AUDIO Coming soon

IN CONVERSATION :

Benjamin, Student (In Person. Brighton, South East England)


Benjamin, a student at the British Institute of Modern Music, gave me a warm welcome at the Lanes Coffee House in Brighton. We found the time during his shift to explore where I might go during my visit and he kindly agreed to take part.

TRANSCRIPT

JO: Do you want to say a few words? I’m here with …

B: One, two … Benjamin …

JO: You should be good at that … a musician

B: yes

JO: I’m here with Benjamin … from Totnes, yes? Originally …

B: yes … now moved to Brighton to pursue music

JO: yes

B: at music college ….

JO: what’s the music college? Is it ..

B: It’s called BIMM … it stands for the British Institute of Modern Music, so basically, I’m now in my third year

JO: yes

B: and they basically prep you up throughout the years .. like … for your particular instrument, so … because I’m doing percussion and drums, they’ve … they’ll sort of bring in guests that will like … supposed to inspire you and teach you sort of how they’ve weaved their way into the music industry

JO: yes

B: the music business, as well … like learning about the music business …. you know, like publishing, record deals, A&R … just how it all works

JO: yes

B: the history …

JO: so it’s not just about mastering percussion …

B: yes … it’s not just about like

JO: it’s about making your way in the world … as a percussionist

B: yes, it’s quite a scary thought now I’m in the third year because there’s not very much playing and it’s all about like what are you now going to do .. after … what are you going to make happen? What’s your desired outcome?

JO: Is their term or semester structure the same as university?

B: yes … I get the same course as … I get the same qualification as a university degree ….

JO: Are you in debt to do this? Are you borrowing like many students are?

B: yes … totally .. hence why I am in this job as well .. it can’t even fund that …

JO: I was going to say … it’s a full time course, yes?

B: yes, full time …

JO: but you are working in here on … what is it … a Wednesday …

B: Wednesday and Saturday

JO: it’s 11:30 ish … so you are working … what .. two days a week?

B: two days a week now … and then in the … like … so we just came back from the summer holidays and I worked …

JO: throughout …

B: over full time almost …

JO: so you really packed in a lot of hours to put some money away

B: yes .. and that funded like … you know .. a computer because my computer broke and … you know .. it still only just about sort of topped me up

JO: what do you think you are going to come out of .. apart from your qualification and your knowledge and all the rest of it … in terms of finance, what do you think the figure will be by the time you exit?

B: probably like 35 to 40 plus

JO: thousand

B: yes … I wouldn’t be surprised …

JO: and how do you feel about that?

B: it’s quite like … really hard to put into perspective … because essentially I’ve just got like money .. you know, I’ll get like a loan coming in every term … and, for us, that’s just something … you know .. a lot of people just spend and they don’t even consider where that’s come from … for me … it’s a different .. I think about it differently ’cause it has to fund my house … it has to fund like the bare minimum

JO: where does it actually go?

B: it goes … for me, anyway … it goes straight onto house rent, bills … you know, food …

JO: just living costs, really …

B: things like that … yes .. and then like …

JO: not living it up costs … living costs

B: not living it up costs … yes … I mean maybe if you asked someone else, they would have their like differences where maybe they would like [ ]

JO: you asked … you asked me earlier, yes … whether … what ..are places that different from one another?

B: yes

JO: well, one constant has been university accommodation

B: yes

JO: and the building thereof … still …

B: yes

JO: huge construction work and the advertisements for … you know … “Come and live here …” … I keep checking this as I’m worried it’s going to stop … “Come and live here … only £140 a week”

B: it’s crazy … yes … and like .. you know … I’d like to bring up the fact that like students are the peasants of nowadays almost … the way that like everyone looks at you … the estate agents … the government … like … even like jobs around here … it’s hard to get a part time job because they just … you know … they’ve got ideologies of what students represent … and … you know …they might be lazy … they might not be able to … like … commit to certain hours … so it’s hard to get a job as well … and like … but I would say .. a tough one is estate agents … they literally like … put you in the [ ] .. they’ll take a phone call and you know … you’ll tell them everything that’s wrong about the house … when you’ve moved in … the oven might not work … for me, the oven didn’t work …

JO: a fairly major thing, yes?

B: the shower didn’t work … we didn’t have keys for our own bedrooms … so if they shut, they would lock and we’d be stuck outside … and it took them about two weeks to like sort these out … we had to get by just by using … you know … it’s doable by using a hob and have like a colder shower …. but it is … you know … the way … I don’t know … there’s no urgency for students at all and the housing crisis … here, especially … it just rises …

JO: in Brighton

B: 5 or 10 pounds every year … just because they can …

JO: yes … yes, we’re fine … I’m travelling round because I’m worried about the state of the world … I’m trying to analyse it before deciding what to do with my own energy exactly ..

