Welcome to a new series where we take a tour of the Island and speak to our vibrant businesses, to find out what attracted them to Sugar House Island, what they love about Stratford and their favourite things to do in the area.

For this edition of Five minutes with… we’ll be speaking to Pamela McCormick, CEO at UD. UD are a music organisation dedicated to bringing communities together around black music and black music culture as well as bridging the gap between emerging artists and the music industry. The organisation moved to the Talent House on the Island in 2022, and ahead of its 25th anniversary, recently announced a creative partnership with Converse, the Soho House Foundation and Sony Music UK.

1.     Please can you introduce UD and give a bit of background about why you came to Sugar House Island?

UD is a London-based music organisation bringing communities together around black music and black music culture. With over 25 years of experience in nurturing and supporting black and culturally diverse artists when they need it most, UD acts as a bridge between burgeoning talent and the music industry.

Those that have come through our doors can now be found working at major brands, music businesses and media companies including Island Records, Nike, Rinse FM, GRM Daily, Beats and SBTV. Artists we’ve showcased at early stages of their career include Wretch32, Little Simz, Ghetts, Andreya Triana, Maverick Sabre, Dyo, Devlin, Labrinth, Skepta and Paigey Cakey.

Since 2000, when UD was co-founded by a group of hip-hop artists, we have understood that young people need the resources and space to create and explore their potential; UD works hard with young people to ensure that black music is recognised, celebrated and supported. 

The location of Sugar House Island and the creative communities that inhabit the area have provided a solid foundation for us to build and develop our programme. The area allows us to connect UD’s community with new audiences, markets, and opportunities by cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment.  

2.     What makes the Island, and Stratford more broadly, an ideal location for your organisation?

Stratford has been the home of UD since its inception in 2000. Over the past 25 years, we have been actively contributing to the local community and have witnessed its evolution into one of London’s most vibrant cultural districts. The 2012 Olympic Games sparked a cultural resurgence, in which UD proudly participated. We fostered local talent and community engagement, and the games improved transport links to central London and expanded entertainment and hospitality options. 

In 2023, the East Bank project was launched to further enrich cultural and educational opportunities in the area. This initiative places UD at the heart of cultural regeneration in the area, opening doors for creative collaboration with the likes of London College of Fashion, BBC Music Studios, Sadler’s Wells East, and the V&A and cementing Stratford’s status as an area of entertainment and inspiration. Vibrant creative communities now thrive in this space, making it an ideal environment to enhance the creative potential of the young people that we support.

3.     What are your top tips for first-time visitors to Stratford? E.g. best places to eat, shop, visit?

There are too many to choose from but…

For theatre, I’d highly recommend the Theatre Royal Stratford East. It’s pushing boundaries in its art form. I also love the Line Art Trail, which is a public art project connecting Queen Elizabeth Park and The O2. Cycling in the Olympic Park and The Green Way is always a pleasure – it’s a great way to discover more of the local area; and, if you’re looking for family friendly activities, look no further than Discover – a wonderful centre for children and their families can enjoy playing, learning and making up stories together.

In terms of food and drink, I’d recommend the distillery tour and tasting sessions at Jim & Tonic; The Dark Horse, which is a fantastic neighbourhood restaurant and bar in the Olympic Park, and The Breakfast Club, a great spot for brunch near Hackney Wick.

4.     How has the opening of East Bank supported the creative vision for Stratford?

The East Bank area has fast become a strong creative community and has attracted a number of heavyweight institutions as residents. It fosters collaboration between the organisations in the area – one of things I’m excited about is UD’s potential to work more closely with both the BBC,  the V&A and Sadler’s Wells. We’ll be partnering to produce bigger live productions on even bigger stages. By working together, we can engage with more of the local community and provide increased opportunities for young people, ensuring that creativity is firmly rooted at the heart of Stratford and what it’s known for. 

5.     Who are your favourite musicians?

I’ve got to start by mentioning the incredible six-time BRIT award winner, RAYE, who has played a pivotal role in UD’s Flames Collective choir over the past year. Sharing the stage with her at Glastonbury, The Royal Albert Hall, The BRITs, and her headline O2 show, Flames has been inspired by her achievements and the trail she’s blazing for independent artists.

Personally, I am a huge fan of SAULT, an R&B/soul collective based in the UK whose members include Inflo, Cleo Sol, Little Simz, Kid Sister, Chronixx, and Michael Kiwanuka. The movement uses its collective voice to address important social issues and really push the boundaries of the UK Black music scene. Similarly, Kendrick Lamar is an amazing talent. 

Given my early career background in jazz, I have to mention my influences in that space – Nina Simone, Ornette Coleman and Gil Scott-Heron. I could go on!