Reset asks movers and makers to share the places that have shaped who they are.
KAY - MOVER
Jamaica - London - Bath
My first thought after interviewing Kay is that she's a bundle of contradictions. She appears to me as an extrovert but claims to be an introvert. She's a city girl who loves the beach and the outdoors. She's a regular runner who hates walking with a passion. But as someone who spent their formative years between two opposing cultures, it's not surprising that she has such conflicting traits. We discuss her childhood in the Caribbean, finding her place in London and how freedom takes a different meaning between the two.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Kingston so I've always been a city girl - I've only been to the countryside 5 times. Summer was amazing. We didn't have much money and would go to the corner shop barefoot. We would play football and climb the mango trees barefoot. Everything is outside. I don't understand how kids here stay in and play video games. There was a level of freedom there that's not here with children. School is from 7.45 - 12.45 and then the rest of the day you're off. School was amazing - because it's a poor country the school would provide a free breakfast of bulla and milk. It was scrumptious. One of the main differences in Jamaica is that you have a community feel. All the kids knew each other - everyone knew each other so we weren't conscious of locking doors because if someone broke in you would know exactly who it was! Yes there was violence - we had people running through the garden with guns - but there wasn't a great restriction. There was weed growing naturally in the garden. I had my first taste of alcohol at 8! Children could be children.
How did your childhood in Jamaica shape who you are today?
I'm a bad texter - I prefer engaging with people in person. We talk to people so much! In Jamaica, you go and see your family and you go to your friends house. You feel more connected and engaged because there's more of a community feel. The fact it's not 'clean-cut' has also meant that I know danger but I'm not scared. I'll walk through Brixton at 3am and won't even look behind me. But the main thing growing up in Jamaica has given me, is a wider perspective of the world that's made me very aware of money and made education very important to me. In Jamaica, if you have money, you go places. Here [in the UK], you just need the state to help you. Nobody helps you in Jamaica.
And of course, you have the typical Jamaican bluntness...
I'm very blunt and sometimes it gets me into trouble. I can't stand bullshitters. This is one thing that Jamaican's don't stand for. We are too quick to anger. We can handle our drink. And we love to dance!
What do you miss?
I miss the fruits! And the beach.
When and why did you leave?
I was an economic immigrant. I left for education. I was 14 and I got the plane by myself . My mum had left 3 years before I did and I missed her. I was staying with my sister and her husband but I missed my mum so I came to London. When I first arrived, I found it a mystery. I couldn't get used to the weather for ten years. I still can't get used to the weather! The cold is too cold and the hot - I love it but there's no breeze. I didn't go to school for two months straight. I hated it. I hid in the downstairs toilet at home for the whole 2 months - my Mum actually knew the whole time and only told me two years ago.
So when did you start to enjoy London?
I started enjoying London after university. I was always much of an introvert and I didn't go anywhere or explore, so I never really saw London as home. I felt like a stranger; I never knew how to behave or what I should do. I never really understood what the culture was. All I knew is people go to the bar and get drunk and spend all their money or go to Oxford Circus and shop. I had a very singular view of London until after university when I started to hang out with people and meet different cultures. I started to go to galleries and exhibitions on my own because I wanted to understand London from my own perspective. My ex had a very precise view of people in this country and once I left him I really started to love London. I felt freedom to have an open mind. Here I can do whatever I want and be whoever I want. In Jamaica, you can't wear certain clothes or dress a certain way.
So would you still say there was more freedom in Jamaica?
I would say there's more freedom as a child, but as you grow older everyone follows a certain set of ways. You can't be gay. I can't dress the way I dress there. Anything about you that's different, people will say something about. And in Jamaica, white is beautiful. You need to have long hair. If you have lighter skin, people will admire you more. In London, I have the freedom to be whoever the fuck I want.
Is that what you love about London?
I appreciate that yes. I view London as my home now; I love the diversity. That's what shaped me - I can be and find my own identity. You can find your niche here. Whatever person you are, there's a place in London for you. When you want to party you don't have to dress up. You can dress down, walk in your trainers and you feel comfortable. In that sense, there's a freedom in London, the freedom to be whoever you are.
You also recently spent some time alone in Bath and loved it. Could I hear about that?
I chose Bath because I was looking for places to go and instinctively felt it was a place I could connect with. I love architecture so I knew I would enjoy the Georgian buildings, the Roman Spa and the galleries. Where I stayed was a little lodge in the middle of the forest. It had a stream running through and felt like you could be at peace. You could see all the stars in the sky at night. The only time I've seen that was when I was 12. I was camping in the countryside in Jamaica when a bus had broken down, so being in Bath took me back to my childhood.
Why did you go alone?
I went away to grieve my mother. I needed space. It worked somewhat. It gave me time and allowed me an escape from what I was escaping from. I was nervous to go away but I was excited. When you go away on your own you learn so much about what you like. If you're with someone else you have to do what they like. Or you feel like you've let them down if they don't find what you're doing exciting.
When you're alone you have to enjoy the moment and the activity - there's no-one there to be your entertainment. It forces you to think out of the box and to find another way. Say if you're in London and you don't like the coffee shop you're at - you go to one that you know. But if you're in a new city where you don't know anywhere, it means you have to try new things.
What did you do while you were there?
I walked the whole city and I hate walking. I hate walking with a passion but I loved it there. I would travel as far away as I could and then walk everywhere. It would be dark by the time I got back. I went to this bar by myself and just sat at the bar speaking to the bartender. All of the going to galleries and everything by myself in London - it led to this. It's amazing.