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Nick Asgill: A Young Man Who Believes in ART for Positive Social Change

"THE bullet came through her headrest, through three sets of walls, through where I was a moment ago and went right out. And at that moment, because we were on the first floor, we decided to go and hide in the basement of the house."

When a 13-year-old Nick Asgill watched his home, which had been in the family for 100 years, burn down during the Sierra-Leone Civil War, a new chapter in his life had forcefully begun.

What was growing up in pre-war Sierra Leone like?

"I remember friendship: a friendship different from the one I experienced when I came here", Nick says. "I remember going out to swim, my mum bringing ice cream every day after work and not studying for exams but being able to pass!"

Growing up, Nick was called his grandmother's 'walking stick' because of the close relationship they had, and it was this bond that brought him to the UK. When war broke out in 1991, Nick's family was shielded from most of it until 1997, when the rebels entered the capital Freetown.

"They fired an RPG and a piece of it came into our living room and landed on the sofa", he says. "And I remember my dad picking up this burning cushion and running to the bathroom and dropping it in the sink. The house didn't burn down but it was just like 'Whoa, wow'."

Two years later they were not so lucky. During a shoot-out, a bullet flew through their house, narrowly missing Nick and his grandmother. A few days later the rebels set a nearby building alight and the blaze spread to their house.

Nick says: "Once the house burnt down there wasn't much else. It was a three-storey house and everything was burned, everything was gone. We spent the next two weeks in the chicken shed where we used to keep chickens and coal."

Salvation came from relatives living in a safer part of Freetown. After their rescue, an aunt in London suggested Nick's grandmother should visit her to get away from the war. Nick followed. Coming to the UK was nothing new as he had previously been on holiday. However, laying down roots was a different matter. Things started well in high school but he became homeless during college after falling out with his aunt.      


What happened next?

"Being on the streets, I did what everybody on the streets does, which is survive", Nick says. "But again, on the flip side of it, just like when I was in the war, I knew there was something else out there."

Nick stayed with friends before moving into a hostel. Eventually, he got together with some friends to rent a place and began developing an interest in media. Throughout this time, his family contact was limited to calls with his grandmother who used to bring him food before her return to Sierra Leone in 2003. With no family connections left, Nick focused on his studies in video direction and came to study at the University of Bedfordshire in 2006.

How was Luton?

"I loved it!", he says. "The students were supposed to arrive in September but I came the first week of August. I got a student loan at the time and I bought an Apple Mac so I could keep practising my editing. And I loved it, I didn't really have any issues with Luton at all."

Nick graduated in 2009 and returned to Sierra Leone in 2011 for the first time since leaving. While over there, his then girlfriend (and now wife) told him she was pregnant. He returned to the UK with a new focus and began working towards building NasHH Media, which he launched with a business partner in 2014.

How has his journey been?

"There are rare moments where I catch myself thinking about everything in perspective and I know one thing for sure: no condition is ever permanent", he says. "Secondly, I have a personal rule I live by, which is always to help people where you can, because if it weren't for the people along the way who have helped and supported you, you probably would not be where you are."

And the future?

"I want to tell stories about the differences in life. We are all different and come from different places but we're also exactly the same. We all wake up having to face one challenge or the other and we all have a dream or a goal."

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