An avid gamer, Jamal Mohamed is a half British half Somali local, born and bred in the London Borough of Camden. He joined the Community Engagement Team in February 2022, who work closely with local community groups and residents to develop collaborative projects and celebrate the great ideas and talent on our doorstep. Here he tells us about his background and his role.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’ve lived here all my life apart from five years spent in Somaliland age 4-9. When we came back to London, I went to the William Ellis secondary school in Highgate and applied for a place in the University of Arts London (UAL). I actually picked UAL because I thought it was down the road but soon realised it was just the fashion school at Central St Martins! My public relations course was actually in Elephant and Castle. But, I ended up liking it over there too!
I’m part of a pretty big Somali community here in Camden and I’d like to raise awareness of my local cultural heritage.
What were you doing before you joined the British Library?
During university I got involved with the Somali Youth Development Resource Centre (SYDRC), a youth organisation that offers mentoring, tutoring and other leisure activities such as football.
When I finished at UAL, I was appointed as a youth worker/project co-ordinator for SYDRC. My role involved running mentoring workshops, covering anything from careers to knife crime.
How did you get involved with the British Library?
While I was at SYDRC the British Library was carrying out a community consultation about its plans to build an extension. Through this connection, I met Charlotte Factor (another member of the Community Engagement Team) at a community Christmas lunch, where she encouraged me to apply for the job. It sounded like an amazing opportunity to apply what I was already doing with the SYDRC but on a bigger scale.
What does your role involve?
The British Library is keen to re-establish its links with the local community that have faded somewhat during the pandemic. We also want to make new connections with residents of our Somers Town neighbourhood. My role is to lead our local outreach programme. Our aim is to co-exist with our neighbours and have a more visible and bigger presence locally. What this means in practice is that I’ll be out and about in the community, meeting groups and finding out how the Library can add value to local people’s lives.
For me, community engagement involves establishing a mutually beneficial relationship between the local community and us where we understand each other’s needs.
I want to highlight the amazing resources the Library has to offer and demonstrate how they can be used by anyone. I also hope to co-curate activities and events that are particularly relevant for the local community.
What are you looking forward to most?
I’m a ‘people person’ so I’m mostly looking forward to building connections and establishing relationships with local people. On a personal level, I’m also excited about exploring the Library’s collections, particularly of Somali relevance.
What have you enjoyed about your experience at the Library so far?
As a Camden local, I was aware of the British Library and its exhibitions but had no idea about the wealth of resources or the extent of what it does. I hope my outreach work will help to develop clearer lines of communication about what we have to offer for the local community.
Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming since I joined the team.
How can local people find out more about the community engagement programme?
I will be running regular meet and greet sessions in the Story Garden in St Pancras, and we will have a stall at the Somers Town Festival this summer. I encourage local people to get in touch by email at any time to subscribe to our Community Engagement Newsletter or simply to suggest ideas.