London’s Evening Standard newspaper in partnership with Netflix UK hosted a long 3 day weekend of screenings, seminars and panels full of the best UK talent across film.
Starting on Friday 23rd at Londons Picturehouse Central a lovely evening where ES Editor Emily Sheffield hosted and welcomed us to celebrate new up & coming writers of their writers competition to recognise diverse screen talent across the industry.
So many incredible speakers, actors, writers, poets and more gathered all weekend to share their journeys and skills with the gathered audience.
My favourite panels so far are the Sex Education cast, followed by cast and creator of Top Boy …Ashley Walters and Ronan Bennett shared the history of the now global brand and shone a light on their development training programmes with Netflix revealing that directors, producers and editors had come up through the ranks to now being fully fledged talents in their own right and thriving in the screen industry!
Stand out quotes for me were:
Creator Ronan Bennett says when he first took #TopBoy into pitch to the BBC they had a problem with the word “milf”. “I thought if u have a problem with the word Milf then the whole of TopBoy isn’t going to be for you”
Lead character Ashley Walters says he never expected #TopBoy to become the beast that it became over the past 12 years, how he’s taken the younger new actors under his wing and mentoring them as they come up and why he’s proud to be a part of the show.
“Like communities in Ireland where I’m from, or Hackney, when u come from a community that’s demonised/shown to have no moral centre,I wanted to present them in a humane way.I spoke to youth to find out what was important in their lives, hence the trainer’s narrative” Ronan Bennett.
“a big thing the pandemic taught me was to be grateful and happy to spend time with the people who i love. I spent months playing playstation”. Says @OAraloyin @topboynetflix
“Netflix have given us the freedom to tell the story at scale. As a storyteller at Netflix u can invest more into the characters narrative. Netflix has given us creative freedom, an amazing platform and the space to tell the story honestly” says TopBoy creator Ronan Bennett.
Other sessions that were brilliant were of course the ever effervescent Ricky Gervais and Stormzy’s MERKY Books talent imprint. A great weekend nod to the incredible talent across the UK screen industries. Great job everyone at Evening Standard and Netflix UK!
On Monday 30th August I was invited by Afronation Parties to join their red iconic tour bus which was travelling around the capital with an open top deck where South African Major League DJ twins were hosting an afternoon of music for friends in the UK before headlining their show at the docklands East Winter Gardens venue. What better than to mix business with pleasure, so I invited Channel 4 News to join us and hear all about the music genre thats been overtaking charts, radios, music festivals and parties!
finds itself in the global limelight more and more these days, gifting us different
sounds to the music space.
The Major League DJZ are twins, and are both cultural ambassadors of AMAPIANO- the latest music genre from south Africa, causing excitement with music fans. They spent a few weeks touring here this summer, with sell out shows across the country- and sharing the music with British fans. In the news piece for Channel 4 News they shared what the reaction of the audiences has been like across the UK.
My father’s ancestors are East African- Kenyan- and to see the journey of various genres of music from across the African continent is awesome to observe. The twins told me what it meant to them that amapiano from South Africa is an internationally recognised sound being played in countries like Canada, Belgium, Spain, Britain & what this means for the future of the sound.
We discussed what draws people to the amapiano sound, what makes the sound uniquely South African, why its been successful crossing over, and its history.
We talked about why most amapiano isn’t sung in English- and how much that might stop it becoming bigger, or its global potential. (South Africans can be put off by English language in their local songs)
There was a time when music stars would try and make music with American accents. Amapiano proudly embraces South African language- fans are singing along without knowing what the words mean…I finally understand the fans all across Asia who i filmed when on tour with Jay Z and they were singing along without always understanding what they were saying.
So many talented South African artists have worked tirelessly in creating and establishing the genre. but are they getting enough credit?
Amapiano, is still in its infancy stage but collaborations between SA acts and music stars from other parts of the African continent are happening, as well as European and American music stars attempting to make amapiano songs but have met with negative response because they haven’t always done it with giving credit to its originators.
MAJOR LEAGUE DJZ are actually producers as well as DJ’s. They were introduced to the amapiano sound whilst they were dj’s mainly hip hop originally. They were born in Boston/USA, because their family were in exile as their father was a politician. they then returned to South Africa as 4-year-olds.
The twins then promoted high school parties and now because they have dual nationality passports, are able to travel across borders more easily than other local SA acts might be able to.
Their parents met via their mutual friendship with the South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela! …and the twins recall being surrounded with music as kids as their dad had them play piano often.
Their name Major League came about due to their love of baseball from their time spent as kids in USA. In fact, their ” Major League Gardens” events brand is well known in SA, the experience see’s music with games, sports /skating /food/drinks.
The twin DJs are also known for creating unique BALCONY MIXES which is them djing on famous balconies across the world. How has the
pandemic impacted your music and other SA
music acts, and how did you all keep your sound going?
AMAPIANO’S SOCIAL AND POLITICAL IMPACT
When amapiano first emerged, the music was Initially criticised and dismissed as inferior by the usual radio gatekeepers, but its township sound is now one of the biggest music genres in South Africa – the sound blew-up without traditional radio and media support. (It was shared initially via social media and Youtube and whatsapp instead of radio.
Amapiano has come from humble beginnings, to now being a staple sub-genre in South Africa thats taken the music world by storm,…but It’s not just the music that has fans excited, but also the dancing – see the Netflix film-JIVA and the millions of viral dances on Tik- Tok.
Another way that Amapiano has become popular is amongst young South Africans and social media influencers. They use amapiano songs in their videos and that’s how the music became popular.
