“I would like to champion people that think unconventionally and believe in change.”
Samuel Gordon describes himself as a content creator, all-round creative thinker and dreamer. By navigating the intersection between design, tech and culture, he is able to “use each principle to act as a medium for creating change.” He explains that “design is how something is built, not just how it looks but how it feels and how it’s presented to people. Culture is what people are engulfed in; the music we listen to and who we are as people. Tech is the catalyst for each of those two mediums.”
I met with Samuel by the Costa on Catford’s Broadway. From there we made our way to the top floor of the Old Town Hall, where the DEK co-working space is situated and you get a beautiful view of Catford. We talked about growing up in the area, venturing out to the east side of London and shaping a vision for the future.
So, what have you been up to recently?
Just working on a few ideas and creating things that will build my skillset for my future projects. That what I’m working on right now.
What are those future projects?
I’m essentially building a brand that’s going to be a medium for connecting people, people who will be catalysts for problem solving. Understanding how, for instance, streetwear culture works and seeing how I can use that as a device to find people who connect with the brand. If I find the right people, we can use each other to solve problems. Whether that’s our own projects or socio-economic problems. Starting with a T–shirt.
That sounds very intriguing. Where does your passion for people come from?
I guess where I’m from, family wise. My parents and the people I’m close to in my family are very empathetic. I think part of my culture in general is to always give, to pay it forward.
Each one, teach one?
Yeah. It’s just in my nature to help, if I have information, I’ll share it with someone else. I really want to be purpose led in everything I do. I feel like the best way to move with purpose is to create or foster a gregarious society.
Are there any examples of people or organisations who have done the kind of work you intend to do?
There are a lot of organisations that I’ve been looking at. I’ve been looking a lot at Nike. The way they champion athletes, is the same way I would like to champion people that think unconventionally and believe in change. Nike are very much invested in culture. You also mentioned Apple, they have every part of that down packed.
There are people who I look to, who aren’t necessarily trying to do things like I intend to, but are very much on the same wavelength of using design and tech and trying to make things better. Like my friend Alex Fefegha, who is the founder of Comuzi. It’s black people I know who are very tech forward, but understand the importance of culture. Understanding that both need to be in sync to create the change that we intend to create.
What are some of the causes that you care about?
If I had the resource right now, I’d be educating young people on how to use their computers to make money. Without needing to rely on work that’s only going to give them a cheque. How to create specific things just from their laptop and essentially socially navigate through London. So they’re not just confined to their environments. That’s something that I’ve been thinking about lately.
What do you mean by young people being confined to their environments? That’s an interesting point.
London is very expansive. In half an hour, you can go from areas that are deprived to areas that are the richest in the world. It’s key that you understand how important that is, and how you can use that to your advantage. You can talk to pretty much anyone, that can open up a floodgate of options and opportunities that you might not be privy to otherwise.
You’re right, so how long have you lived in Catford?
My whole life.
What are your feelings towards the area?
It’s interesting, I think a lot has changed since I was in school. I think we’re seeing a lot more developments, we’re seeing new housing. We’re seeing a lot of changes in terms of the shops we have here. Like Costas and Subways. I think it’s safer than it was, I’m not really sure. I haven’t seen the data. It feels safer.
Do you spend a lot of time in Catford, nowadays?
Not really. When I’m in Catford, I’m usually at home or at the gym. I don’t really engage in extracurricular activity in Catford. If I’m not at home, I’m usually in East London at my friend’s office and working on ideas.
I’ve noticed this is a pattern among many young people in Catford; from late teens to mid-twenties. They don’t feel like there are any social spaces or anything stimulating for them to engage with, it’s purely a base for them. What could be done to create space for you to spend more time in Catford?
Something like a Hoxton Hotel. Somewhere I can just sit down and crack open my laptop. There’s Costa but I don’t think Costa is really designed for that. I want somewhere where there are sofas, obviously there is the pub, which does a decent job of that but I’m not trying to be in the pub. A workspace [like DEK], but one that is open so anyone can use it. Some creative resources as well, a studio…
Have you heard about the cinema that’s coming in Summer?
Yeah, in the Catford Mews… Maybe meet ups also, like for running or if you have a bike. Photography meet ups, things of that nature. Night venues as well. There’s no nightlife here, well not for my demographic anyway.
Around what age did you start venturing out of Catford?
Probably in sixth form, when I was like 18 really. We’d go out clubbing, and from there I started to really explore London.
What are the things that you love about Catford?
The transport links. I can pretty much go anywhere, easily. I think it’s a calm area, it’s cool.
Has the area shaped you in anyway? In the sense that our environments contribute to who we are as people. Whether us that’s us wanting to be the opposite of our environment, or us wanting to emulate the things we love about it.
It’s think it’s more of a London thing, than a Catford thing. I like Catford because there are a lot of West Indians here. Just walking and hearing the vibes makes you feel at home, or connected to back home. The last few years have really impacted me in who I am as a person. So when I think about shaping me, I just think of London as a whole.
How do you feel about regeneration?
My mindset on regeneration is that as long as things improve… I want there to be more resources for the kids and people that live within the area. The resources should have long-term benefits for the residents. I just want things to improve and be improved the right way.
Do you have any concerns about it, based on how things have gone wrong in other areas of London?
I think ownership is key for marginalised communities. Ownership of property and businesses especially.
How do you think more people could get involved in having an impact on their local area?
I think kids need to be taught about the possibilities; what Catford could look like if they got involved. In tutor time at school, for example, they could be taught about the current state of Catford, social politics and how they can make change and shape what’s happening now.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
This is the beginning of an exciting time for Catford Town Centre. The more people involved, the better the needs of the whole community will be reflected. Have your say via Commonplace, and share the project with people you know locally.