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Bend It Like Beckham director joins calls to open up King’s Cross tech revolution to Camden’s young people

Gurindher Chadha says students are no longer considered nerds for liking science and technology

15 June, 2017 — By Richard Osley

Gurindher Chaha speaking at Google’s offices in King’s Cross

BEND It Like Beckham film director Gurinder Chadha said children were no longer seen as “nerds” if they liked science or technology as pupils were encouraged on Monday to see the new glass offices of tech firms in King’s Cross as places they could one day work in – rather than just walk past.

She was speaking on a panel at the state-of-the-art Google building on the redeveloped railwaylands as experts discussed career options for youngsters in a world where traditional jobs would be lost to automation. Ms Chadha, who also directed Bhaji On The Beach, described how academic campuses were once divided but the arts and sciences were now linking up.

“When I was at university, there was one group that everybody said was the lowest of the low, these were the nerds, they never went to parties and were all really boring and wore glasses and very bad sweatshirts, these were the students in ‘comp’, or computers. In my time, we looked down on them. That’s not the case now. We’re all scratching around and they’re big. That’s how things can change in one generation. In our world, we can’t be divided in that way any more.”

The event saw the publication of a new report by the council-led Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) commission, which was set up to find ways to make sure Camden’s young people are not cut out of the influx of new employers moving into King’s Cross. Ms Chadha, 57, who lives in Camden Town, said that technology and social media had led to a “democratisation” enabling everybody to have a voice and tell the stories. “I think everybody’s voice is valid. When I was at school that wasn’t always the case,” she added. “We need people who can tell the stories and reach lots of people, and that’s what science does too. It’s creative. I think what the digital space has done is allowed us to be masters of our own storytelling.”

A panel discussion hosted by BBC economics editor Kamal Ahmed brought together teachers, tech specialists and Camden’s youth MPs. Experts warned that children should not be left losing interest in science subjects once experiments were replaced by paper exams in later school years. Google is expanding in King’s Cross with plans for a new “campus” close to King’s Cross station.

It is part of what the council and other institutions have tried to rebrand as the “knowledge quarter” alongside places like the British Library and the new Francis Crick medical research lab.

Council leader Georgia Gould told the audience: “I think we are the home of innovation, we are the place where science and creativity fuse. But we also have deep poverty and deep inequality, and just down the road from here we have some of the poorest communities in London. One resident said to me they felt like an island in the middle of glass, and I think it’s incumbent on all of us to make sure these amazing buildings aren’t just buildings that are young people walk past on their way to school but they are buildings that they aspire to work in, that they feel part of.”

Gurinder Chadha meets Camden’s Youth MPs

Council leader Georgia Gould, STEAM Commission chair Dinah Caine and Gurinda Chadha meets school pupils looking ahead to careers in the tech industry

Amanda Timberg, head of staffing programmes for Google in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said: “At Google we see every day how passionate young people are about making a positive impact on the world. Engaging in cross-curricular courses, projects and extracurricular activities joins the dots and shows young people how they can make this a lifelong pursuit.”

STEAM Commission Chair, Dinah Caine CBE said: “Our economy is changing and we are now experiencing the beginning of a fourth Industrial Revolution. We need to ensure a model is in place that prepares our businesses and young people to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead. Camden’s STEAM Commission sets out to promote Camden’s successful creative and knowledge economy and to ensure our businesses continue to succeed by having access to diverse, young, local talent. For this to happen, it’s vital that today’s young people and subsequent generations have STEAM embedded into their education, their out of school activities and their careers advice, working in close partnership with business, education, young people and the council.”

Kyro Brooks, the chief executive of the newly-established Young Camden Foundation, set up to try link young people to opportunities, said: “We need to set ambitious goals for our young people. The report highlights the need for a community-wide approach to empower Camden’s young people with the range of skills to enable them to take the opportunities that the creative, scientific and digital economy offer.”

He added: “The Young Camden Foundation welcomes and is ideally placed to help build on the recommendations of the STEAM Commission. We are committed to working collaboratively to support young people, bringing together organisations across all sectors to look at new and innovative ways to ensure we invest in local talent so they have the right skills to flourish.”


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