B: yes

JO: so the first thing I am going to do is try and carefully analyse things

B: yes

JO: I’ve become quite familiar with a lot of the literature

B: yes

JO: that’s been produced for the benefit of the public … so I feel like I can be a useful guide …

to that … for anyone that’s starting out .. and I also know some of the scholarly literature in various areas … particularly my own sort of field … more like political economy and heterodox economics … so I’ve sort of got a nice handle on that … I know who it is I’d like to try and speak to in terms of experts that have devoted a large part of their professional lives to working on and studying these things …

B: yes

JO: activists … I’ve been talking to …

B: yes

JO: and then anyone else that I’ve bumped into, basically … along the way

B: yes … [ ] … our work colleague, Maris … he’s like an activist … so, it just happened that you didn’t come in on that day …

JO: it’s not a pity, is it? This is a very valuable addition to the set of interviews I’ve got … and it’s actually balancing out slightly ’cause I think there was probably a bias towards middle age … I haven’t spoken to that many people in their third age as it’s called nowadays … old age

B: yes

JO: one or two maybe … but I’ve got a good mix now of young people, and not all students …

interestingly … so that’s nice too … but students, I feel … and young people in general … are a vital part of the struggle to make things right … so just to set out my position slightly … my project is called Decency and Survival …

B: right

JO: I asked Robin, whom I met … a rather high born… I hope he wouldn’t mind me putting it that way … man … I said … “what does that suggest to you, Robin? Decency and Survival?” Actually, I’ll ask you first. What does it suggest to you?

B: Decency and Survival …

JO: so that’s the name of the project ….

B: maybe like how everyone in their own ways, and in their own upbringing and their own ideologies, survive .. and maybe this time … the times we’re living in now … whilst trying to … like … show … I don’t know … maybe like have their own perspectives … and you know .. people like to live up to decency or …

JO: so that’s interesting ’cause we all see and respond to things slightly differently …

B: yes

JO: so, some of that’s in common with Robin … what Robin understood it implied …

B: yes

JO: and he also picked up on … which I intended … the survival is really … the survival of the human race …

B: yes

JO: I’m fairly concerned that we might not make it out of the twenty first century … and my view is that we have to start acting … but, of course, you’re going to say “well, it depends” … there are a few people out there who don’t see themselves as acting decently

B: yes

JO: the question is how you understand what that means

B: ok

JO: and a woman I spoke to yesterday … Ellen … who described herself as .. this is in Canterbury … what did she call herself? A goddess-priestess ..

B: wow

JO: she said … she said we all have … we all grow up with and have … believe in similar myths

but we don’t see how they translate into practice the same way … and this is a bit like your point

B: yes

JO: like you might find someone who regards themself as thoroughly decent but who .. I would argue … is through their actions causing the destruction

B: totally

JO: … of their grandchildren and all the rest of it

B: yes … it’s bizarre because I think like .. [ ] people .. you know, every experience … every minute of the day is going to like build up on someone’s ideas of how they live their life and it’s weird seeing transitions through people and where they’re at and how they perceive things and what they want to speak up on and like …

JO: do you feel worried or are you still [ ]

B: I feel … you know …

JO: you know, the stereotypical young person is that you’re sort of this whimsical, fun -loving, out for enjoyment

B: bubble

JO: you know … doesn’t really consider much …

B: yes

JO: is that … is that a grossly unfair caricature ..?

B: I think so … I think so … I mean .. maybe you could argue that there’s benefits of being a student because you’re sort of like in-between education and having to like take care of yourself and others as well as like .. you know .. yes … funding for yourself … it’s the start … I think it’s like quite an important thing to like .. you know … move out of your home town … maybe not [ ] .. like maybe it just doesn’t work for everyone .. maybe people are .. you know

JO: but you think that’s … that’s ….

B: for me … I think … like … that was like a very important … like … stage … and it’s … yes .. it’s tough like maybe having siblings that like .. are doing something completely different … and you .. you know … you’re really far away and you’re seeing it happen … maybe it’s quite hard for them to really see … I don’t know … I don’t want to say that like people need to live up to like a … my expectation … or whatever … but like you just want to like inspire siblings and like ..

JO: are yours younger or older than you?

B: yes … three … three younger siblings

JO: they’re younger, so you’re the role model …

B: supposedly, yes …

JO: a drummer …

B: yes

JO: you’re Animal …

B: they’re more animals than me ….

