Music

Jake Bugg X Jamal Edwards in Nottingham: 'Younger people are suffering'

Filmmaker Jamal Edwards took chart-topping star Jake Bugg back to the council estate in Nottingham where he grew up.

“There’s a lot of good people here, it’s just sometimes difficult for working class people,” says singer-songwriter Jake Bugg, as he looks out the car window at the Nottingham neighbourhood of Clifton. 

For the new film series he’s made with his friend, SB.TV founder Jamal Edwards, Bugg returned to his childhood stomping grounds in the Midlands. The YouTube documentaries shine a light on the place that’s been repeatedly branded “the UK’s poorest city” by government data. 

Growing up on a council estate with his mum was tough. Bugg – then known as Jake Kennedy – remembers eating cold beans out of a tin for dinner. Returning to Nottingham, post-pandemic, he says that experiences like his seem to be getting more common.

“It’s hard not to get political, isn’t it? With the government now, it does definitely feel that it’s the younger people and the poorer people that are suffering more and more,” he says.

“Some people can’t even afford to keep the house warm. We’re seeing more and more use of foodbanks in poorer places in the UK. That’s a problem.”

Food bank usage in Nottingham surged during the Covid-19 outbreak. According to the city council, demand was 33 per cent above normal. 

“It [food poverty] was something that I definitely felt impacted by when I was younger,” says Bugg. “The sad part is, it’s becoming more and more common. Something’s not quite right. It can be tough, especially for young people.”

Bugg was still a teenager when he exploded onto the music scene. His 2012 eponymous debut album shot to the top of the charts with a Lightning Bolt. Now 27, he still remembers the sense of being ignored that haunted his life prior to that moment. 

“A lot of a lot of young people where I’m from, they feel frustrated,” he says. “I know that I felt very angry myself growing up. Because we feel like we’re not being heard, we’re not being listened to.”

And things are not improving.

He adds: “We’re seeing more and more facilities being taken away. Obviously when you take away things for young people to do, then they resort to things that probably they shouldn’t be doing. It can lead to crime. I know that when I was growing up, one of the reasons we’d be hanging around shops and things is because we had nothing else to do.”

For episode four of Jake Bugg x Jamal Edwards – which The Big Issue is premiering above – the pair visited one of the places that still offers an alternative for young Nottinghamians. 

Based in St Ann’s, the second worst area of the city for crime, the Community Recording Studio [CRS] offers a nurturing atmosphere for local people to create music, film, photography and more. Bugg brought his guitar to record a collaboration with them.

“This place has saved a lot of lives,” says rapper Jah Digga. “It’s a hub for anyone who’s creative.” In 2002, Jah Digga’s brother died after being stabbed in a local pub. He now works at CRS, moving young people away from violence. 

“It was very inspiring to see those young people and hear the words they write about their own struggles,” says Bugg. “It’s very important that young people have an alternative to the streets.

“I spent many, many hours in my bedroom practising music. It was definitely the one time, growing up, when I didn’t have to be aware of my surroundings or some of the bad stuff that was going on.”

For the future, Bugg says he’d like to see more investment in education for young people. “That’s where everything starts,” he says. “It’s really sad, especially with Brexit and some of this government’s policies, that opportunities are just being taken from young people. They’re losing their freedom of movement, and it’s just getting more and more difficult. 

“Personally, I would have appreciated a better education when I was growing up. I think a lot of people I grew up with would have benefitted from it as well.”

Jake Bugg’s new album Saturday Night, Sunday Morning is out now. 

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