Stories of Men

Celebrated filmmaker talks about growing up black in Scotland

Celebrated Filmmaker Talks about Growing up Black in Scotland

 “I’m not the type of person who judges people by their skin colour. So for someone to judge me by mine was just quite patronising, and, quite honestly, soul-destroying at the same time. And I wanted to never experience that feeling again.”

Celebrated Filmmaker Talks about Growing up Black in Scotland

In this week’s episode of Our Voices, we hear a story of isolation and betrayal. We also learn how Stewart has taken motivation from experiencing racism at work and at home to try to create a better world for his children.

Black and Scottish

Stewart is a black, Bafta-nominated director, who recently directed the film “Black and Scottish”. The film is very personal to his own experiences as he moved to Scotland at the age of two after being born in Kenya. In the film, he focuses on the experience of growing up black in Scotland.

Growing up black in Scotland

Stewart grew up in a suburb of Glasgow, which he compares to a popular British soap opera in the 1980s and ‘90s called “Brookside”. One of the similarities between Brookside and Stewart’s area of Glasgow is that there were very few black people present. Despite this, Stewart says that, while growing up black in Scotland, he “was just a young happy kid”. With no initial sense of being different to anyone else in the neighbourhood.

A changing atmosphere

Something changed as Stewart got older, however. At the age of eight, Stewart went to Port Glasgow to spend time with his cousins. “I didn’t like it because that was a time when I felt different. I knew I was black a lot more in Port Glasgow.” In spite of his misgivings, Stewart was able to find enjoyment in his new surroundings. He made friends with some of the white kids there and bonded with them over a shared enjoyment of sport.

Being the butt of racist jokes

Growing up black in Scotland was about to become much more of a challenge. Although Stewart thought he was fitting in, he realised that this was not the case when a new group of kids came over to join him and his friends one day. Stewart knew immediately that they were looking for confrontation. 

They began by asking if they could join in the game and then they proceeded to become abusive making racist jokes and slurs which were directed at Stewart. The new group of boys then started laughing at each other’s ignorant comments. Stewart looked to his friends, hoping, praying that they would support him. Instead, their reaction was to join in the laughter. “I look around, and my so-called friends are laughing along with them. So the whole group of boys, let’s say 10, kids are all laughing at me.”

The feeling of betrayal

One can only imagine the humiliation a young boy would feel under those circumstances. But Stewart also felt another palpable emotion: “I was really angry at the time, really angry. Not even at the kids that said it, more so at the friends that I thought I had, because they betrayed me.” Stewart left the group and walked back up the hill to his cousin’s house.

The impact of this experience stayed with him and made him wonder whether he was going to be subjected to this treatment for the rest of his life simply as a result of growing up black in Scotland.

Further experiences of racism and racist jokes

Stewart had to deal with similar experiences at primary school, where he was also insulted and verbally abused. He describes finding it difficult to navigate his place in the world due to his contrasting cultural environments. “You’re 11 years old, you have this accent, but as soon as you leave the house, you’re in Scotland… I had an African upbringing in the UK… That was two different worlds.” 

A different world

Everything would change, however, when Stewart found himself back in Kenya for his secondary schooling. He had got a place in a fancy boarding school in the capital city. The idea of leaving Scotland terrified him at first. When he got to Kenya, he saw for himself how different life was compared to everything he had become used to. 


He describes his feelings upon arriving in his dormitory in Nairobi and seeing that his whole world had changed: “I remember just laying on the bed just crying my heart out. And just, oh my god, where the hell am I?” He was quickly comforted by another child who would go on to become a good friend of Stewart’s. He would also be Stewart’s roommate for the next three years

An environment of inclusivity

In spite of Stewart’s initial reservations, he went on to fall in love with his new environment. All of the teachers were white but the students came from all sorts of racial backgrounds. Stewart says that the school was like “a family” and that there wasn’t “one bit of racism from any white person.” This was quite a different experience to the one Stewart had had growing up black in Scotland.

Returning to Scotland

It was upon Stewart’s return to Scotland that he would experience racism again. This time he would experience racism at work. Stewart had started to make serious progress in his career as a digital designer.

He bagged the role of the lead designer in a new team. Most of the team were welcoming; however, there were a few members who seemed anything but. They were big, burly men who were looking at him with an expression which said “we don’t know who you are and what are you doing here?”.

Racism at work

As time went on, the relationship between Stewart and these men got worse. They would dismiss his instructions and sometimes purposefully do the opposite to what he had asked. On one particular occasion, Stewart found himself in an extremely embarrassing situation when a file he had prepared for a meeting with a client inexplicably disappeared. 

