20 February 2012

My London Borough of Brent

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By Promise Campbell

The rent is ridiculous, the bills are insane but the London Borough of Brent is still the place to be!

When you’ve no stable family network, an area becomes home. The prospect of leaving Brent, a decision I had to consider last year as the call for independence intensified, proved far more unsettling than I had anticipated. My obsession with the area, Willesden in particular, mirrors Zadie Smith’s passion in her bestseller White Teeth; even the author’s American polemic On Beauty makes its way home.

Smith’s description of shop signs in White Teeth – “Mali’s Kebabs, Mr Cheungs, Raj’s, Malkovich Bakeries” – and chiefly, the realisation that “there was just not enough of any one thing to gang up against any other thing” talks of the British brew that is Brent.

 Willesden, according to my somewhat partial observations, is one of the only places in the entire country (dare I make such outlandish claims) to accommodate, or rather exhibit, such an eclectic array of people with a common nationality. Apart from my stint in Cambridge, like Smith I too have spent the majority of my life in Willesden, and it still amazes me how cheek-by-jowl the Gracelands, the Islands and the Chamberlaynes (bistros and gastro pubs) intermingle with the Mr Fishes, Chicken Cottages and Southern Fries!

To hear Promise talk about her Brent and her British identity go to our British Histories page here, or visit our Youtube site here.

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