Connecting the Dots with Reggie Yates

As a British broadcaster, writer and director, Reggie Yates is well known for his entertainment presenting, as well as his BBC documentaries including his series The Insider, where he spent time inside some of the world’s most brutal institutions, including a Texan jail and an Iraqi migrant camp. Less well known, however, is his passion for the arts, and his astute eye for photography.

As a judge for our themed category this year, Reggie had the opportunity to bring together many of his interests, as he considered the various creative responses to the category’s theme of ‘Connections’. He tells us more below…

How have you found the judging process so far?

I’m enjoying it! I sort of smashed through seven or eight pieces at the beginning because they really spoke to my own personal tastes.

But in getting past my own personal taste and starting to look a bit deeper, some really interesting pieces have come out.

There’s a piece with little postcards and little notes hanging off it that feels just like a meditation on the word connections itself. There’s everything in it, from how something like Brexit connects us all, right through to someone in World War One, and that is something essentially that we are all connected to as Brits. Yeah, there are some really interesting pieces.

You’ve spoken about some pieces that spoke to you. Was there anything that shocked you?

There’s a white canvas with the word connections on it, and it’s got this long written piece on it. It’s really dark and really exposing. It’s talking about the things he got wrong and how much remorse he feels for his behaviour, and also how much forgiveness he wants and needs. And it’s just a dark and heart-breaking piece… Because what’s there, it achieves everything that I love about art – it actually makes you feel something, and I felt myself being affected by it.

It’s quite a varied category. Is there anything in terms of style or any other way, that you’d like to see more or less of?

I think more revealing written pieces. That connections piece I just spoke about, the canvas, was amazing because I feel I know a lot about his inner workings, and I’ve never met him. And that would be really interesting, because these are people who’ve had experiences a million miles away from my own. Probably some a lot closer to my own than I would realise, and it would be lovely to be able to see a little bit of their stories in the pieces, so I know a little bit more about the artists.

Relating back to the work you’ve done in prisons and your documentaries, have you experienced any arts or education in the places you’ve worked?

Unfortunately, the time I spent behind bars as a guard and as an inmate, for my documentaries, was in the States, not in the UK. So no, I’ve not experienced it before, so to see some of these programmes which are clearly providing amazing equipment and I imagine an incredible respite and probably a more rehabilitative environment, I think it’s incredible.