Celebrated filmmaker talks about growing up black in Scotland

He came to the meeting sweating and had to admit to his superior that the file was lost. The meeting had to be cancelled and Stewart’s reputation was damaged. Stewart describes how the men were grinning and flashing him looks once what had happened became known throughout the office. “I know that it was them that got rid of the files… As a boss, you’re just trying to deliver, you want to  impress, but you can’t, because some people in your team don’t want to listen to you.”

Stewart has had to deal with countless experiences of this sort of “covert racism” where people make remarks just out of earshot and show antagonism in more subtle ways. But each time he experiences this racism at work, it reminds him of how he felt as an eight-year-old child. 

Finding an outlet

However, Stewart has taken a stand against racism at work and racism in Scotland more generally through his creativity. By making films such as “Black and Scottish” Stewart has been able to tell a positive and open story about growing up black in Scotland. This is already having a positive impact even within his own family.

Describing his daughter, Niamh, he says “She wants her hair out in an afro. She’s like: Daddy, I’m really proud to be black and Scottish.” 

Picture Shows: Film-maker Stewart Kyasimire and daughter Yasmin Stewart Kyasimire, Yasmin Kyasimire.

This isn’t something that his eldest daughter has said, so he’s glad to see that his recent work is helping to change the experience of what it is like growing up black in Scotland. 

His ambition is “to be a role model for young people out there just to let them know that you can actually achieve your goals through hard work and just never stop, and let your experiences in life guide you.”

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Laura is the mix engineer for the Stories of Men podcast. She has a BA in Music from Nottingham University and an Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering from Abbey Road Institute. Alongside working for Our Voices she is a freelance sound designer and technician. Her highlights include sound design for JK Rowling audiobook ‘The Christmas Pig’, and sound effects editing on The Outlaws, on the BBC.

For the Stories of Men podcast, Laura is typically provided with a Voice Over and interview. She then cleans the dialogue, integrates the podcast intro and outros, chooses the music that will add to the storytelling and pacing of the episode, then bring all the elements together in the mix, followed by mastering and then delivering the final edit.

Experience in Industry: 3


Favourite Food: Potatoes

Favourite Sport: Wild swimming

Favourite Show: Anything Marvel

Favourite Movie: Anything Marvel

Favourite City: London

Hobby: Music

Favourite Book: Northern Lights


I’m the community manager at Stories of Men. I spend most of my time focusing on the implementation of our marketing strategy, achieving goals and KPIs, and the rest of the time listening to the amazing stories of our guests. What I love most about working for Stories of men is the impact it has on peoples’ lives. It requires a lot of courage to tell your story out loud so I make sure these stories are heard by as many people as possible.

I was born and raised in Pakistan and I’ve been living in Hungary for over two years now. I have a Master’s degree in Marketing and I live for mastering the art of digital marketing.

Industry experience: 3 Years


Favourite Food: Biryani – introduced by the Mughal rulers in the Indian subcontinent; this dish is an absolute delight. Also, can never say no to a good burger – extra cheese!

Favourite Sport: Cricket – I grew up playing and watching cricket with friends and family.

Favourite Show: Stranger Things – I love how an odd group of friends fight against challenges bigger than themselves.

Favourite Movie: Harry Potter – The only movie I can watch over and over again!

Favourite City: Prague – Absolutely love the Baroque and Gothic vibe of this city.

Hobby: Netflix, Travelling, and Eating- I want to try different cuisines from every country once in my lifetime!

Favourite Book: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – A fast-paced thriller that keeps you hooked from the first page to the last.


I run Fascinate Productions, the production company behind the Stories of Men podcast. I’ve had a wide variety of roles in media, from underwater videography, to live televised sporting events around the world. But since listening to my first audiobook in 2016, I’ve been all about audio and jumped in with two feet. Podcasts are enabling the world to democratise its most valuable information. They’re about spreading messages, and sharing ideas, and it’s my mission to help those holding the knowledge, to distribute it far and wide.

When Alex approached us with the idea of making a short stories podcast, with a big social impact, he got our attention. As the producer of the show, I’ve heard his guests’ highest highs, their lowest lows, and the moments of change that made them who they are – it’s been a privilege helping to craft their most intimate experiences into stories for you to enjoy.

 Experience in Industry: 5 years


Favourite Food: Ice cream. It’s just the greatest culinary invention.

Favourite Sport: Rugby. I played from the age of 5 until 26 when a dislocated shoulder put me out of action. Still like to watch now though.

Favourite Show: The 100 – I love those ‘what if humans nearly got wiped out?’ type shows.

Favourite Movie: Gladiator

Favourite City: London. As a country boy from Yorkshire, I never thought I’d enjoy living here.

Hobby: Listening to podcasts while on long walks with my dog Alfie.

Favourite Book: I love to read anything business/startup related… One of the most recent great ones was Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt



Richard Willan is the CEO of Fascinate productions, a podcast production and promotion company. Before starting Fascinate, he worked an audio engineer, mastering tracks for artists on major and independent labels.

