Culture

SBTV founder Jamal Edwards: 'We have to pay it forward'

The entrepreneur, author, director, DJ and founder of online video platform SBTV discusses the importance of giving back and creating change.

It’s very humbling and I’m grateful to be involved in a project like this with The Connor Brothers and The Big Issue. It’s sick to make my Big Issue debut. I’ve seen it about for a long time.

I don’t know what I class myself as – I suppose I’m an entrepreneur-slash-film director. But what I really do is connect worlds. When I was about 15, I was given a camera as a gift. I started to run about and film artists who were not getting represented in mainstream media.

I started uploading to YouTube when there was hardly any original music content – at the time, it was all funny videos or things ripped from TV.

I saw a gap in the market and started uploading original filmed content. I started hustling, filming my mates, turning up to events, trying to get bigger artists, building a brand from there. I was an early adopter.

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It was mainly underground grime, rap and hip hop. I started branching out and it didn’t matter what genre you were, as long as you had something to say and it had a groove, you would get on my channel, SBTV. I was one of the platforms that helped grime become so important.

People message me to say I helped build it and get eyeballs on it. SBTV grew from there.

When I was younger, I did my first film workshop at a local youth centre. It was a good place to be outside of school and outside of your home.

Youth centres were super important. So for them to close down youth centres – where are people going to be? The kids are going to be on the streets.

I wanted to make a place where they could come so I went on a mission to raise money – I partnered with Google, YouTube and the Wellcome Trust to reopen four youth centres in my local area of Acton. We try to make them spaces to learn, work and connect – they are the main things we push through our youth centres.

We have done bullying workshops, how to carry yourself online workshops, cookery classes – we want it to be a safe haven for kids to come and chill, but also educate them and inspire them. I want my platforms to be fun, but spaces where you learn stuff at the same time.

These are unprecedented times. I’m going to leave it at that. We need to love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. That’s how I see it.

Everyone’s got their own battles they are facing. We have to be the change and be the good we want to see in the world. Like Maya Angelou said: “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” We have to pay it forward. We have to help each other.

I’m going to end on another quote. I don’t know who said this [it was George Bernard Shaw, and was often quoted by Robert Kennedy]: “There are those that look at things the way they are and ask why. But I say dream of things that never were and ask, why not?”

What The Connor Brothers say

Jamal has more ideas in an hour-long conversation than we’ve had in a lifetime. It’s weirdly mesmerising just to watch him think. Without doubt he’s one of the most creative minds we’ve come across. His success at such an early age speaks for itself, but his commitment to giving back is even more inspirational.

Jamal Edwards MBE is an entrepreneur, author, director, DJ and founder of online video platform SBTV. He was speaking to Adrian Lobb @adey70

This article is from the exclusive Connor Brothers takeover of The Big Issue, which is out now. Get the special edition, full of custom artwork and sure to be a collector’s item, from your local vendor or from The Big Issue Shop.

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