Bath flanker Miles Reid is close to an England call up and after being inspired by his activist aunt he says… ‘I want to be a voice for change’
- Bath flanker Miles Reid wants to make an impact on and off the rugby pitch
- The 22-year-old has been earmarked as a future captain of his hometown side
- Reid has a fascinating heritage, while his activist aunt is an inspiration
- He admires Lewis Hamilton and wants to give a voice to the voiceless
- The youngster is hoping to get an England call up for upcoming games
Miles Reid is used to turning heads — and not just as a physical flanker hoping to make his England debut.
‘Sometimes I walk around Bath and I’m not sure if people notice me because I play rugby or I’ve been the bloke walking round with ginger curly hair for 20-odd years,’ Bath’s 22-year-old laughs.
‘I’ve got such a weird mix of everything. People wouldn’t really think I’m mixed race if they looked at me in the first instance, with my ginger hair and freckles! It definitely gets you noticed.’
Bath flanker Miles Reid has aspirations to make an impact both on and off the rugby pitch
The way he looks is a happy result of his fascinating heritage, which takes a little explaining.
Reid’s rusty curls and fair skin, handed down by mother Emma, who was a fashion designer for Stussy, do not immediately reveal him to be descended from Windrush generation grandparents.
They left Jamaica for Britain as their young daughter — now Reid’s middle-aged aunt Jen — needed medication not available at home. As a black family from the Caribbean, they found racial discrimination here.
‘They tried to buy a house in Larkhall in Bath 60 years ago but the whole street chipped in to buy the one they wanted so they couldn’t have it,’ Reid explains. ‘It’s pretty ridiculous considering it wasn’t even that long ago. They did settle here. My grandfather was a groundskeeper for the council in Royal Victoria Park.’
The 22-year-old is highly regarded at Bath and there are hopes he will be the club’s captain
Reid is mixed race and has a fascinating heritage which has given him an understanding of what ethnic minorities have been through
That was a history Reid’s father Mark, once a wing-cum-flanker on the fringes of the great 1990s Bath side, wanted him to engage with so he could be proud of his genetic jigsaw.
‘We don’t live in a hugely multi-cultural area here, so he was very keen for me and my sister to understand what he and his parents went through,’ Reid says.
‘I haven’t had any bad experiences myself but there have been comments about Dad — people saying, “You don’t look mixed-race”, or “Is that actually your Dad?” When I was younger it took me a while to process how I fit in.’
That process of discovery has been accelerated this past year, especially since Aunt Jen became an accidental activist.
‘She’s got a really cool story,’ says Reid. ‘In Bristol during the Black Lives Matter march last year, when the Edward Colston statue was torn down, she climbed on top of the plinth and stood on it with her fist raised, giving the Black Power salute.
Reid’s Aunt Jen stood on the plinth of the Edward Colston statue to send a strong message during the Black Lives Matter protests
‘At the time I saw the picture everywhere and thought nothing would come of it. Then an artist asked if they could make a statue of her. When it went up on Colston’s old plinth last July, Dad texted me saying, “Have you seen this?” I was like, “What the hell!? What’s going on here?” The statue was 3D-printed so looks identical to her, which was surreal for us and her.’
Sculpted in black resin by artist Marc Quinn and entitled ‘A Surge of Power’, the statue was erected one morning and showed Jen in place of the former slave owner.
While the installation was swiftly removed it had a profound effect on Reid and his sister Sienna, who is a model who recently worked with Anthony Joshua.
‘The message it conveyed was really strong for my family,’ explains Reid. ‘The whole Black Lives Matter movement is important to me. The awareness it has caused is the biggest thing. People aren’t always aware of what they say or do, the unconscious biases white people have over black people. My mum’s side of the family is more privileged than my dad’s so being of mixed heritage you see it from both sides. Sparking that conversation is really important.’
Reid says he wants to provide a voice for the voiceless and will use his platform as a rugby star
Inspired by his aunt, Reid has found it ‘special’ taking a knee before Premiership matches, and now wants to go further, using his voice to push for change in his sport and society. ‘Conversations are still happening and they should,’ he adds. ‘We see how huge racism in football is, online where people make comments to get a reaction. It’s crazy.
‘You’ve seen it from F1, Lewis Hamilton getting a lot of backlash. It’s important to use your voice when you’re on a platform.
‘Some people don’t have a voice, so if you do you should take advantage of that and push through what you believe in to make the world a better place.
‘People say politics shouldn’t be brought into sport. I disagree.’
Reid has been encouraged by conversations around race with his friends and Bath team-mates.
The 22-year-old says politics should be brought into sport and admires Lewis Hamilton
Reid wants to show, like Beno Obano, that rugby is not for people from privileged backgrounds
He was in awe of club prop Beno Obano, who produced a documentary for Amazon Prime celebrating growing diversity in rugby, called Everybody’s Game. Reid is heartened by the progress his sport is making but knows more can be done.
‘When I was growing up I thought I needed to go to a private school like Millfield to get where I wanted to go,’ he says. ‘It’s changed so much now with state schools and what they offer. I went to Beechen Cliff School and their offering was unbelievable — probably better than some private schools.
‘Beno did that documentary on inclusion and how people in inner cities often aren’t engaged with rugby — that was so cool. People I went to school with, or those around you, can see their view of things has changed.
‘It’s still talking about it and transitioning away from the posh-boy, private school game. I know that’s being tapped into by the Premiership, and guys like Ugo Monye and Beno. The game should keep on pushing.’
Since 13, Reid has been pushing himself at Bath — eager to emulate and surpass his father’s success at the Rec, where he is seen as a future club captain.
Reid is on the cusp of an England call up and is dreaming of representing his country
Coming through Avon RFC, where his grandad Bruce played, then into Bath and their first team, the step up he has missed is with England. That will change this summer if he is included in Eddie Jones’ senior summer squad for Tests against USA and Canada.
‘England is a big dream that has always evaded me,’ Reid explains. ‘For the Under 16s I didn’t make it, Under 18s I injured my knee and was out for 16 months, and Under 20s I didn’t make it either.
‘I have never pulled on the shirt or represented England and it’s something I’m eager to achieve.’
Reid’s club will not achieve anything special this year but he hopes that is all to come.
‘I have an idea of bringing back the glory days of the amateur era at Bath, and what that gave to me,’ he says. ‘That motivated me to want to be a rugby player. How can I create that inspiration for the next generation in this city?
‘That’s why I care about this club, city and the fans, kids wanting to get to this stage and be inspired by it.’
No doubt Reid will inspire many himself. There are plenty more heads to turn.
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