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20 January 2021

Amika George Q&A: “I need to work out what job to have in this lifetime first“

The period poverty activist on Jayaben Desai, Come Dine With Me, and writing her dissertation on the British Asian club scene in the 1980s and 1990s.

By New Statesman

Amika George was born in London in 1999. She is the founder of the Free Periods campaign group, which tackles period poverty in the UK. She studies history at the University of Cambridge.

What’s your earliest memory?

When I was two, I was in a car accident with my grandparents and baby brother. Strong winds seemed to come from nowhere and a tree fell on to the bonnet. It was terrifying. Other than cuts from broken glass, we were relatively unscathed.

Who are your heroes?

As a child it was Tracy Beaker. Right now I’m obsessed with Selina Meyer from the HBO series Veep.

What book last changed your thinking?

Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark taught me how to extract hope from a desperate world. I can’t think of a book that felt more timely in 2020.

Which political figure do you look up to?

Jayaben Desai was a British Indian activist who led the “strikers in saris” against poor working conditions during the Grunwick dispute in the 1970s. She’s not talked about enough, but she brilliantly challenged the stereotype of south Asian women at the time.

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What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

Probably the subject of my final year dissertation, which I’m writing at the moment. It’s about how music, clubbing and TV shaped the cultural identities of British Asian teenagers in the 1980s and 1990s. Other than that, the soundtrack to Notting Hill (it’s our family Christmas tradition) or Dishoom’s breakfast menu.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

Paris in the 1920s would be fun. Thinking about that now has made me reminisce about pre-pandemic parties.

What TV show could you not live without?

Come Dine With Me – it’s my ultimate comfort show. I remember watching it all day in bed with my mum if I was ever off sick from school.

Who would paint your portrait?

Alice Skinner, an illustrator and artist I love.

What’s your theme tune?

My answer changes day to day. Right now, “Memory Box” by Peter Cat Recording Co or “Venezuela Riddim” by Hak Baker. I’ve never got sick of “101 FM” by Little Simz, even though I’ve listened to it so many times. It wouldn’t be mine, but the Succession theme tune is definitely the best ever.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I’m pretty sure everyone’s mum told them this growing up but: when you’re cooking, tidy up as you go along.

What’s currently bugging you?

Donald Trump isn’t in jal yet.

What single thing would make your life better?

University exams being cancelled.

When were you happiest?

A couple of months ago, when my friends and I spent a night watching both Mamma Mia! films back-to-back, dressed up in 1970s-style outfits and drinking tequila.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

I love the idea of being a food critic or a radio DJ. But I need to work out what job I’m going to have in this lifetime first!

Are we all doomed?

It feels like we are, but we have to believe it’s not too late to turn things around. 

“Make it Happen: How to be an Activist” by Amika George is published by HQ

[see also: Carlo Rovelli Q&A: “I am a very slow thinker with zero memory”]

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This article appears in the 20 Jan 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Biden's Burden