Interestingly, amapiano has helped young black South Africans form their own identity. Amapiano acts have developed and created their own music business ecosystem and can perform live internationally and have a career without the traditional gatekeepers support.
There’s been news of constant conflict and political unrest in south Africa- yet amapiano has helped young south Africans deal with this by creating a distraction and focus to build a music business ecosystem pretty much like the grime music genre has done for young British black music acts.
The ultimate goal, the twins shared, was to take the sound to the world ”#pianototheworld” and win a Grammy!
On Tuesday 7th September I produced a panel for my RTS Futures Committee
Years ago, TV stars came from rigid, traditional, established routes which included showreels, auditions and agents. Today, the power of the internet and social media platforms are catapulting talent from social media to our TV screens.
Tik Tok, YouTube and Instagram are now developing their personal brands, creating their own content and fanbases and TV Commissioners are scrambling to sign them up. Come and hear from social media stars who are infiltrating British TV screens in this RTS Futures session ‘From Social Media to TV Screens’.
A national audience of young people joined Grime MC and host of his own TV show on Channel 4, Big Narstie, multimedia broadcaster on Capital Xtra and Sky Arts, Remel London, Snapchat stars Man Like Haks and Stevo The Madman, to hear about their very different journeys from social media to screen stars. Chaired by Navi Lamba, E4’s Digital Executive.
It was a fascinated conversation where numerous tips and insights into the world of influencers, and diversity and inclusion were shared by the panel. Some of the key quotes are below:
#ManLikeHaks says he was making videos originally for the adults and then his audience expanded to everyone who enjoys comedy and wants to be lifted up, his fans are from all across the globe. 5.5million snapchat followers!
‘All of us are the same on socials as we are in real life. sometimes in this industry u get a 3 year run, but we’ve managed to stay relevant and have longevity by finding various paths and staying on top of platforms and pivot to keep our audience engaged’ said @StevoTheMadMan
Big Narstie – ”Music is my main career, but TV found me cos I capitalise being at the right place at the right time! Making funny videos wasn’t the plan, we just made videos with our mates! I’m SW4 Lambeth Certified Lover Boy! SHABBA! ‘
”When i started doing music, my brethren told mum i was doing drugs cos they didn’t believe music could be paying, so there was doubt/people trying to hold me back.I had faith in what I was doing.I really believe in me! Music/TV was an escape from the life i was in’ Big Narstie
I still feel v underrated.There is pretty/light privilege,Im a dark skinned woman, theres a fear of putting me on TV. I am a well spoken, I can be road, but I know how to talk, to everyone,I can do the job well.Theres a stigma of viewers not ‘getting’ dark skin women Remel London
‘My degree never got me on TV, it was social media, i made sure i was everywhere, doing everything, i loved my time at @linkuptv -they taught me to shoot/market..I’ve presented for multiple brands but I still don’t have a seat at the table & am still on my journey” Remel London
‘I had to teach myself how to shoot, promoting myself as much as possible on EVERY PLATFORM, and understanding how every platform works, following the commissioners, include all your links, cos u cant rely on TV to promote you’ Remel London
Man Like Haks ”’we taught ourselves how to be experts on every app, its not easy, I have to do everything myself, its empowering to know that I can make my own sketches, theres TV shows that don’t get the number of views that we get on our social media platforms’
‘they tried to cancel me for showing my toddler saying an explicit word’ revealed Stevo TheMadMan
‘my social media comments have been taken out of context, then people have tried to cancel/confront me & i had to avoid twitter cos of the abuse but now thats celebrated’ Remel London
‘start locally, grow your brand w/platforms who connect to you, reach out to commissioners said Navi Lamba
”i didn’t get paid for 3yrs cos i knew it would come” @StevoTheMadMan
You can see every single C4 commissioners emails on 4producers & u can ask coffee & share ideas said Navi Lamba
‘you’ve built your platform, keep building it, when Channel 4 and the BBC aren’t interested in your snapchat & insta anymore they will dump you. Keep building & owning your own content & brand’ Big Narstie
Some of the key takeaways our panel has shared included:
BIG NARSTIE TOLD US TO Capitalise and be in the right place at the right time when opportunity comes calling and come to your dream with an open heart, and use your own teams and talent to help to promote you
MAN LIKE HAKS emphasized that you have to be self taught and become experts on every social media platform
REMEL urged you to promote yourself all the time on every platform and follow the right people and tags anyone who might be interested
STEVO warned us about cancel culture and urged us all to be brutally honest on social media.
Some questions the panel left us with:
Are you doing enough on social media?
Can you use every platform like an expert?
Are you willing to put in the work and take the negative responses as well as the positive?
For many more monthly informative panels about how to get into the TV industry, do sign up to our RTS Futures page for more free sessions and information about how you can be a part of the TV industry. rts.org.uk
I started by exploring the career journeys of an incredible panel of black women in the British music industry. They were Shauni Caballero (music publishing at the Go 2 Agency), Charlotte Richie (Director of Global Communications at Universal Music), and Ella-Bonai Gordon (artist manager and A&R consultant).
We touched on the panels career journeys, highs & lows, heard exclusive insights & provided the audience with the information that they needed to get THAT job & make their mark in the business of music.
In my second panel I was in conversation with A&R legend Richard Castillo @IAmRichCastillo exploring his career from Shalit Global, launching @ndubz, UMTV,All Around The World,Sony/ ATV,Universal Music Canada & Polydor Records, his current role as A&R @AtlanticRcrdsUK ,being a black exec & more!