For issue six of People of Labrum we are joined by dear friend, Nathaniel Cole.
Cole wears many hats, but mainly he is known for being a workshop facilitator, researcher and writer. With his work he opens up important, empowering conversations through which he educates individuals, especially young men, on topics such as masculinity, mental health, consent and sexuality.
Joining forces with Peigh Asante in 2013, Cole co-founded London based, inner city, swimming club, Swim Dem Crew. The aim was to make the sport more inclusive and to build a strong community of enthusiasts. For him, swimming plays a big part in supporting positive mental health and overall happiness.
Now over to Foday and Nathaniel…
Foday Dumbuya: Can you tell the readers how we met?
Nathaniel Cole: I met Foday at Run Dem Crew when it was based at Nike’s old 1948 space. I then got to know him better after he got together with his (now wife) Beth, who was one of our first members at Swim Dem Crew.
FD: Your work explores masculinity, mental health and sex education - what lead you to focus on these topics specifically?
NC: I was drawn to this type of work because I felt that conversations about topics such as mental health, sexuality and masculinity were missing for young men. I wholly enjoy the work I do and the depth of conversations that I'm able to have with young people about the society that they're a part of.
FD: What's been one of the biggest challenges you have stumbled upon?
NC: One of my biggest challenges has been trying to commit time to my personal projects. I've recently started to write poetry and I'm planning to create my own workshops this year to blend all of my skills together. However, devoting time to these when bills are due is always difficult.
FD: You are also a co-founder of Swim Dem Crew - in your eyes, what does swimming represent and how does it influence you in your day-to-day life?
NC: Swimming is my getaway. It's one of the few times of day when I'm completely away from my phone and work and I get to just focus on the task at hand; moving through the water. It also gives me a fresh perspective for the challenges that face the swimming industry that we work within at Swim Dem.
FD: What influence has your background had on your choice of career?
NC: There are not many people that look like me that do the work that I do, and of the few that are, I already know them!
I think my family unconsciously influenced me to work with people by building values of helping others in my upbringing. Also, growing up in East London, I've lived through the changes that have gone on because of gentrification and "regeneration" and seen how communities are removed and discarded by councils simply for existing.
I want to be in a position where I can work with people to empower them to stay in their areas and amplify the voices of community.
FD: What are you excited about that's coming your way?
NC: My aim this year is to deliver a pilot of my workshop programme and to take Swim Dem to the motherland for a special event :)
FD: That would be epic! What is it about LABRUM that makes it stand out from other brands?
NC: LABRUM's story has always felt unique to me; from knowing Foday’s beginnings and the growth of the brand over the years, it has inspired me. Both the tagline of "Designed by an Immigrant,” taking pride in our upbringing and the desire to tell lesser known stories through each collection is amazing.
FD: What is your favourite LABRUM piece you own, and why?
NC: I have two favourite pieces, a yellow overshirt with coconut buttons and water-resistant wool blend trousers. They're my favourite as they sum up my style perfectly and I performed my TEDxLondon Women talk on Consent in them too. So I have that positive memory association with them!
We are proud to have Nathaniel as part of our People of Labrum series. Thank you for all of the support and for taking the time to chat to Foday!
You can connect with Nathaniel on Instagram: @nathanielacole. We strongly encourage you to follow his journey, all the exciting projects he has brought to life and to explore his thoughts on topics such as mental health and masculinity on his online platform too.
Watch Why we need to change the way young men think about consent l Nathaniel Cole l TEDxLondonWomen below:
If you have any questions for the Labrum team, or anyone from our POL series, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us on Instagram @labrumlondon