JO: you know the Muppets, yes?

B: yes

JO: I am not calling you an animal.

B: I know.

JO: So .. you seem like quite a chilled person … but are you worried about the future or …

B: totally … I mean like … I’m quite like an introvert … where I can like … dig down and suddenly get to a point where it’s like … actually … you know … it’s technically out of my hands … what move do I make? You know, where do I buy my food? How much do I spend on when I’m in such a like a …. you know .. this student life is very like … poor … well, for many of us … so it’s like … you know …

JO: in material terms …

B: in material terms but like also like groceries and just living standards … it’s like … you know … you want to be able to buy biodynamic eggs but they are going to cost £1.50 more … and it’s like “my God .. it’s right there … I want to be a part of that .. but I only have like £15 a week to budget on” .. like if you are going to try and get down to it ..

JO: yes

B: but I’ve always thought like … you know … me and my partner … we’ve always thought that like the best protest is maybe just like actually doing something and getting on with it .. so … somewhere where you are going … in Stanmer Park … there’s this place called Stanmer Organics where people … like … volunteer …

JO: Stanmer

B: yes … and we go there most Thursday mornings ’til 3pm to like, just … you know … help out and it’s part of the Old Tree .. it’s sustainable … self-sustainable place ..

JO: see the picture …

B: and I think like … you know … composting … and like .. growing your own food in the garden if it’s possible … these are just small things that like people need to not only just do but like be back in touch with … because there is a lack of like … even knowing what happens to your food … what’s happening like politically, as well … it’s all linked up …

JO: it seems to me that the consensus view seems to be amongst people I’ve spoken to .. and I am not saying it’s a random selection of the population … but they all seem to be saying and including a House of Commons staffer

B: yes

JO: there’s a big change happening …

B: yes

JO: young people in particular appear to be .. the phrase keeps getting used … “waking up” …

B: yes

JO: do you feel this is true looking at your peers at university and at the college?

B: I think like … yes … I’d say so .. I don’t know if it’s ’cause I’m in a particular like Bohemian place … Brighton … but where I come from is pretty similar so … I think .. like .. you know .. like I say … moving out will instantly give you a perspective .. you know, you can look back on your childhood … you can see back like what you came from and what you’re about to move on to do … you’re meeting everyone from different places … you know … that’s why I asked about like … because I certainly learned like … you know .. meeting all these different people in different places ..

JO: it helps you undestand what something is to see what it is not …

B: yes … ’cause like my hometown for sure is like …. definitely like a bubble … I would put it as like a bubble .. you know … if you don’t leave ..

JO: this is Totnes …

B: Totnes … and Devon itself actually …. it’s not … there’s a couple of small cities … Plymouth and Exeter …

JO: yes

B: yes …. you know … coming here is quite a big eye opener actually … but having the sea here was something that I could like relate to and felt comfortable with … so … I felt drawn to [ ]

JO: there are continuities as well as differences

B: yes … and the South Downs … a lot of things I could relate to from home so I feel very much like … at home right now … yes

JO: it’s nice … So .. just to finish up … if I said to you, going from the micro to the macro, what’s wrong with this system we’ve got at the moment, if I could put it that way?

B: ok

JO: how does it need to change? What do you feel are the … it’s quite hard to .. I think describe succinctly …. can you … what comes to mind when I say that?

B: maybe … I don’t know if it’s just like a bit cliché but like governments … I think like … it’s interesting ’cause the Labour … there was a Labour Party Conference here and loads of people came in to discuss … so I was hearing a little bit of their like …what they wanted to do … I think like maybe people need to .. not people … but there’s like people that aren’t necessarily engaged with politics … they just don’t want to have a say because they feel like … they’re not a [ ] …. they’re like irrelevant from the decisions that are being made for them … I think .. like …

JO: you mean they feel they’re so removed from it that there’s no point in them

B: totally …

JO: putting any energy into it …

B: definitely … people just …. but like there’s also people that maybe don’t have … maybe they’ve got a slight lack of the understanding .. like the knowledge about it … when it comes to the word politics they want to stay away … it’s something that they can’t like digest .. so I think like it’d be important for like politicians or just like representatives [ ] different place … it doesn’t mean we all have to be in politics but like … you know … maybe … I think like Old Tree is a good example … it’s somewhere … it’s like a place which people are like brought to … they want to make a statement … so like by just making the move … they’ve actually like … you know … led people to there .. and been able to like speak to them and invite them to events … people are getting more engaged with it so I feel like people … there needs to be more engagement with certain topics

JO: so … ok … so … I mean this is something I’ve heard from people around the country as well …

B: yes, I can imagine …

JO: I sometimes get nervous about … ’cause I’ve done it myself, yes? I get nervous about … if you put too much energy into … an unkind way of putting it would be tokenistic micro projects … and neglect the big …

B: ok, I see

JO: political action … if you don’t get hold of the big … this word “levers” is being used quite a lot as well

B: yes

JO: if we don’t get hold of the big levers all together … these little micro projects … are they really going to do much more than make a roundabout look nice?