He is an executive producer for ‘Stories of Men’ where he assists with production, creative direction of the show, and marketing strategy.  





Favourite Food: I love Indian food – My favourite dish is a Dansak. It’s a rich combination of hot, sweet and sour flavours, made from lamb and lentils.

Favourite Sport: I enjoy watching combat sports like MMA – Isreal Adesanya is my favourite fighter at the moment, due to his Tae Kwon Do base and speed. 

Favourite Show: Succession – an American satirical drama. The character development is incredible, and the writing is top notch. 

Favourite Movie: True Lies. I find it amazing that someone who can’t act (Arni) has so many great films.

Favourite City: London, because it is a melting pot of culture and the music scene is amazing. 

Hobby: Making music, going to gym and eating out. 

Favourite Book:  The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I love the world she created, and the incremental path the characters take into darkness. It’s amazing.


I am responsible for writing blog articles for the Stories of Men podcast. I have the privilege of listening to fascinating stories on the topics and issues regarding men that are of greatest relevance to our society today. Once I’ve done this, I create articles that provide an overview and description of the conversations in order to help spread them to the widest possible audience. My job is to make these articles as engaging as the conversations themselves.

As an English teacher who has worked with students from all over the world for over 10 years, I have got used to successfully communicating with those from different backgrounds and cultures. This has helped me to appreciate the value of connection across borders and boundaries. It has also helped me to appreciate that we are all able to learn from each other’s experiences.



Favourite Food: Chocolate. It’s an indulgence, I know, but it tastes so good. I particularly enjoy dark chocolate for its richness and smoothness. 

Favourite Sport: Football.Unfortunately, my local team (Nottingham Forest) is not in that top league but I hope that one day it will be.

Favourite Show: The Wire. 

Favourite Movie: The Godfather. 

Favourite City: Reykjavik. I had the pleasure of spending two weeks there a number of years ago and I loved the place for its beauty, culture and calmness. It’s rare that you can be in a capital city and experience genuine space and peace and quiet. There’s also a black sand beach to walk along, although, due to the cold, I wouldn’t recommend bathing in the sea!

Hobby: Watching films. I love films, foreign films, classic films, contemporary films, just all good films.

Favourite Book: “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. 

I’m the Editor of Stories of men. I craft compelling narratives from the stories of our fantastic guests, editing their interviews and scripting the episodes. I’m a freelance journalist and audio producer from Northern Ireland, currently based in California. I cover social issues, health and gender – with reporting in The Guardian, Vice, NPR, Cosmopolitan and many others. My focus is shining a light on the communities and initiatives that improve people’s lives. I have a background in the nonprofit space, having worked in communications for a mental health charity, as well as an education start-up. I mentor young female writers and sit on the board of an NGO that empowers women in global supply chains. 

Favourite Food:  In a word, sandwiches. The possibilities are endless.

Favourite Sport: Show jumping. When I was little I wanted to be a professional horse-rider, and I still get a kick out of watching the pros in action.

Favourite Show: Fleabag: the writing and acting create a thrilling kind of intimacy I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Favourite Movie: Victoria is an incredible German thriller that’s all shot in one take – it’s a real trip. Plus it’s beautifully soundtracked by Nils Frahm.

Favourite City: Very hard to choose, but it’s got to be Barcelona. The food, the pace of life, the winding streets – there’s nowhere else like it. 

Hobby: exploring city streets on my bike – preferably while listening (safely!) to a podcast – is when I’m at my happiest. 

Favourite Book: Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is a stunning, utterly unique portrait of womanhood, race, ageing and the principles we choose to live 

I am the host of Stories of Men. I help to find men that have a powerful voice to share and then I speak to them and help to tease the stories out of them that will have a positive impact on the listener. 

While running Swoosh English, an online English school from 2013 – 2021, I had the opportunity to meet men from all walks of life and many of these guys had incredible stories. This inspired me to start ‘Stories of Men’ because I wanted to give these men a platform to share their stories with the world.

I love the detail that people go into and how people craft stories in different ways. My dream and vision for the future would be countless people messaging to tell us how a particular episode has changed their lives!


Favourite Food: Avocados – an incredibly delicious fruit that can be used in so many dishes. My favourite is guacamole with nachos!

Favourite Sport: Boxing and football (couldn’t choose one!)

Favourite Show: 2 comedy series: Alan Partridge and The Office (UK version). I just love English humour!

Favourite Movie: Shawshank Redemption: An unbelievable journey full of twists and turns.

Favourite City:  New York – Living there for a year in 2008 changed my life. It made me believe that anything in life was possible if you want something badly enough.

Hobby: Football, boxing, reading, learning Spanish, travelling and watching fascinating conversations on Youtube.

Favourite Book: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – a book about an incredible journey.