This past week, UK journalist and The FADER contributor Kieran Yates launched a new print zine called British Values. Within its pages are a world of rarely-told immigrant stories: the young British Iranian woman trying to navigate the UK's beauty double-standards; the South Asian sex worker staring racial fetishization in the face; journalist Rahul Verma on the U.K. government's recent—and terrifying—practice of stripping Britons with immigrant ancestry of their citizenship. There's also FADER cover star Kindness opening up about his experience growing up with dual Indian and British heritage in the backwaters town of Peterborough, and Ruff Sqwad's Prince Rapid on West Africa's influence on grime.
Punctuating the smart and poignant features are more lighthearted moments, including lampooned quotes from the U.K. prime minister David Cameron—the dude who keeps banging on about "British values" as a means of cloaking an anti-immigrant agenda—and a spoof American Apparel ad that highlights the lack of brown faces that the clothing company uses in its campaigns. It's a brilliantly fresh and crucial read—order your copy of British Values here—so The FADER dropped Yates a line to find out more.
You're an established journalist with countless bylines and deadlines. What made you want to make a zine now?
KIERAN YATES: I think that I was just frustrated by the lack of platforms there were to tell all the stories that I wanted to tell—some are just conversations that I've had that should be shared, some are things that I've pitched and have been rejected on the ground of being "too niche." I know that's not true because our experiences are universal, and hearing about them is such a crucial lifeline for lots of people. I also think my frustration of witnessing other people tell stories from my community badly was annoying. It seemed like the right time against a political backdrop of a pretty sinister anti-immigrant rhetoric being played out at the moment. I guess we use what we know, and you can't just complain about things being shit without doing anything about it. I want this to be a showcase of great writers, and how when you have a trusted editor you can get access to good stories without exploiting people. Also the whole point of being freelance is that you can do projects like this.
Why did you call it British Values?
The term has become part of the political rhetoric in the U.K. to describe a set of values that British people should employ and protect. It's largely used when politicians like David Cameron discuss the threat of Islam and radicalization. David Cameron’s landmark speech on extremism in July of this year outlined exactly what was under threat. He championed the commitment to “British values” and said that it was our very values that were our greatest weapon against radicalization. The message was clear: either you’re on the side of Britain, of how we think, act and live, or you’re against it. It’s hard not to see that language as divisive. As a result, it's sort of become a buzzword for proving your allegiance to British identity, whatever that might mean. We should challenge that idea and make the point that British immigrant identities are great and funny and important to the social and cultural fabric. Who we are and what we value need to be visible. Our stories are soooo funny and great if people would just take a second away from thinking of us as smelly pakis who smell like curry or whatever.
From sex workers to taxi drivers, British Values gives a crucial platform to voices we rarely hear from. What was it like putting it together?
It was great and really hilarious and touching. I was just privileged that people trusted me to tell their stories well, and liked the ideas I pitched to them. Stuff like having access to my Iranian friend's living room so I could shoot it, seeing the inside of lunch-boxes, and speaking to people like Kindness about race was all amazing. The content is written by a mixture of people who have never written before, and established author and journalists, who all have their immigrant experience in common—it was great to be able to facilitate that. I also worked with an incredible NY based designer, Amad Ilyas, who allowed this to really come to life and his visual thinking made me realize that I wanted this to look as beautiful and slick as possible because it's important to us to create things that legitimize our culture. If you're already told your culture ain't shit, you can't make something that looks shitty. But saying that, there are a couple typos because I was going mental and was too tired to notice—I'm a bit anxious about those.
How can people can their hands on a copy? Will it be online too?
Yeah, there's an online shop at the moment for print copies, and will be online in a month or two.
What advice would you give to U.K. prime minister David Cameron if you had the chance?
Where to start? I guess the simple answer is that we need better representation across the board. That would be a start. Also, immigrant communities don't like Theresa May—maybe she should stop talking about us.
And finally, will you be sending a copy to the PM?
Lol no, I'm a journalist not an activist—also imagine what I'd say to my mum if I got in trouble? "Sorry mum, I got deported for putting Theresa May in a hijab."