Bath flanker Miles Reid is close to a call in England and wants to be a voice for change
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 don’t know if people notice me because I play rugby or I’m the guy who walks around with curly red hair for about 20 years,” laughs Bath, 22 years.
“I have such a weird mix of everything. People wouldn’t really think I’m mixed race if they looked at me first, with my red hair and freckles! It really gets you noticed.
Bath flanker Miles Reid longs to make an impact on and off the rugby pitch
Its appearance is the happy result of its fascinating heritage, which requires some explanation.
Reid’s rusty curls and fair skin, passed down from his mother Emma, who was a fashion designer for Stussy, don’t immediately reveal that he is descended from the Windrush generation grandparents.
They left Jamaica for Britain because their young daughter – now Reid’s middle-aged aunt Jen – needed medication not available at home. As a black Caribbean family, they found racial discrimination here.
“They tried to buy a house in Larkhall in Bath 60 years ago, but the whole street contributed to buy the one they wanted so they couldn’t have it,” says Reid. “It’s pretty ridiculous considering it wasn’t that long ago. They settled here. My grandfather was a gardener for the Royal Victoria Park Council.
The 22-year-old is highly regarded at Bath and it is hoped he will be the club’s captain.
Reid is mixed race and has a fascinating heritage that has enabled him to understand what ethnic minorities have gone through.
It was a story that Reid’s dad, Mark, who was once a sideline fin on the big Bath side of the 1990s, wanted him to commit to so he could be proud of his genetic puzzle.
“We don’t live in an extremely multicultural area here, so he was very keen for my sister and I to understand what he and his parents went through,” said Reid.
“I haven’t had bad experiences myself, but there have been comments about daddy – people saying, ‘You don’t look mixed race’ or ‘Is that really your dad? When I was younger it took me a while to figure out how I fit in.
This discovery process accelerated last year, especially since Aunt Jen became an accidental activist.
“She has a really cool story,” says Reid. “In Bristol, on last year’s Black Lives Matter walk, when the statue of Edward Colston was demolished, she climbed onto the plinth and stood there with her fist raised, giving the Black Power salute.
Reid’s Aunt Jen stood on the plinth of Edward Colston statue to send a strong message during the Black Lives Matter protests
“At the time, I saw the photo everywhere and I thought nothing would come out of it. Then an artist asked if they could make a statue of her. When he got on Colston’s old pedestal last July, Dad texted me saying, “Did you see that?” I was like, “What the hell !? What’s going on here?” The statue was 3D printed so she looks like her which was surreal for us and her.
Carved from black resin by artist Marc Quinn and titled “A Surge of Power,” the statue was erected one morning and showed Jen in place of the former slave owner.
Although the installation was quickly removed, it had a profound effect on Reid and his sister Sienna, who is a model who recently worked with Anthony Joshua.
“The message he sent was really strong for my family,” says Reid. “The entire Black Lives Matter movement is important to me. The most important thing is the awareness it has brought about. People are not always aware of what they say or do, the unconscious prejudices of whites on blacks. My mother’s family side is more privileged than my father’s, so being of mixed heritage you see it on both sides. Sparking this conversation is really important.
Reid says he wants to give a voice to the voiceless and will use his platform like a rugby star
Inspired by his aunt, Reid found it “special” to kneel down before Premiership games, and now wants to take it one step further, using his voice to push for change in his sport and society. “Conversations are still happening and they should be,” he adds. “We see how huge the racism is in football, online where people make comments to get a reaction. It’s crazy.
“You’ve seen it since F1, Lewis Hamilton gets a lot of negative feedback. 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 it and put out what you believe in to make the world a better place.
“People say politics shouldn’t be built into sport. I do not agree.’
Reid was encouraged by the conversations around the race with his friends and teammates in Bath.
22-year-old says politics should be built into sport, 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 mainstay Beno Obano, who produced a documentary for Amazon Prime celebrating the growing diversity in rugby, titled Everybody’s Game. Reid is encouraged by the progress of his sport, but knows there is more that can be done.
“When I was young I thought I had to go to a private school like Millfield to get to where I wanted to go,” he says. “It has changed so much now with public schools and what they offer. I went to Beechen Cliff School and their offer was amazing – probably better than some private schools.
“Beno made this documentary about inclusion and how downtown dwellers are often not engaged in rugby – it was so cool. The people I went to school with, or those around you, can see that their outlook has changed.
“He always talks about it and moves away from the chic private school game. I know the Premiership and guys like Ugo Monye and Beno are benefiting. The game should continue to grow.
For 13 years, Reid has been outdoing himself in Bath – eager to emulate and surpass his father’s success at Rec, where he is seen as a future club captain.
Reid is about to be called to England and dreams of representing his country
Going through Avon RFC, where his grandfather Bruce played, and then Bath and their first team, the stage he missed is with England. That will change this summer if he is included in Eddie Jones’ senior summer squad for testing against the United States and Canada.
“England is a big dream that has always eluded me,” says Reid. “For the under 16s I did not succeed, the under 18s I injured my knee and was absent for 16 months, and the under 20s I did not succeed either. .
“I’ve never put on the shirt or represented England and that’s something I can’t wait to achieve.”
Reid’s club won’t achieve anything special this year, but he is hopeful that everything is to come.
“I have the idea of bringing the glory days of the amateur era back to Bath, and what that gave me,” he says. “It motivated me to want to be a rugby player. How can I create this inspiration for the next generation in this city?
“That’s why I care about this club, the city and the fans, the kids who want to come to this stage and be inspired by it.”
There is no doubt that Reid will inspire a lot himself. There are plenty of other heads to turn.