- Text by Jason Nicco-Annan
Jamal Edwards and his online broadcasting company SBTV have always been one step ahead of the game. Whether championing the likes of Ed Sheeran, Emeli Sandé and Rita Ora long before they were household names, or giving budding grime artists a platform years before the genre’s mainstream acceptance, Edwards’ platform has always been about showcasing talent.
Now the amateur filmmaker-turned-entrepreneur is focusing on uniting communities through football.
The Sands End Youth Club in Fulham is a community project that invites kids from different postcodes in London to play football together. The aim is to breakdown local rivalries and teach children tolerance, teamwork and a drive to apply themselves.
Huck: You’ve showcased the best in music, news and other forms of entertainment. Would you consider sports a new territory for SBTV?
Jamal: I think in terms of me covering stuff, it doesn’t really matter what it is, but [it has to] be it entertaining and positive. The Sands End story for me was inspirational. Seeing kids take a grant, put it to a positive use and bring people together was inspiring and I felt that it ticked all the boxes. There’s quite a bit of negativity around young people today, but it’s not all bad and we’re trying to show the good side.
Would you say that sports could have a huge impact in London youth culture?
One hundred per cent! Everybody loves football; everyone likes to play sports and keep active. I think it’s equally as influential as music; bringing people together is definitely something the two have in common.
What kind of influence has sports had on your life?
Sports usually has more of an influence on the people around me. When one of my footballer mates is successful and trying to make a change, I get inspired. For example, [Liverpool FC player] Daniel Sturridge is a good friend of mine, and anytime I go chill with him, [he tells me] he wants to go back to Jamaica and help his area and his family and close friends in music there. That’s how I get inspired: when I hear someone else is doing well with their career and trying to give back.
For someone who’s not from the UK, could you explain the whole concept of postcodes?
In the UK, you get a lot of people who are proud of where they come from. Sometimes that turns into a rivalry between two postcodes. But it doesn’t mean that you should get into trouble and get into arguments with people.
There are people dying over postcodes. But you don’t own that road. The road was there before you were born and it’s going to be there when you’re gone. That’s why awhile back I tweeted, “Your postcode should never define who you are.” I was just trying to say that just because someone comes from another area doesn’t mean you can’t converse with them and be friends with them.
The limitations people put on themselves can be really extreme, just based on postcode rivalry. People can lose out of huge opportunities based on the fact that they don’t want to go to another postcode. You could have a Job Centre in one area but someone wouldn’t go just because they’re representing their postcode, or because they’re scared of getting into arguments. It really stifles opportunity.
I was fortunate to go all over London and beyond and had loads of different experiences. But if I had made up my mind to avoid different areas just because I’m from west London, my channel wouldn’t have grown and I wouldn’t have met so many artists from so many different places.
You’ve been championing the hashtag #SelfBelief on Twitter recently. Could you explain what ‘self belief’ means to you? And how does it apply to this project with Sands End?
Yeah, man! I’m all about [the hashtags] #SelfBelief and #LightbulbMoments. For me, believing in your self is everything. I want people to know that the first step to success is to believe in your self. When I go down to places like Sands End, I try and push that message to the kids.
Would you say you see yourself in these kids?
Yeah. I see the passion and the fearlessness that comes with trying new things. When I was their age, I was running about in a youth club doing the same things. Ten years later, I’m running a business – so if I can do it, they can too. People just need that reassuring voice that tells them, “Yes, you can.”