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Hackney ‘Home’ boys told: ‘Stop talking about cars – rap about life instead’

PUBLISHED: 08:48 22 February 2016 | UPDATED: 14:12 22 February 2016

The Hackney Gazette photo

The Hackney Gazette photo

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A 1962 Gazette article has provided the unlikely inspiration for a group of teenage boys in a songwriting project.

The old copy of The Gazette The old copy of The Gazette

A 1962 Gazette article has provided the unlikely inspiration for a group of teenage boys in a songwriting project.

The youngsters, working with music charity Rising Tide, were set the task of “getting real” and writing about their own lives rather than women and fast cars.

Through researching the Hackney Archives in the CLR James Library, 16 pupils aged 13 to 15 read about young people who wrote to prime minister Harold Macmillan, urging him to make racial hatred a criminal offence.

They learnt how 400 young people from Hackney youth clubs then marched silently to deliver the petition to Downing Street.

Jalen photographed by Agenda Jalen photographed by Agenda

This prompted a discussion about the problems the boys face in own daily lives like drugs, gangs, immigration, bullying, racism and violence.

They then wrote their own letter to David Cameron.

With the help of music tutors they used the letters as a basis to write their own lyrics and songs, which will be on display at an exhibition called Home in Hackney Museum from February 25 until April 23.

Rising Tide managing director Paul Ryan said: “Just like the young people back in 1962 they talk about fear, discrimination, crime and violence.

“When they first came in they had the impression rap music was just about guns and violence. All of them rapped and their raps were all about cars and guns and drugs – they were talking about cars they could never drive because they are too young to drive, and women in nightclubs.

“Instead of copying rappers on TV they were forced to look at themselves and their issues and say: ‘That’s not my reality – this is my reality,’

“It took two workshops to get into their heads that you driving a Mercedes is not your reality, but you going to the chicken shop and getting bullied by kids from another area is your reality. It was a bit of a reality check, let’s say.”

The project, funded by Discover Young Hackney (#DYH2016), is a collaboration between Hackney Museum, Rising Tide and local artist ‘I’m Empire’.

He worked with Hackney Museum as a teenager and wanted to help young people in Hackney today in the same way the 2002 project helped him.

There will be a special public performance of the songs at Hackney Museum on March 5 at 3pm.

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