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 because I’ve been the guy with red curly hair for 20 years,’ laughs the 22-year-old from Bath.
“I have such a weird mix of everything. People wouldn’t really think I’m a mixed race if they looked at me at first, with my red hair and freckles! You will certainly notice.’
Bath flanker Miles Reid has ambitions to make an impact both on and off the rugby pitch
The way he looks is a happy result of his fascinating heritage, which requires some explanation.
Reid’s rusty curls and fair skin, handed down by mother Emma, who was a fashion designer for Stussy, doesn’t immediately betray that he is descended from the Windrush generation’s grandparents.
They left Jamaica for Britain because their young daughter—now Reid’s middle-aged Aunt Jen—needs medicines that were 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 joined in to buy the house they wanted so they couldn’t get it,” explains Reid. “It’s pretty ridiculous when you consider that it wasn’t even that long ago. They have settled here. My grandfather was a gardener for the council in Royal Victoria Park.’
The 22-year-old is highly regarded at Bath and there are hopes he will become the club’s captain
Reid is a mixed race and has a fascinating heritage that has given him insight into what ethnic minorities have been through
That was a history. Reid’s dad Mark, once a wing-cum-flanker on the fringe of the great Bath side of the 1990s, wanted him to hang out with him so he could be proud of his genetic puzzle.
“We don’t live in a huge multicultural area here, so he really wanted 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 up,’ or ‘Is that really your father?’ When I was younger, it took me a while to realize how I belonged.’
That discovery process has accelerated in the past year, especially since Aunt Jen became an accidental activist.
“She has a really cool story,” Reid says. “In Bristol at the Black Lives Matter march last year, when the statue of Edward Colston was torn down, she climbed on top of the plinth and stood on it with a raised fist to give the Black Power salute.
Reid’s Aunt Jen stood on the pedestal of Edward Colston’s statue to send a strong message during the Black Lives Matter protests
‘I saw the photo everywhere at the time and thought nothing would come of it. Then an artist asked if they could make a statue of her. When it was on Colston’s old pedestal last July, my dad texted me, “Did you see this?” I was like, “What the hell!? What’s going on here?” The image was 3D printed so it looks identical to her, which was surreal for us and her.”
Sculpted in black resin by artist Marc Quinn and titled ‘A Surge of Power’, the statue was erected one morning showing 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, a model who recently worked with Anthony Joshua.
“The message it conveyed was very strong for my family,” explains Reid. “The whole Black Lives Matter movement is important to me. The consciousness that caused it is the most important. People are not always aware of what they are saying or doing, the unconscious biases whites have about black people. My mother’s side of the family is more privileged than my father’s, so with a mixed heritage you can see it from both sides. Stimulating that conversation is very important.’
Reid says he wants to give a voice to the voiceless and use his platform as a rugby star
Inspired by his aunt, Reid thought it was “special” to get down on his knees before Premiership games, and now wants to go further and use his voice to push for change in his sport and society. “Talks are still ongoing and they should be,” he adds. “We see how great racism is in football, online where people are making comments to get a response. It’s crazy.
“You’ve seen Lewis Hamilton get a lot of criticism from F1. It is important to use your voice when you are on a platform.
“Some people don’t have a voice, so if you have one, you need to take advantage of it and follow through on what you believe in to make the world a better place.
“People say that politics should not be brought into sport. I do not agree with it.’
Reid has been encouraged by conversations about racing with his friends and Bath teammates.
22-year-old says politics should be brought into sport and admires Lewis Hamilton
Reid, like Beno Obano, wants to show that rugby is not for people from a privileged background
He was impressed by club prop Beno Obano, who made a documentary for Amazon Prime to celebrate the growing diversity in rugby called Everybody’s Game. Reid is encouraged by the progress his sport is making, but knows more can be done.
“Growing up, I thought I had 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 offerings were incredible – probably better than some private schools.
“Beno made that documentary about inclusion and how people in inner cities are often not involved in rugby — that was so cool. People I went to school with, or people around you, see that their view of things has changed.
“It’s still talking about it and moving away from the posh, private school game. I know that’s being used by the Premiership and guys like Ugo Monye and Beno. The game has to keep pushing.”
Reid has been at Bath for 13 years – eager to match and surpass his father’s success at the Rec, where he is seen as a future club captain.
Reid is on the brink of an appeal in England and dreams of representing his country
Via Avon RFC, where his grandfather Bruce played, and then Bath and their first team, the step he missed is with England. That will change this summer when he joins Eddie Jones’ senior summer squad for Tests against the US and Canada.
“England is a big dream that has always eluded me,” explains Reid. “I didn’t make it in the under-16s, I injured my knee in the under-18s and was out for 16 months, and I didn’t make it in the under-20s either.
“I’ve never put on the shirt or represented England and that’s something I’d like to achieve.”
Reid’s club will not achieve anything special this year, but he hopes that all will come.
“I have an idea to bring back the glory days of the amateur era in Bath, and what that has brought me,” he says. ‘That motivated me to want to become 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 who want to reach this stage and be inspired by it.”
No doubt Reid will inspire many himself. There are many more heads to turn.