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The idea of identity: the life and times of a very British man – Kamal Ahmed

About This Episode

On Change Makers today is Kamal Ahmed, the editor-in-chief of the News Movement and former editorial director of BBC News.

At a time when – as Kamal himself says – “trusted, impartial news has never been more vital,” he is taking lessons from almost 30 years in the newsroom to the News Movement, where he is on a mission to address a “global crisis of information”, aiming to deliver objective and trustworthy information for a digital generation.

The aim is to sew the seams of unity back into public discourse, and it also informed his own book, The Life and Times of a Very British Man, a memoir about the history of and indeed resistance to immigration in the UK, and a celebration of the role immigrants play in our society.

Kamal Ahmed, Editor-in-Chief and Co-founder, The News Movement

This month, the book was also included in Trevor Phillips’ Black History Month guide to the best books and films to read and watch to understand the black experience. You can find the full guide, published in The Times, here.

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Lockdown List

What is a book that has changed your life?

The Trouble with Donovan Croft by Bernard Ashley. I read this book as a child and I still remember the wonderful emotions it sparked in me. It’s about a black child who is fostered by a white family. It is a book about pain and redemption and spoke deeply to me about the need to listen and consider other points of view.

What are you watching at the moment?

Better Call Saul on Netflix. The Breaking Bad prequel is a joy.

Who is your biggest inspiration? 

Professionally, Roger Alton, the former editor of The Observer who taught me that journalism is about the reader, the audience – it’s not about you.

Personally, my partner and my children.

In one sentence, describe your ‘new normal’.

“Listen more.”

What is your best tip for life?

“Engage with the quietest person in the room.”

A quote for life?

 “Friends and I have fun along the way” (from Keep on Moving by Soul II Soul)

What five tracks would make up your lockdown soundtrack?

  • Freedom Suite Young Disciples
  • Do Nothing The Specials
  • Keep on Moving Soul II Soul
  • Lane Boy twenty one pilots
  • Symphony No. 2 in E Minor Sergei Rachmaninov

Find out more