K Bailey Obazee, DJ and Founder, Prim, London
Could you introduce yourself?
My name is K Bailey Obazee, I’m from east London and I am 33 years old. I currently reside in Stratford.
What do you do for work?
I’m the founder of Prim, a storytelling platform focused on sharing the myriad of ways that Black people tell stories, from written work to film and photography. We also look to create opportunities for people to be able to earn revenue from their craft, while also creating spaces where people can just come together to share and connect, such as a book club, a pop-up or a basketball tournament. We try to keep it varied and fun. I am also a DJ, so I run tunes and parties.
Tell me about why you started Prim, and how?
Prim started in 2019 because I have always really enjoyed reading and I love what books can mean to people but growing up, I didn’t feel like I could really see myself in the books that I was reading. That’s because the books I was being offered were often by white authors, or focused on places and people that I didn’t feel connected to. Once I started reading works by Black authors, I started learning so much more about myself and I felt a lot more connected to reading as a practice. I joined a book club and I didn’t enjoy it, because of my own personal yearning for queer Black people. I thought, if I feel this way, there’s probably other people that feel this way too.
I have a team of people who work with me but I founded Prim by myself. I started by creating assets to promote the book club and reached out to friends and platforms that had the audience I was trying to reach and asked them to share it. Then in 2020, I applied to Arts Council England for funding to build a website and commission artists and they granted £15K.
What does your day-to-day look like?
Everyday varies as it’s mostly project-based. I tend to start my day going through my emails, looking at my diary, seeing what I have in the pipeline. If we have a pending project, we focus on that, touch in with the teams and whoever’s leading on whichever part of the project. So, really just looking at our calendar and working out where we need to be and what we need to be doing to make headway. On a really busy day, I may also DJ twice in one evening, which means trying to figure out my music, get all my tings together, and decide what I’m gonna play.
Your days are quite self-structured then?
Yeah. If I know that I’ve got a couple things that I need to do, I try to bunch up my days so that I don’t necessarily have to work everyday. But also, when you’re DJing it means working on weekends, it means having late nights, so I have to be mindful of that in relation to my Prim stuff, which is mostly daytime. If I don’t figure out a way that makes sense, I feel a bit sleep-deprived!
What was your pathway before Prim? Did your interest in reading start early?
I went to an all girls catholic school in Stratford. For me, being in a school that was very disciplined definitely affected how I navigate the world. I always wanted to be perceived as someone who was resolute in what I was doing, clear in my purpose, rooted in helping people, not just because of school but also my parents.
I didn’t grow up reading, I only really started when I was in year 9 of secondary school. Atonement by Ian McKewan sent me on a whirlwind. I was so immersed in that book… After that, I really loved reading. At the time, I really wanted to be a doctor. I was planning on going into medicine but I got to sixth form and did a taster in science and was like, girl, you don’t have the brain power for this.
I ended up studying English at University of Leicester and I started working with this local community group called Citizens UK, a socio-political group which supports young people from underprivileged backgrounds or high crime areas. Working there made me want to go into politics, so when I finished uni, I worked in parliament for a Lib Dem MP, because they were the only ones who would give me a job. While being in that role, I realised it’s not really what it seems. It didn’t feel like where I was best placed, given the things I really care about. When my MP lost my seat, I was out of a job straight away, so I started at WeWork. That was the first job that really allowed me to be my complete self, it definitely allowed me to think critically about what I really wanted to do. And then Prim was born. I’ve done lots of different things, but overall, everything I’m doing right now feels comprised of what I’ve done before.
When did DJing come into the picture?
I started DJing just before the pandemic, around 2019. I’d always loved music, Top of the Pops and Channel AKA were like my two worlds, and I was inspired by my friends who were DJing at the time. One of them had a controller and we would have jam sessions. I also went to Pirate Studios a couple times and people would teach me how to use the decks. A friend had a residency at Dalston Superstore and she would just put on her friends. After that, I just kept playing in different places, for different people.
What do you most enjoy about what you do?
Connecting with people. Whether it’s a book club, a reading night or a basketball game, you’re constantly meeting different people, you’re learning about people’s interests. When you connect with someone, you discover things about them, and things about yourself. They’re really positive experiences.
And that idea of connecting people also carries through to your DJing?
Absolutely. You’re behind the booth, in the mix, people are looking at you and loving it. They can see the joy on your face and you can see it on theirs. We all just feed off each other, right?
"I’m very much about figuring out ways of putting money into the pockets of my community."
What are the most challenging parts of what you do?
Staying on job, staying on task, having the discipline to make sure that one thing isn’t interrupted by another. It can be a struggle to manage your time when DJing at night and doing things in the day. Also managing time and money. It’s hard. You can have all the ideas in the world but sometimes if you don’t have the finance to make it happen, that becomes a challenge. And sometimes if you have the cash, finding the time to do what you wanna do!
What makes you good at what you do and what qualities would someone need to be able to do it?
Being courageous, being willing to try, having the patience to know that nothing is instant. You have to grow things. Also being curious about who people are, what they do, what they want, what is missing.
"You can compare if it’s gonna be positively enriching for you but every time we put ceilings on X,Y,Z and you don’t achieve it, you just make yourself disappointed."
What advice do you have for readers interested in community work, DJing or just juggling lots of things at once?
Find your rhythm. Figure out what and how makes sense for you. My way of doing things isn’t necessarily gonna work for somebody else. You have to figure out your system, your groove. That’ll help make sure that whatever you’re doing is sustainable, it’s something you can manage, it’s not gonna leave you feeling overwhelmed or out of your depth. Also be patient! Don’t rush. It’s a difficult thing when everything is so fast but, you know, we’re here for a long time.
I think we all compare ourselves to other people, but just don’t. You can compare if it’s gonna be positively enriching for you but every time we put ceilings on X,Y,Z and you don’t achieve it, you just make yourself disappointed. It’s very toxic and capitalist that way actually.
Slow and steady wins the race, right?
Be the tortoise!
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