Brandon Richards: finding his design feet

Estimated reading time:7 minutes, 12 seconds

Everyone has a story. Brandon Richards, 24, spent last winter at the Pilion Trust’s night shelter for young people which is based in Islington. Brandon was one of the first to join the Engage London project which is helping young adults in Islington develop media skills. Interview by City uni’s Catriona Beck (first published on 14 May 2018 on https://engagelondon.blog) with updates from Nicola Baird. Photos from Hugh Gary Photography.

Brandon Richards wearing his own design streetwear (inside out to show off the colour) see more on insta @official_Protone (c) Hugh Gary Photography for Engage London

  • Watch the TV show Brandon produced thanks to the Engage London project here. He also did a fab radio interview, on the Engage London podcast, Staying Safe in London, see this link here.
  • Help Brandon develop his animation skills by helping him buy some basic equipment for around £500. Click this just giving link to help (even a fiver would make a big difference to this talented young man) https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jrentertainment
  • More about Engage London developing respectful practice towards authentic young voices in media via this link here.

Q: What was it like growing up in Islington?
“It was fun here. There were a lot of things to aspire to, lots of positive influences but also challenging ones too. My challenges growing up were being misunderstood and not being heard, it was nothing to do with the area I was living in. “

Q: What have you got from the Engage London project?
A: “I’ve learnt how to use the media around me. I’ve also learnt that, I personally, don’t always have to be on stage. I am quite happy to be behind the scenes rather than be a radio presenter – so I’ve learnt something about myself too.” Readers can help Brandon develop his animation skills by joining his crowdfunding campaign, see his Just Giving link.

Q: How did you first become homeless?
“I was expelled from school in Year 11 for selling drugs so I could go to the Prom, then I was coming home high all the time. I was the youngest, my family didn’t understand me, my mum didn’t understand me, she told me to make my own way. I did seven months on the street, it was really difficult. I was with my crew and lived with them for a bit. They were all in their twenties – there was probably around seven or eight of us that were 15-16 years old.”

“I decided to go back home, and it was still the same. I just learnt to bite my tongue but it got worse, and they started to realise that I had stopped resisting their bullshit. One day, I exploded, they didn’t understand what happened. I got thrown out again.”

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Brunswick Court Estate is just beside City University on St John Street: places Brandon Richards knows well in Islington thanks to being homeless and joining Engage London. “The majority of tower blocks in London have massive doors on them and once you do get past them, a resident would almost certainly insult you, rat you out or kick you out of the building, you think you’re safe but not.” (c) islington faces

Five places Brandon likes in Islington

  1. Clerkenwell – I lived there for three months, slept rough in a tower block. The majority of tower blocks in London have massive doors on them and once you do get past them, a resident would almost certainly insult you, rat you out or kick you out of the building, you think you’re safe but not. It happened in Camden – I was there sleeping, felt a door bang and the council kicked me out.
  2. Market Road– just off Caledonian Road, I’ve spent a lot of time there, it’s stained in my memory, and I’ve had lots of good experiences in Market Road park waiting for a night shelter to open. I’ll chill out with people, look at the view, then 6 o’clock would come and you wouldn’t realise!
  3. Finsbury Park– I grew up here, it’s where my journey into life started. I found my first crew in Finsbury Park.
  4. Archway– I’ve a strange attraction to Archway, maybe because it’s in between downtown and uptown. It’s really high up, and I love scenery. It’s a nice place to go and look at the view. It’s a power thing as well – when you’re looking down at the city, you feel really powerful. I feel like a hero, like I’ve got some responsibilities. I want to be a fireman someday.
  5. Angel– it’s the epi-centre. You can get anywhere from Angel. It sounds nice, it’s just the place. When I’m in Angel, I know I’m near somewhere. I’m close to home.

Follow Brandon Richards to see his streetwear clothing brands which he customises with a vinyl heat press logo, see on insta @official_Protone You can help him develop his creative skills by joining his Crowdfunder for equipment.

Q: How did you find the Pilion Trust?
“I became homeless again for the third time in November 2016. A company I was working with referred me to Pilion, because they knew I was nearly exceeding the age limit, but Pilion was flexible and I’ve never met a more down to earth organisation. They’re reliable, they give great advice and give me great information.”

Q: What are you doing in Islington?
“It’s currently where I live. I grew up here – also half the people I know live here too. I spend a lot of time here and I have a little girl who is 15 months.”

“I’m trying to get work, in my departments that I know (Brandon is ace at design, has a clothing brand and expert at new media). Life is good. I’m finding myself again – I first found myself when I was 17. I felt too young for this and I think that is why my family misunderstood me. I tried to breakthrough as an artist, it didn’t quite work, and I started to crumble mentally. Now, I’m learning to speak about things and ask for help when it’s needed.”

Take a look at this video below, shot on Brandon’s mobile and you’ll see what skills he has. After downloading the app, “I played around with the software and this took four hours to make,” he says.

Brandon was one of the three members of Engage London team (a group of young Islingtonians from Pilion Trust working with City University) invited to visit Romania to meet other Engage Europe participants, but distressingly for him at Luton airport he was turned back for not having the correct visa requirements. Although born in Jamaica – and with the right to British residency – he has no experience of travelling anywhere but the UK. He does however know London well and has recently joined Islington Giving’s new grant makers team which he says is giving him, “experience and a chance to learn how to filter through people’s information and appeals.” It’s a skill that has already inspired him to start his own crowdfunding appeal in order to buy a laptop so he can take his skills to the next level. Be great if you can help out.

  • Watch the TV show Brandon produced thanks to the Engage London project here. He also did a fab radio interview, on the Engage London podcast, Staying Safe in London, see this link here.
  • Help Brandon develop his animation skills by helping him buy some basic equipment. His target is £2,000, click this just giving link to help (even a fiver would make a big difference to this talented young man) https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jrentertainment
  • More about Engage London developing respectful practice towards authentic young voices in media via this link here.

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird dot green at gmail dot com.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola