Jamel Carly: Diversity in the Early Years Sector.

Jamel Carly: Diversity in the Early Years Sector.

Jamel Carly-Campbell is an Early Years educator and a music artist, born and raised in Catford. In this interview we discuss the need for diversity in the Early Years sector, growing up in the heart of Catford’s community and Carly’s vision for the future.

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Let’s start with an introduction to Jamel.

My name is Jamel Carly Campbell, I am 32 years of age, born and raised in Catford. I’m part of the community, a lot of my family are from here too.

What does home mean to you?

Home is the place where you’re most comfortable. A place where people understand you and people know you for you. There are a lot of people here that have known me since I was a baby. That’s what home is about; it’s where you can be yourself.


How would you describe Catford culture to someone who has never been here?

Catford culture is about the community, we’ve got a big community that filters through the whole of the borough and I think there's a closeness. Like everyone you know lived or used to live on the road next to you, mum lives down the road, Nan lives around the corner, you know what I mean? It’s just one big family, that’s what Catford culture is about.


What do you personally like about living in Catford?

It’s having a lot of things at arms reach and the diversity. There’s so much diversity and everybody brings their piece into making Catford, Catford. There are people who have been here for years that own the corner shops, food shops and have stalls in the market. There’s a man that sells watches and he’s been there since I was young. So there are a lot of people who are part of the fabric, even down to the street drinkers. They’ve been here for years and it’s only Catford people that would understand that.

Do you know that Catford is going to be regenerated? If so, how do you feel about it?

Yeah I’ve heard a few things. I just hope when they regenerate it they don’t push out the original people. A lot of people think they’re going to live a better life in another ends, like moving to Dartford. It’s a nice area and they’ll get a bigger house but a lot of what we need is here. A lot of what we need is in Catford, so we should stay and build up the community.

When people ‘make it’ or find success, they think of moving to another area but we need to build up our own area. We’ve seen what happened to Brixton, Woolwich and so many different places. They’ve changed while the people who have helped to build the community have been pushed out, we need to stay.

Jamel in the Corbett Community Library, photography by Henry J Kamara.

Jamel in the Corbett Community Library, photography by Henry J Kamara.

If you could improve anything about Catford, what would it be?

There’s a few things like having more for the kids and the community to do, a long time ago we had a few youth clubs. There was one by the post office. It was a place where kids would go and for counselling or if they had an issue they’d go there for support. There were three or four but to my knowledge we don’t have any so we need more youth stuff because some young people are idle. They need a place where they can be themselves and feel safe.


What do you think needs to stay?

What needs to stay is the love. I always say Lewisham is one big dysfunctional family and a lot of people don't get on with each other but at the same time we are connected in so many ways. Be it through our families, school, work or just knowing someone and finding out you have mutuals, that needs to stay. The whole community vibe and unity need to remain.

You mentioned that you’re an Early Years educator, can you tell us a bit about what that role entails?

Yes, I’m an ambassador for the Early Years sector, working with children. A lot of people don’t know that it’s a job that anyone can do and we’re trying to raise the percentage of men in the field. At the moment only 3% of the workforce is male. Considering how much of an important job it is, the workforce demographic should mirror the clientele demographic. If men as a whole make up only three percent of the field, there is an even smaller percentage of black men.

I’ve been doing talks and showing people that it’s a job for anyone. If you’re creative, caring, nurturing and you love children, early years is for you. What we’re doing is really changing lives.

That’s amazing, it’s important for young people to feel represented by their educators and by those who guide them through their early stages of development. What do you think you specifically bring to the sector? 

I think it’s about breaking down the stereotype that only women can be nurturing. Breaking the stereotype of toxic masculinity.

Many people often view femininity, nurturing and looking after children as ‘lesser than.’ They use it to cuss someone; “leave that to the women,” they’ll say but it’s a thing that men can do. There are a growing number of stay at home Dads and male nannies.

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Where do you think your journey into Early Years began? 

I’m the oldest in our family and I used to look after my siblings. From that I’ve learnt nurturing, you watch them, you play with them, if they’re crying you pick them up. It’s second nature to me.

It’s good for people to see someone like myself doing this. At first they might think, look at this ‘big black guy’ with a gold tooth. Then they hear me speak and they know that I’m knowledgable in this field.

I’m also showing people that the Early Years isn’t all about play. When people think of nursery, they think a child comes in, you give them a bunch of toys, you play with them and that’s it, they’ve had a good day. But there is a lot of theory behind it, a lot of study, a lot of psychology. We consider the different stages of development in children and how we can support them, there is a lot of emotional support as well. We cover a lot of ground when working with children. 


You spoke on a panel about ‘Men in the Early Years’ in Westminster, what were some of the things you were discussing?

We were talking about raising attainment and awareness of men in the early years. We were talking about the effect of having a balanced workforce. I said before that it’s important for children to see people from different walks of life and of different cultural backgrounds. Different creeds in general.

At the end of the day, when you have a child you’re actually shaping and moulding their minds and our minds are constantly learning. That’s one thing we spoke about as well, the neurological side of care. On a hormonal level, when a man holds a baby for a long period of time it causes a shift in our hormones. There is so much that we don’t even think about on a day to day basis.

We were also talking about culture, people understanding that the reason why there aren’t a lot of men is because of cultural and financial reasons. Early Years jobs aren’t always very well-paid, but they can be if you follow the right career route.

As a freelancer, how would somebody reach out to you to come and do a project at their school, for example? 

Via email, Instagram or Twitter. I’ve got a business number as well, it’s on during the day.

Lewisham Council has presented its ideas for how the town centre could develop over the next 10-15 years through a draft framework plan. The more people involved, the better the needs of the whole community will be reflected.

To share your views and comment on the ideas that the architects have begun to develop click here.

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