do. It was really important that last year was the highest turnout for young voters, in terms of voting for Labour. That gave me a lot of hope because I’m a very politically aware person, and I like young people to have a voice.

I feel like young people need to talk more, we need to have more events where people can just come and talk, listen and be inspired. We also need to be put in places where people take us seriously. A lot of us feel like people don’t take us seriously, so we don’t care. But you have to snap out of that attitude and say “No. I want change and I’m going to make change.”

”If I had any advice to give to young people, it would be stay vocal, and stay loud because we can’t be ignored forever”

Even if I can’t change the world, maybe I can have a conversation with someone and change their mind, change their perspective or make them a bit more passionate about something. Then eventually something’s got to happen because it doesn’t stop with people our age, there are always younger kids. I’ve got a 12-year-old sister and 16-year-old brother. I want to keep the conversation flowing to inspire them because they can actually change things.

If I had any advice to give to young people, it would be stay vocal, and stay loud because we can’t be ignored forever.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Young & Vocal will take place on February 24th, from 6pm to 11pm.

Free tickets and information: youngandvocal.eventbrite.co.uk

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