/ Lifestyle

Text by Lynette Nylander. Photography by Phill Taylor. 05/08/2017

London Youth (on Brexit)

As the final few thousand ballots were counted in regions across the country, the morning of June 24th, 2016, unequivocally altered the future of the United Kingdom, as the public voted to leave the European Union by a total of 51.9% to 48.1%. The European Union, of which the United Kingdom has been a member since 1973, has long divided the British public, its reluctance to relinquish the pound and adopt the euro being one of the biggest signifiers. The run-up to the vote was almost scripted, complete with slander, scandal and mudslinging between the “Remain” and “Leave” camps that wouldn’t feel out of place in an episode of House of Cards, or more fittingly an episode of Wacky Races. Dick Dastardly took shape in pro-Brexit politicians Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage as they hurtled toward the victory line. Beyond the cartoon capers, though, Brexit divided a nation, with the Leave side capitalizing on fears of an immigration crisis and amplifying them into a campaign of xenophobia, taking trade and economic concerns and pinning them on a lack of jobs for Brits.

The weeks after the vote saw our prime minister resign, top politicians abandon their posts and an attempted coup against Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and the result left those who were pro-Remain in despair and dismal upset, uncertain of the future and stability of the Britain they once knew, one that once had a heartbeat of openness, hope and optimism. Regardless of which way you voted, one thing was abundantly clear: The long-term effects of the exit from the European Union would be felt the most by the country’s youth. Post-Brexit polls showed 65% of people under the age of 39 turned out to vote, with over 70% of those choosing to remain. The vote at times felt like an attack on a “passive” Generation Y and Z; in return, for many young people the result felt like the end of a Britain as they knew it. The EU for so long has afforded many young people the luxury of living, working, studying and traveling across Europe, a chance to bond with our cultural equivalents in France, Italy, Germany and Scandinavia. The 790,000 U.K.-based jobs that could have been created by our trade with the European Union by 2030 had in one night been lost. Young entrepreneurs who were able to afford making, trading and selling their products across Europe saw an immediate rise to their costs due to a shaky economy; the price of the pound plummeted as the world waited to see how Britain’s economy will sustain. The vote also had a ripple effect on national pride, not to mention relationships with the immigrants who live and work in the U.K., adding to the rich cultural history interwoven in this country’s tapestry. The closing of our borders to the rest of Europe sent a strong message.

Ultimately the Brexit decision was made by a generation who won’t be around to see its effects on the one next in line—a generation already flanked by impossible housing prices, unaffordable university fees, a distrust of the police force and economic austerity. But while it is easy to remain bleak, British youth remain resilient. In the wake of Brexit, countrywide protests and uproar lambaste accusations that we are an apathetic generation. In fact, Brexit showed we are more politically engaged and socially active than ever. And the country’s rich history is the blueprint for it to build again. Some of Britain’s most definitive subcultures were spawned out of political uncertainty—punks and ravers among others. Brexit marked a moment in public consciousness that young people will never forget, a night where they saw their future laid out in front of them. While the future remains uncertain, young people from all across the globe call the United Kingdom their home, so we asked a number of London’s youth who work across a range of disciplines, from the culinary arts to filmmaking, how they felt Brexit had affected them in its aftermath and if they feel hopeful for a future in the U.K.

 

NAOMI SHIMADA 

 @naomishimada
Model and filmmaker
Age: 29

Where are you from?
I was born in Japan and raised between Tokyo and Spain.

Where do you live? 
Hackney, London

Why was being part of the EU important to you?  
It meant everything to me! For all its faults, the EU is a beautiful thing. We had such free access to all these amazing different countries where we could visit, work, study, eat, fall in love and retire.

Where were you when you heard the U.K. had voted to exit the European Union and how did it make you feel?  
I woke up to the news at home and just went into a total state of shock. I fell asleep when it seemed things were still positive, and after hearing the outcome I was in the most emotional state.

What do you think the mood has been in the U.K. since Brexit?  
The initial few weeks felt so heavy. The atmosphere was dark, and I felt like everyone was super sad and depressed … but then there was this notion that we, as the younger generation have to keep loving and learning together to combat all the ugliness in the world.

What is the main thing you think Brexit will affect? 
It will affect community relations, travel, the economy and more. We’ve immediately felt the difference economically obviously—the pound is worth less already! I’m just so dumbfounded because the U.K. seriously cannot hope to shape globalization or even hold on to marginal relevance by itself.

