Friday, 19 July, 2019

This is a guest blog from Bollo Brook Young Equality Campaigners 

The rise of drill music has been debated everywhere, even famously for those involved, in the Houses of Parliament. There’s a sense of fear associated with it, with people claiming that drill music encourages violence against police and glorifies and intensifies gang violence.

This has lead to a massive, successful, strive to censor it – from YouTube removing videos reported by Scotland Yard who believe they encourage violence, to live music venues having to open themselves up for extra police scrutiny if they host music that caters to particular sub-genres via 696 forms. Could you imagine if Scotland Yard started reporting Taylor Swift songs for encouraging violence when declared band-aids won’t fix bullet holes and snaps her enemies neck in her Bad Blood clip, and YouTube capitulating? Or the police creating a panoptic style barrier targeting country and westerns? To highlight this point, Drillminister was given the violent language used by MPs by Channel 4 News and was asked to turn it into a drill track

But when you speak to young people, the very fans and creators of drill music themselves, they seem terrifyingly unsurprised by this. “Drill is a product of poverty… it’s a poverty issue and a class issue” 16-year-old Zerina tells us.

We’re down in a youth club in Central Acton talking to a group of young people, all fans of drill and some involved in making and recording it, to listen to them. (All names changed)

Devan goes on “this country has had stains of poverty, and we’ll never get rid of them. In America, there’s a lot of racism – here it’s more mixed. England has covert racism, racism that not as blatant – it’s subtle. Like more stop and search….” and the policing of drill. “Drill is poor, male and black. You expect it to (drill artists) in jail more than elsewhere”

We ask if there’s anything that could be done to address this. Abandon all hope ye he enter this youth club: “We’re doomed. 100%! Some problems have some solution but you can’t solve it. You can in theory but it won’t happen.”

“If you got rid of poverty, it’d solve it but you can’t get rid of it. There has to be poor people. People here would never want to make things more equal”.  There’s a deep sense that the problems of socio-economic inequality, including poverty and racism, and the way it shapes their lives, are intractable. The young people point out that stop and search is on the rise, food bank use is on the up and up, and Brexit only helped to shine a light on the deep xenophobia that is part of the modern British condition of high and entrenched inequality. 

But there is one thing we can do. However small. Listen. We’re here listening to these young people tell their stories. You’re here reading them. Now head on over to YouTube and listen to some of their drill, support these emerging young artists and try hear it from their side. Inequality is not inevitable and it hurts us all - we can only find solutions when we work together. 

The Equality Trust recognises the value of young people's dialogue and creating safe spaces to discuss difficult topics. We support the Feral Debate sessions to foster the sorts of discussions that we want to see in the world. The contents of these discussions do not necessarily represent the views of The Equality Trust, nor would we expect them to. We welcome and embrace a diversity of dialogue and reflection.

This is a guest blog and the views of the author are not necessarily those of The Equality Trust.​