B: I guess so …

JO: in amongst this enormous … you know …

B: I guess I was …

JO: Do you know what I mean? So what there are … so what there are … you know, I am taking the piss … so what there are green beans growing along the M25 … we’re all going to die …

B: yes … that’s true … maybe I was thinking more of [ ]

JO: the problem is the M25 and all the cars on it … how do you … so thinking of macro … do you have a sense of the institution and physical landscape needs to change or is that like not discussed really and it’s quite hard to imagine …

B: I would say it’s not really discussed … do you reckon you could elaborate?

JO: yes … well … that’s what I am trying to produce really … like an illustrated guide … so as Iam going round taking these pictures of structure … like views of countryside, roadsides, interiors, city streets, I’m going to actually say “this part of the city shouldn’t be there”

B: yes

JO: “… because it can’t take the” … like in Brighton, there’s probably an implication of .. you might not want to have any city there over the next thirty years because storm surges and so on are going to make it just ridiculous ..

B: yes

JO: yes .. if you can’t defend it … so I am actually going to draw a picture … and say “this shouldn’t be here and it should be here” and use maps and things … try and show how streets could look …

B: yes … I think that’s interesting ’cause like …

JO: you’re not aware of any attempts to do this … ?

B: not really … I mean like … not in terms of landscape … I mean like .. I live in a black centre of pollution and I did happen to like see that there was a conference going on about .. like inviting anyone … about how we can like … you know … drop back … like work on the pollution … for example … it just so happened it was the day after that I saw the poster so I think there needs to be like more … you know … people … I don’t know … maybe it wasn’t enough to attract everyone ’cause I certainly would have gone …

JO: I feel … you know … if I … I argue that from my current perspective, we’re in an emergency situation … we don’t have long to change the human system

B: yes

JO: so as to preserve the Earth System

B: yes

JO: and when you look out the window like now …. day to day … do people look like it’s an emergency ? Does he look like there’s an emergency on? I mean I appreciate you still want to get married … in an emergency … people get married in wars …

B: yes

JO: but … there’s a wedding party going past … but do you know what I mean? You look out every day … people don’t realise there is an emergency.

B: yes

JO: they don’t feel that there’s an emergency …

B: definitely not …

JO: I mean, if you told them that there’s a hitman wandering around locally and he’s going to take out ten grandkids at random … they’ll do something about that …

B: yes

JO: they’ll be on the phone … they’ll be guarding their grandkids, not letting them go out .. they’ll take it very, very seriously … well, we’re talking about the elimination of your grandkids …

B: I’ve got a friend who … sort of like … it’s weird … he almost like scraps the idea because he just thinks it’s too late .. and I just think like “come on” .. I don’t know .. I think people …

JO: I think that’s a lazy excuse …

B: I think people are just … they feel like they’re so far away from making a difference, they

just decide not to [ ]

JO: so … that’s very, very interesting and it fits nicely with everything else that I’ve heard actually

B: yes

JO: ’cause what it suggests is if you can get people to feel that actually they do have power, and

then you can excite them about … about something like this illustrated picture that I am talking about

B: yes …

JO: put those two things together … you know … you can have this … if you use your power …

B: I think … sorry to change the subject … back to what you are saying about the landscape .. you know when you hear about floods in towns … and it’s because like .. you know … humans have gone in and like made some like barrier defence mechanism … which then just like distorts the way .. the natural flow of river … you know, people are like … some of us within these towns … so like artificial … like human touch … that it’s just like .. you know .. what are we going to do? Just keep on like … I don’t know … it’s pretty tough just seeing that happen .. thinking “come on … that isn’t the answer … you don’t just build around it .. there needs to be some answers higher above” … Do you know what I mean?

JO: higher in the sense of understanding what the Earth wants to do?

B: yes

JO: and then …..

B: definitely … I think that …

JO: yes … ok … well, that’s been absolutely brilliant … and you’ve been very generous … that’s 23 minutes’ worth …

B: I hope I haven’t taken up all your memory …

JO: So, to finish with … a paradiddle …

B: a paradiddle …

JO: there you are … I thought you’d know what that is ..

END