Brexit largely affects young people; are you hopeful for the youth of the U.K.? 
I feel sad because so many of these changes directly affect so many aspects of a young person’s life, and this just isn’t the vote they wanted. But as humans we are born to adapt and survive, and I feel like so many beautiful things can also come from this. It’s our job to show that love, empathy and care for others can triumph and we can teach each other how to be the people we want to be in the world.

 

MAGNUS REID  

@magnusreid
Chef and owner of Legs restaurant
Age: 27

Where do you live?  
Lower Clapton, London

Where were you born?  
Western Australia

Why was being part of the EU important to you?  
It connected everything and made it more streamlined. It also opened up opportunity in other countries and made it easy and affordable for people to act on those opportunities.

Where were you when you heard the U.K. had voted to exit the European Union and how did it make you feel?  
I was walking to work and I hadn’t checked the result yet. The foreman on the construction site across the road called me down and said “How’d it make you feel?” At that point I knew the U.K. had fucked up. I felt like England had been let down, that the people who work for me and my family here had all been let down.

How do you feel Brexit will affect your life and work?
It’s already affected work. Most of our suppliers, be it wine, dry stores, fruit and vegetables, have all said their prices are going up, some as much as 10%. This is huge for the hospitality industry, as our margins are never really over 30%. This affects not only me but all my staff, and unfortunately it’s my responsibility to make sure they are still getting the best deal, so my company takes the big hit and that knocks down to me.

How do you envisage your future in the U.K.?  
Shorter than before. Way shorter.

Brexit largely affects young people; are you hopeful for the youth of the U.K.? 
I was hopeful for the youth of the U.K. before Brexit and still am. The youth have always had it weird here. If you’re born into money, you’re gonna be OK. If you’re not, it’s a celebrated achievement when you do well, but that is deeply messed up. Kids from any walk of life should be able to obtain a good education and the support they need to really go for it. Maybe Brexit will level the playing field … I doubt it, though.

 

TOM SHICKLE

@tshickle
Musician and creative consultant
Age: 26

Where do you live?
London

Where were you born?
London

Why was being part of the EU important to you?
Through every part of what I do or industry I’ve worked in, whether that’s music, art or fashion, the sense of being part of a larger community is hugely important. Not only the wider moral or philosophical facets but the practical, financial and other benefits that this brings. It makes sense to be a part of a wider and closer community.

Where were you when you heard the U.K. had voted to exit the European Union and how did it make you feel?
I was at a friend’s wedding; we’d been up all night and we got back to our hotel and watched the results on TV. We went straight on to Glastonbury Festival and it wasn’t a good mood.

What do you think the mood has been in the U.K. since Brexit?
It feels dark; in the news there’s constant language of hate and division, money that’s already being lost and an increase in xenophobic and even homophobic attacks.

What is the main thing you think Brexit will affect?
It’s going to affect all those things, but I think it’ll affect our country’s state of mind the most. We already feel more isolated, less able to trust those who voted to leave and the politicians now in charge of negotiating or even those abroad. I feel like an idiot when I say I’m British in Europe now. They’re laughing at us.

Brexit largely affects young people; are you hopeful for the youth of the U.K.?
I hope so. I hope our creativity is in our DNA—who we are, not our schools and creative programs that are heavily funded by the EU. I know that we will make something special out of it. It’s a massive shock, and I don’t want the views of those who voted Leave to knock back the future of those who couldn’t vote.

 

VICTORIA SIN

@sinforvictory
Artist
Age: 25

Where do you live?
London

Where are you from?
Toronto

Why was being part of the EU important to you?
I moved to London from Toronto when I was 18 years old and something that was really incredible to me was the freedom with which you could move between countries—for travel, to live, to work, for school—and the amazing mix of people and culture that resulted from this politico-economic arrangement within London itself. This was in stark contrast to Toronto, where the closest neighboring country is the U.S., which definitely doesn’t allow the same cross-border freedoms.

What do you think the mood has been in the U.K. since Brexit?
I think people are a little lost since Brexit. It was never really clear what it would mean in the first place (even when we were voting on it), and now that we’re here things seem to be crumbling on a lot of levels because no one knows what to do with it.

