We speak to journalist Kieran Yates about her retrospective book on the recent London riots and the representation of today's youth
During the riots across the UK this summer, we were bombarded with images of hooded gangs and reportage condemning the youth of today. Slowly our perception of the younger generation has degenerated into negative, even fearful judgements about them and journalist Kieran Yates (contributor to The Independent, The Guardian, MTV and Dazed) thinks its time to challenge this attitude towards the ‘lost’ generation.
Collaborating with Nikesh Shukla (author of ‘Coconut Limited’), they've written ‘Generation Vexed’ as part of the Brain Shots: Summer of Unrest ebook series. The book dissects the media coverage generated since the riots and analyses whether the youth are becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy and deliberately conforming to the youth stereotype. It also proposes a more positive outlook by highlighting the creativity and entrepreneurialism shown by many young people in urban culture. Dazed Digital decided to speak to Kieran to find out what she hopes to achieve with the book and her take on the riots.
Dazed Digital: So what drove you to write the book?
Kieran Yates: I think there was a real sense for me personally, that there were a lot of voices simply not being heard amidst the riots, and in the commentaries being made post-riot. I've been writing about young people, urban culture and its successes for years and it just felt right that I would extend my knowledge of that to writing a book.
DD: How did you approach working on the book? And with collaborating with Nikesh Shukla?
Kieran Yates: Nikesh has been working with youth culture from a completely different side to me, but he really understands young people so it was a pleasure to work with him. We had a really clear idea about what we wanted to talk about. I think the amazing things young people were doing with LIVE magazine, SBTV, and showing entrepreneurial spirit, and creating a space for themselves was massively important to us.
DD: What do you hope the book will achieve? Do you want it to change people’s minds about youth?
Kieran Yates: I hope the book will paint a truer picture of what's really happening in society at a grassroots level. To describe youth culture as anything but complex is to miss the point entirely, and I think we've shown why that is. The call to arms at the end is hopeful that people will try to engage with young people by investing in them. I think that’s key for our future, that politicians understand the need to invest, and everyday people will think about giving up time to get to know their community.
DD: Did you notice prejudice towards the youth when you were growing up/now?
Kieran Yates: I think that we've all seen various prejudices. I live in South East London, and I see 'stop and search' on a weekly basis, so I can understand the frustrations that come from that. Nikesh talks in the book about his own experiences of that, and the majority of young males I spoke to could relate too. What I want the book to achieve is that people won't be so quick to cross over the road when they see a group of young kids in hoodies. That’s the power of communities who engage with each other and those that don’t.
DD: What’s your take on the riots, why do you think they happened?
Kieran Yates: I think there are lots of causes and effects for frustrations felt that led to the riots, but what needs to be focused on is a wider picture of what's really happening. It's amazing how we can have a summer of riots/civil unrest and Cameron will blame it on some abstract 'sickness', right wing journalists point blame at single mothers, accuse young people of having no future, and Theresa May will deny there are any problems in society. Then, we look to the urban scene, and it’s more successful than ever, with poets and writers and broadcasters coming from unlikely places, making their voices heard, it makes the Max Hasting's of this world look like idiots.