Ham&High Podcast: Shazia Mirza on Hampstead lockdown and how Black Lives Matter shook the world

Shazia Mirza performs at a Hornsey and Wood Green Amnesty Group summer music night and party in 201

Shazia Mirza performs at a Hornsey and Wood Green Amnesty Group summer music night and party in 2014. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

This week’s guest on the Ham & High Podcast is Shazia Mirza, a comedian who found fame nearly 20 years ago and has since toured the world with shows including The Kardashians Made Me Do It. Shazia spoke to André Langlois on June 26, as lockdown was easing.

Comedian Shazia Mirza. Picture: Idil Sukan

Comedian Shazia Mirza. Picture: Idil Sukan - Credit: Idil Sukan

This month Shazia Mirza should have been performing a show in Edinburgh but the festival has been cancelled and the comedy clubs are still not able to reopen.

Readers may have spotted her on QI a few weeks back (still available on BBC iPlayer), recorded in front of a 400-strong live audience a week before lockdown. How things have changed.

Online gigs have filled a tiny part of the gap and Shazia has performed from London to LA, without any travelling, obviously.

The Hampstead resident says she kept herself busy throughout, but the village shutting down took some getting used to - and it was emptying shelves in Marks and Spencer that really brought it home to her.

“Where the groceries are - where they have the bananas and the pineapples and all of that - it was empty,” she said. “There were just these green boxes with nothing in them.

“Obviously I had to take photos of them. There’s no food in Hampstead! What are these people going to do?”

Shazia Mirza. Picture: Amelia Troubridge

Shazia Mirza. Picture: Amelia Troubridge - Credit: Archant

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But people showed they are adaptable - even if it took a few false starts for some of us.

“Everyone took up jogging,” she said. “I’ve never seen so many people jogging in my life.

“And it’s obvious these people have never jogging before, because they didn’t know how to jog. I mean they were all over the pavement.

“They were running and walking. They had never jogged. That ended after a couple of weeks.

“Then everybody was cycling. All of a sudden everyone was on a bike going everywhere - couldn’t get a bike on eBay. All bikes were sold out.

“And now everybody is not doing any exercise at all.”

Shazia Mirza. Picture: Amelia Troubridge

Shazia Mirza. Picture: Amelia Troubridge - Credit: Archant

For Shazia regular exercise involves swimming in the Ladies Pond, something she has been doing for about five years.

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Much of her time is spent writing. The show she was due to take to the Edinburgh Festival may take some adapting when it gets back on the road.

“My show Coconut - it was a lot about Brexit. It was a lot about reality TV and Brexit and how I linked reality TV to Brexit and I said that reality TV was partly responsible for Brexit because it was people voting mindlessly, just voting for things they liked or didn’t like, and how that related to Brexit - people just voting unknowingly for things they liked or didn’t like,” she said. “And I related the two in so many ways.

“And then all of a sudden the virus happens and, well, I never heard anybody mention Brexit. I haven’t heard anyone mention Brexit for three months. I thought, Oh my God, this is being forgotten about.

“At the time I wrote a lot about Sajid Javid and a lot of things I disagreed with that he did and now he’s nowhere to be seen either. I know people like Priti Patel, and people like that, have taken over.

“Three months, in a way, is not a long time but because we’ve been locked up it seems like such a long time.”

But though the pandemic is far from over, the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the Black Lives Matter protests brought back to the news agenda issues which for long periods have been overlooked.

Shazia says there was already a lot of tension “boiling” and that “George Floyd’s death really was a vessel for everybody’s anger”.

“Everybody was in their house, everybody was on the internet, everybody was watching TV and we all saw that video,” she said.

“And we saw his face and we saw the policeman’s face.

“And we saw it all and we saw everything close up.”

She says everyone being “in this enclosed space” and seeing it happen for ourselves has meant it has been different, adding: “I think it really affected people like this has never affected people before.”

Follow Shazia Mirza on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/theshaziamirza

For the full audio interview, and others in our podcast series, simply search ‘Ham & High’ on the podcast app on your phone and hit ‘subscribe’ so that it downloads automatically each week. Alternatively, go to https://podfollow.com/hamhigh/.