“A ghetto environment is a very good environment to be brought up in. We are not bad persons. We are leaders. It’s just the system makes us end up with criminal convictions…”. In Stuart Everitt’s searingly honest documentary, Uncle Steadman, we hear from three generations living in Brixton – Steadman Scott, his young protege AJ Carter, and his football trainees at the Brixton Rec.
The film is produced in collaboration with Brixton Blog and we caught up with Stuart before the sold-out screening at the Ritzy on Sunday.
Interview by Zoe Jewell
Why did you decide to make this film?
It was the next step. I’ve been making short films for years and it was the next logical step to shoot a longer form film. Working in TV and corporate video you seldom have the chance to be free to tell a story that is important to you.
Before you found Steadman and AJ, you had another plan for a film about Brixton Market. What was it about Steadman and AJ that made you focus entirely on them?
It’s true that I’d begun shooting another film in Brixton, but I was introduced to Steadman and AJ. What they’re doing at the Rec struck me as a wonderful example of things that are happening everyday in Brixton, most of which go completely unnoticed and unrecognised. When I met AJ he was at a critical point of his life and I the more time I spent with Steadman the more I wanted to understand what was behind the work that he does at the Rec. Scratching the surface was like opening a book.
What is important about this film, do you think, and why?
It is important for me personally because having lived in Brixton for five years I was beginning to feel that I knew the place fairly well. I wanted to challenge my own preconceptions of Brixton. Like anywhere it is possible to live in a bubble and be unaware of things around you. Brixton is a wonderfully complex and textured place that defies the stereotypes that generally the media is fond of painting of it. The process of making this film reminds me that there are shades of grey everywhere. Good local journalism by passionate people like the Brixton Bloggers is the fight against lazy stereotypes. It fills in the detail where national journalism can only provide an overview. That’s why it was important for me to work in collaboration with the Brixton Blog on the film.
Is there anything you would like to happen after this film is screened at the ritzy? What should the Brixton community be doing to support Afewee football club and Steadman?
They’re an exceptionally motivated bunch with a valuable combination of skills, credibility, connections and insight. It would be great for more people to support the work of Steadman, Tony and Keishana at the Rec. They have a plan for the future and they are making the difference for a number of young people in Brixton. They want to become a charity with a base at the Rec and expand their programme to include more girls, children with disability and more coaching staff. It’s as much about providing a space for young people to go as turning out professional footballers.
What do sports do for young men in Brixton do you think and for the area generally?
I can’t speak for young men generally in Brixton, but for many of the people that I met in the process of filming there’s a lot of positive ambition and competitive energy at the training sessions. There’s a definite shortage of places for young people to go outside of home and school. Afewee provides a structured safe environment for young people and the opinion of parents there suggests that the competitive training complements parental care and schooling.
Sport creates ambition and keeps young people fit and there’s a correlation between being physically fit and being mentally fit. Not everyone there is going to become a professional footballer. Most will not. But Afewee are doing great things towards creating a community of young people under the roof of the Rec. Afewee have an importance way beyond turning out professional footballers and as a club it needs our support.
Is there anything you have learned in the process of making this film? See above.
What about you – how long have you lived and worked in Brixton? You’ve described to me before the amazing community in the estate where you live — could you give a brief description of it here?
I’ve lived and worked in Brixton for five years and prior to living here all I knew about the area was what I read in the press. I now live on the Edmundsbury Estate and it’s such an amazing community. May looks after all the hanging baskets and keeps the place looking colourful. She’s won Lambeth in bloom loads of times. She’s amazing. Monty runs a charity which makes costumes for the Notting Hill Carnival. People here look out for each other and care about the environment they live in. We had a wonderful party last week where everyone brought a dish. The best goat curry I’ve ever tasted.