How have you seen the effects of the vote reverberate through everyday life?
Something that has been really disturbing is the rise even just in my Facebook feed from friends recounting everyday incidents of racism, as well as recounting despair at how little their pounds are worth now when they leave the U.K. More generally there’s kind of a loss of faith in U.K. politics and democracy among young people.

How do you feel Brexit will affect European relations?
It’s not going to be good.

How do you envisage your future in the U.K.?
Luckily I’m a citizen and a resident, so my future in the U.K. is not under threat. It all depends on how things play out politically, socially, economically—and whether the U.K. is still somewhere I want to live in the future.

Brexit largely affects young people; are you hopeful for the youth of the U.K.?
Young people didn’t vote for Brexit, so I’m still hopeful.

 

AKINOLA DAVIES JR.

@crackstevens
Filmmaker
Age: 31

Where do you live?
Hackney, London

Where are you from?
Kensington, London

Why was being part of the EU important to you?
It afforded an opportunity to forge working and personal relationships with those on the mainland. It is a gateway to the rest of Europe and Asia, which ultimately serves as a means for one to obtain cultural wealth.

Where were you when you heard the U.K. had voted to exit the European Union and how did it make you feel?
In bed. I had a bad feeling prior to going to sleep and then a weird dream; when I woke up I sincerely thought I was still dreaming because I saw that the prime minister had resigned.

What do you think the mood has been in the U.K. since Brexit?
I think it has gone from hostile and divisive to ridiculous and apathetic.

How do you feel Brexit will affect your life and work?
The plummeting economy will have an adverse effect on the value of goods and services. For me, I’m a dual citizen so I’m not bound by allegiance to being European. I have the privilege of being African, and that has always been something I wanted to further invest in regardless of the Brexit vote.

How have you seen the effects of the vote reverberate through everyday life?
I think more people are disillusioned with politics, but I also think as a generation and as micro communities, our dependence on the ruling class is the major point of interest. We seem to be wholesomely dependent on a system that has continually failed us to the extent that many feel hopeless when actually they themselves are the hope in which they desire. As communities we should effect change, not our government.

Brexit largely affects young people; are you hopeful for the youth of the U.K.?
Yes, always, because I think within a lot of young frustration lay answers of what they need and what will inspire them. Boredom leads to growing frustration and the need for an enemy. Young Britain can and will turn this ship around, but in order for that to happen the generations before need to empower them and trust them.

 

KOKO OWUSU

@sunraaa
Student and intuitive artist
Age: 23

Where do you live?
London

Where are you from?
Born and raised in London but my ancestral heritage is in Ghana, West Africa.

Why was being part of the EU important to you?
As a recent graduate from London School of Economics, my experience was even more enriched by the ability to freely travel within the EU and to meet and work with other EU citizens here in the U.K.

Where were you when you heard the U.K. had voted to exit the European Union and how did it make you feel?
In bed. I woke up and was faced with a mentality that was completely opposed to my own, which left me feeling incredibly upset and disheartened. I feel that the primary reason that the vote swayed in favor of Brexit was the fear-based “politricks” and rhetoric of immigration, an issue that has been of concern in the U.K. even before we tried to join the EU the first, second and third time.

What do you think the mood has been in the U.K. since Brexit?
Pretty hopeless. Our former prime minister, David Cameron, resigned. Boris Johnson resigned. Even Nigel Farage resigned from UKIP. It’s a bit annoying when those we entrust into positions of power in society abandon ship as soon as they achieve what they want or see that events are not turning out the way they had intended.

How have you seen the effects of the vote reverberate through everyday life?
I have close friends who are from EU countries who have to reconsider and rethink their options. That’s life, you could argue. However, this is happening out of force rather than choice. It’s rather upsetting to see that those that I care deeply about, who have set up base here in the U.K. and call this place their home, now have to face the possibility of uprooting again.

How do you envisage your future in the U.K.?
I prefer to remain optimistic and say that I am still welcome in the U.K. and have the right to stay, especially if I am a citizen who is working to substantially and positively change and improve this system.

Brexit largely affects young people; are you hopeful for the youth of the U.K.?
I am beyond hopeful for the youth in the U.K., as the majority of us voted to remain. I believe that there are ways to challenge people’s perspectives through social media! Spread your message, speak your truth and get creative to ensure that healthy levels of inclusivity, respect and appreciation for one another’s similarities and differences can remain here in the U.K., even if we have left the EU.

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