“What are your thoughts on Brexit?” I asked my fifteen-year-old sister. This was back in 2016 in the wake of the referendum results. She looked at me with that irritated look teenagers give you when you’re distracting them from a more important activity like scrolling through Snapchat.
“I heard there will be no more Nando’s in Britain”.
Aside from being utterly perplexed about where she pulled that fact from, I was a quite envious that the height of her Brexit anxiety stopped at what kind of chicken would be filling her stomach. The jobs market and increased taxes on EU imports were not yet anything to lose sleep over.
In hindsight I don’t really begrudge her. How can I expect an adolescent to have all the answers when the people charged with leading our country safely out of Europe are still bickering over the details of the transition? Was it not Sir Martin Donnelly, ex-EU advisor who described leaving the single market as swapping a three course meal for the promise of a packet of crisps? My sister might have been onto something.
Fast-forward two years, to last week to be precise. I was reading the highlights of this years’ Brit Awards from a selection of online sources. What stood out, aside from the night’s winners, was the much talked about live performance from one of the UK’s top grime artists. ’Stormzy goes after Theresa May’s handling of the Grenfell Tragedy in fierce freestyle’, one of the headlines read. It’s fair to say that my curiosity was piqued. I just had to watch it for myself on YouTube. I was in awe as I watched him topless and drenched in artificial rain, fiercely and flawlessly freestyling about some of today’s pressing issues. His flagship line, ‘Yo Theresa May where’s that money for Grenfell?’ a direct assault on the Prime Minister’s response, or lack thereof, to the tragedy was the boldest confrontation I had witnessed in a while.
The performance had me thinking whether grime music is an unlikely candidate when it comes to bringing politics to a demographic of people who are unable to vote and have therefore been excluded from political conversations by virtue of their age. After all, Stormzy is among the current leaders of the grime music scene, and grime is a genre of music proudly owned by the young people of this country.
I decided to once again seek my sister’s opinion. ‘What do you think of what Stormzy had to say about Grenfell at the Brits?’ Her response had definitely gained some more depth over the years. ‘I think it’s good because someone finally used their platform to highlight the wrongdoings of the government. Once everyone has reached one million followers they are all of sudden so careful about what they say, so it was nice to see someone break that barrier. D’ya get what I mean?’
I was impressed. My now seventeen-year-old sister had expressed a political view and there wasn’t a piece of Peri-Peri chicken in sight. Assuming her views are representative of the youth of Britain, my suggestion of grime as a political vehicle is not quite a bad idea.
According to a survey carried out by the Office of National Statistics, most young people lack interest in politics at all. Perhaps this figure can be improved if more of pop culture’s headliners were included in the political narrative. Figures such as Stormzy could be a representation of the country’s youth and its politics. He’s always made his support for Jeremy Corbyn public. Last September, whilst accepting a GQ award from the Labour leader, he criticised Theresa May, by calling her a ‘paigon’. A quick Google search told me that the term describes a backstabber or traitor.
It might be time to modernise and humanise the face of UK politics. Should decision makers turn to unlikely places to include our young people in political debates? Who knows, we could be looking at a future where the Cabinet includes grime artists.
Stormzy for Prime Minister anyone?
Read more of Madeline’s writing at www.madelinewilsonojo.com.