Journalist, zine-maker and broadcaster Kieran Yates on British youth culture


Kieran Yates is both a prolific documenter of youth culture and an authority on the subject. She’s the former Senior Contributing Music Editor at DAZED, co-author of Generation Vexed, producer of Muslim Drag Queens and the founder and editor of British Values — a satirical fanzine illuminating the immigrant experience in the UK.

We spoke to Kieran to get her perspective on creative responses to cultural shifts, the formative forces of British youth culture today, and the dual-cultured voices challenging the status quo.

What are your current creative and cultural activities?

I’m a journalist who’s been writing about youth culture for the past six years or so, writing about clubs and art and music, so I guess I spend a lot of time in those spaces. Right now, I edit an independent fanzine called British Values which is a satirical take on UK politics under Theresa May, and celebrates immigrant communities.

What do you think is missing from British youth culture today?

I think that this generation of young people are products of a post-recession landscape that came before them. The axe of austerity cuts that preceded them saw a cut in youth clubs, arts funding and an economic infrastructure that secured jobs in the arts. So that security is long gone, but in its place are new digital spaces instead of physical ones, and a thrilling appetite for making your voice heard creatively, on your own terms, when you think politics or mainstream media is ignoring you.

What brands are engaging British youth culture in a smart way?

I think brands like Red Bull have really worked hard to make sure that they’ve engaged in youth culture and consulted with influencers and creatives from scenes to make sure that they’ve showcased talent from authentic places.

What tech trends do you see impacting young people in Britain?

I think we’ll see a lot more original programming on streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon and Vevo, and brands like Spotify becoming more and more powerful, because people want the opportunity to have control over how you consume playlists and tracks.

"If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere - you don't understand what the very word citizenship means"

Prime Minister Theresa May, October 2016

How do you feel the impact of Brexit will shape British youth culture to come?

I hope that we’ll see more of a call for creative responses, certainly with zines, music, docs, short films and writing across the board. I think activism will ramp up and we’ll see people using the tools they have to make themselves heard.

British Values is a record of the stories of immigrants and the children of immigrants. How are young people from immigrant families shaping Britain today?

Second, third and fourth generation immigrants are increasingly visible to shifting demographics and ageing. This means that these dual voices of British life through the eyes of the diaspora are challenging the status quo. This might be through criticisms of the invisibility of people of colour, it could be challenging attitudes towards colonial history, or rightly putting pressure on commissioners to tell the stories of British life with nuance. So I think economically, socially and politically we are seeing a shift, and while change sometimes feels incremental, I think it’s become a civic responsibility to engage and listen.

Tarek Chaudhury, Flamingo