BY Sarah Higgs

South London’s Diverse Cultures Are Inspiring a New Generation of Creative Youth

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As anyone who’s ever spent time in Peckham knows, the area is home to a vibrant mix of cultures and ethnicities. With 70% of the population from black and minority ethnic groups, the neighbourhood is one of the most diverse in the UK.

This explains the creative energy bubbling up in the streets here. From emerging music artists like cktrl to up and coming fashion brands like Image Gang, there’s a tangible sense that the next generation are ready to make their mark, with a creativity rooted in the area’s global community.

Nobody exemplifies this better than Kaylen Francis, a South London local, born to a Nigerian and Northern Irish mother and a Jamaican and Puerto Rican father. The aspiring filmmaker chats to us about how he’s been inspired by his eclectic hometown, while giving us a tour of some of his favourite spots in the neighbourhood.

“I’ve learnt to understand the beauty of combining cultures, so in my filmmaking I take loads of inspiration from East Asian filmmaking but then I’ll take dialogue from the UK, British dialogue and then maybe with an American aesthetic. And then when you do that, you put all these things together, you get a wonderful and unique result.”

Converse South London's Diverse Communities
Converse South London's Diverse Communities
South London’s Diverse Cultures

Kaylen is currently harnessing his talents as part of the Create Next Film Project. The initiative, launched by Converse and John Boyega, will focus on supporting five young, black, London-based filmmakers. They will receive mentoring from Boyega and a team of other creatives and will be given funding for a five-minute film.

Over a meal at his Peckham staple, JB Soul and Food, we touch on the initiative and how important it is for youngsters like him to be supported when telling their authentic stories. This is especially powerful in South London where gentrification has meant that many locals have been forced out or have had their voices stifled.

I think this is very important because I think it will certainly be a bridge to people who haven’t got voices or a place to enter an industry. And that can mean many different people, obviously there’s race, but also disability, people who don’t really feel seen.

This is an aspiration he shares with John Boyega, also a Peckham native, who has been vocal about supporting young talent from less well-off communities and acknowledging the lack of representation in the industry.

Kaylen aims to shine a light on diverse perspectives through his artistry. He explains that he draws inspiration from the minority cultures that he’s grown up around with many of his characters “inspired by real life people and my interactions with people.

Converse South London’s Diverse Cultures, London United Kingdom
Converse South London’s Diverse Cultures, London United Kingdom

It’s not just the people that have helped him along the way, it’s the area itself. He takes us to Pollard’s Hill, a spot close to his house where he comes when he needs to clear his head. “I tend to go here when I have a lot on my mind or have to make a big decision, seeing the view of the city helps me put things into perspective.”

Next on our tour is Purley Way Valley Park and then Peckham Pulse - a leisure centre he loved as a child. He says, “I often believe that places you loved as a kid should always stick with you because your child self is your true self if that makes sense.

This feels especially relevant when he tells us, outside the iconic Peckhamplex, that he’s wanted to be in filmmaking since he was a young boy, when he used to pester his mum to get the latest Percy Jackson’s.

“I really loved how I’d be transported to whole new worlds with characters that are not so different to me. I found it beautiful, and it became something I wanted to do too.”

With the support of the Converse All Stars Programme Kaylen is poised to translate his drive and unique perspective into real world success, while giving a voice to his beloved multicultural community at the same time. Support the creators by joining them at the Create Next Film Project premiere taking place on April 12, at The Curzon Soho. The filmmakers will be sharing their work alongside John Boyega.

Sign Up to Attend the Premiere

Photography by Arnaud Lin