Little Simz takes questions from the audience of young people at Lift [resized image]

Islington-born superstar Little Simz opens White Lion Music Studio at Lift youth hub

Islington-born rapper, singer and actress Little Simz made a special visit to the youth hub of her childhood this week, hailing the opening of a new recording studio that will help nurture the next generation of Islington’s creative talents.

Simbi Ajikawo, who goes by the stage name Little Simz, joined more than 100 young people to celebrate the opening of the new studio at Lift youth hub on Wednesday evening (April 24).

Simbi, who has won a Mercury Prize and Brit Award for her music and starred in the Netflix drama Top Boy, took a front-row seat to enjoy an electrifying set of original music, dance and poetry performances from some of Lift’s current talents, and answered questions from an enchanted crowd before cutting the ribbon on the £45,000 recording studio.

The sound-proofed, air-conditioned studio boasts the latest equipment and will allow young people to explore and hone their talents through songwriting, music production, podcasting and much more – all for free.

Simbi, who grew up nearby in Essex Road, attended Highbury Fields School and will play to huge crowds at Glastonbury Festival this summer, told the audience: “This is really, really special for me. Lift, back when it was White Lion, was definitely the foundation for me in how I began my journey. It was really a place where I felt safe. It was a place where I was reminded that I can dream, that breathed community, that breathed life into young people.

“I couldn’t wait to get out of school and come here and create magic, and be amongst amazing young people who were trying to do that and better their lives and chase dreams. It’s crazy what you’ve done with the place, it’s so amazing. It’s such a dream to be here, I’m super, super-honoured. It’s an amazing, beautiful space.”

Simbi spoke frankly to the young people about her experiences growing up, finding a path to success and harnessing artistic talent – and said of Lift and the new studio: “I started in this environment and it’s propelled me to where I am today, so my wish and my hope is that you use it. Don’t just let it sit there, get in there, get as many hours as you can, and enjoy it – it’s there for you to experiment and try new things.”

Music producer Tyrese, 20, who performs as Eskvy, has been attending Lift for seven years and will teach young people how to use the studio. He gave Simbi a quick tour of the facility, and said: “I think it will be great – young people from all around the area will come here with musical ambitions and we’ll help them to create and develop their skills.

“It’s easy to access, free and open to everyone. This studio can be used to create music, record new tracks, play a new instrument, learn how to mix and master. This will be a great place for young musicians to create and develop their skills in music production. Whether they’re at the very beginning or an expert, this studio will be the place for everyone.”

Curtis Ashton, the council’s Director of Young Islington, said: “We work hard every day to ensure young people in Islington have the best start in life, are rooted in a community where they feel safe, can thrive and can lead change. We’ve seen all of that and more here at Lift – young people were central to the design and fit-out of the studio, and organised this amazing launch event.

“To have a purpose-built, state-of-the-art music studio at Lift is amazing; I’m sure it will help young people to harness their creativity and transform their ideas and passion into rewarding – maybe even life-changing – experiences. There will be further announcements about exciting new facilities from Lift in due course.”

Judith Samuel, senior youth manager at Lift, said: “Lift has been transformed over the last decade and we still have more plans for the coming year to support the next generation of young people with state-of-the-art facilities. It was a pleasure having Little Simz opening the new White Lion Studio. Her wise words to young people during the Q&A were inspirational. I am very proud of all the young people that were involved, from the beginning to the end, in the build and design of the new studio.”


Notes to editor

The new recording studio was funded by a £35,000 investment from Islington Council and a further £10,000 from Isledon Arts. It can be booked free of charge by Islington’s young people.

Lift is a youth hub in Angel owned by Islington Council and managed by Isledon Arts. Built in 1874 as a school, it has operated as a dedicated youth hub since 1993.

Lift enables young people aged 13-21 to take part in healthy activities from dancing and cooking to gym and exercise classes, as well as taking advantage of the new recording studio. It is open five days per week. For more information, see

Simbi Ajikawo, stage name Little Simz, has won many awards including a Mercury Prize (2022 Album Of The Year) and Brit Award (Best New Act, 2021). Little Simz, who this year will be playing on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury, was a Lift regular who took part in music and dance activities in her younger days.

Isledon Arts is commissioned by Islington Council to manage Lift youth hub, as well as Summerversity, the borough’s holiday programme for young people. They also manage emotional wellbeing and social prescribing services in partnership with the council and the NHS.

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