Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made Brixton’s very own Reprezent Radio go viral after their first official visit was broadcast live on BBC news. It was absolutely impossible to avoid their royal presence to the shipping containers in South London, a place where just a few years ago, you would never have expected to have seen royalty enter.
It’s not every day that you find out that the Prince and his fiancé will be visiting your workplace, so as you can imagine when the news broke, I was ecstatic. It felt like the barrier between the heavily privileged and elite Royal family and the youth had been masterfully dismantled.
As hundreds gathered outside of Reprezent Radio yesterday, a place which has for years been the hub of youth culture, usually filled with locals blasting music from old school speakers, a West-Indian food van and authentic market vibes, it was incredible to have the spotlight firmly on UK music culture. I could not quite believe how magnificent it was that Prince Harry and Meghan had decided to visit Reprezent radio of all the stations up and down the country.
Why this visit was so important for us?
Prior to their visit, many young people like myself, had shared the belief that the Royal family were inaccessible and that the closest you ever got to them was visiting the luxurious Buckingham Palace grounds or through the TV. However, my perception changed the moment they decided to invest their time into the youth-led station on its 10th year anniversary. As many will now know about Reprezent, it was established in 2008, an era of prevalent knife crime in South London and the community has come a long way since. The station has helped many young people like myself stay pro-active, optimistic and skilled in reaching their career ambitions.
Initially, the station manager did not think it would be possible to have an open-door policy because of the tight Palace security, so the minute I found out that other Reprezent staff and volunteers were able to be on site I was overwhelmed with joy. There was a wristband policy initiated to control the public entering Pop Brixton on the day and plenty of police outside the venue.
Inside Pop Brixton, the atmosphere felt cheery. There was a gate to create ease when the Royals needed to enter the studios. However, everyone still got the chance to get their best photos and videos of the couple entering. One thing that myself and others noticed was how pleasantly surprised Meghan seemed by the reaction she got, Prince Harry in comparison was naturally accustomed to it. This may be due to the fact that she’s only come onto the scene fairly recently and is American so perhaps she does not have that same level of familiarity of the British infatuation with the royals but we're sure she will learn quickly.
However, similar to Barack Obama, it seems like this admiration may stem partly from her being of mixed heritage and therefore breaking long standing barriers with her new position in the royal family. Hopefully this will give the black community the opportunity to identify with a member of the royal family - something which wasn't possible in previous years.
On top of that, Meghan Markle is particularly accessible because many young people are used to seeing her on their TV screens. Being one of the stars of the Netflix Original series Suits, the actress turned Princess may seem unconventional but she is an epitome of the direction the Royal Family is heading towards in 2018 (and beyond).
Class divide has always been a controversial issue in London, stemming from housing, extending to shops, schools, food markets and eateries
The cultural importance of the pair visiting Reprezent is that Brixton in itself is a controversial location as it has been identified as a hugely gentrified part of London. The station's home, Pop Brixton, is notorious for its overpriced food shacks which do not reflect the income of the locals but rather caters to wealthy outsiders and tourists. Class divide has always been a controversial topic in London, stemming from housing, extending to shops, schools, food markets and eateries. In the context of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, extra pressure is being applied on the government to tackle this problem, particularly in inner city areas like Brixton.
However despite the Politics surrounding the visit, the Royal couple did their best to engage with the young people that work at the station and come from the humble beginnings that Brixton started in. The level of exposure that this visit and Royal involvement has brought Reprezent radio station too has really pleased all the staff and young volunteers because of the number of doors it will open.
Remember that this life changing institution is voluntary run, therefore it relies on the sacrifice of the volunteers which allow young people the opportunity to learn, pursue music and stay off the streets and out of trouble. Those who may not have heard of Reprezent before will certainly know of it now and what it stands for.
Why did the Royal family choose to visit Reprezent Radio?
Reprezent is a 24-hour radio station that operates on FM, DAB and online that has been running training programmes over the past decade from Peckham, a mental wellbeing project in Essex and in schools. They train adults from other countries to learn English and ICT skills. They run projects in East London and alongside all of this, this royal visit was all about the work the team do behind the mic and in their shipping containers.
Many people may have been cynical and looked at how this royal visit could have been a PR stunt to show Meghan and Prince Harry engaging in humanitarian work in the run up to their wedding this Spring. Some have likened it to Prince William and Kate Middleton's work last year for the 'Mind Over' Marathon with 'Heads Together' which aired on the BBC News too.
Wherever your position lies on the Royal Family debate, we can all appreciate that this was a huge moment for the culture. The thing I found most special about this royal visit was their genuine engagement with the Reprezent team, which I could feel. Presenter Remi Adeyemi taught Prince Harry a ‘secret handshake’ that went viral and was on BBC News, ITV News and Sky News yesterday evening. Meanwhile, Meghan interacted with the emerging presenters such as Glory Talks who hosted the radio station during their visit. It will be telling to see where all of the presenters end up after the confidence boost given to them by the royals praising their work, regardless it was a moment they will treasure forever.