Neil Arun and Will Aspinall want to bring Brixton together – by getting people to design a Brixton flag. Today is the deadline for submissions and Brixton Blog interviews Neil Arun about the project
Documentary-makers Neil Arun and Will Aspinall together make up Breakaway Brixton. They want people to sketch designs for a Brixton flag. Why? Because they ‘believe making a flag is the best way to bring people together’ and thereby ‘make Brixton better’. The winning design will be unfurled on April 11, the thirtieth anniversary of the Brixton Riots. Aspinall and Arun are making a documentary along the way to explore concepts of identity and secession.
What’s the motivation behind Breakaway Brixton?
We’re making a documentary, so we’re coming at it as journalists. Why this subject? We’ve both lived in Brixton for a long time and like it a lot and we both have a sense it gets a bad deal. One way of rectifying that is to make Brixtonians themselves more conscious of the neighbourhood they live in. The best way to do that is to make a flag – it’s an excuse to get people talking.
There’s a broader motivation too – I’m very interested in secession movements. I’m a journalist and I’ve reported from a lot of places that have had separatist movements. I’d like to look at how that sense of identity works on a purely emotional level. What is the smallest unit of place someone can feel loyal to? It’s a very relevant question at the moment of course, if you look at what is happening in the Middle East. The idea isn’t to have tanks rolling onto the streets of Brixton, but to play with the idea of revolutionary methods and identity. It’s about having a voice and not being apathetic. If people ask me where I’m from when I’m travelling, I often say ‘’London’ and then if they know London, I say ‘Brixton’ – I took the Brixton Pound to Iraq and of course it’s completely useless there. I couldn’t exchange it! But it had a far greater value. It made me feel like I belonged somewhere. I could show the Brixton Pound and feel for the first time a sense of pride. Regardless of how effective it is as a currency, it’s very effective as a symbol of Brixton. That was really the inspiration behind Breakaway Brixton.
How does the thirty year anniversary of the riots fit into this?
The riots occupy a strange place in Brixton’s collective memory. They paint a negative picture of Brixton, especially to those who’ve never been there. But people don’t ask whether the factors that caused it have really been eliminated. Thirty years down the line, we should be able to talk about it properly.
How have you been getting people to enter designs?
We’ve been stopping people on the street and asking them on camera to do quick designs. We’ve also worked at a primary school and have got local pubs and businesses interested. So far the response has been really good. At first we were worried that people wouldn’t get the idea, but actually when you stop them they do get it very quickly. You don’t have to live in Brixton to take part, but you do have to have an opinion about Brixton which you can share.
What will happen to the designs once they’ve been submitted?
They will be published online and on Facebook. There’s also talk of getting some of them displayed in a Brixton venue.