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Superstar Leona Lewis made a surprise appearance at a Homerton arts centre, as part of a documentary exploring how life in the inner city can affect opportunities for young people – for better and worse.

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The BBC Three show - Plan B, Leona and Labrinth: Back to Skool – sees the singers work on a special musical performance with 10 teenagers from Plan B’s old school, a Pupil Referral Unit in Newham.

But Leona and Labrinth also return to their old schools in Hackney, and last week local girl band the Psychedelic Mermaids were over the moon when she turned up unannounced in Chat’s Palace where she used to take dance lessons.

Believing they were being filmed for a project about music and the Olympics, the Mossbourne academy pupils performed two songs without realising the X-Factor talent show winner was listening.

Star-struck and delighted, the girls talked to Leona about her time at Chats in Brooksby’s Walk.

The singers hope to be able to portray themselves as successful role models, and the programme is tied into the Academy and another dimension to the BBC’s outreach work in Hackney.

“I was lucky I feel my upbringing here was really positive and I feel a lot of people in this area don’t get that kind of attention,” said Leona at the launch of Radio 1’s Academy in the Picturehouse.

“I got to go to school and to do classes outside school which helped me with music, and that had a really positive effect on me and I wanted to impart a bit of my knowledge and hopefully inspire some people.

“The thing that’s important is it’s not about becoming famous, obviously a lot of people want to be artists but there’s so much more to music than that, like making videos or marketing, there’s so much that goes on around music.

But you can only do as much as you can do, there’s a certain point where you go out into the world on your own and hopefully it will have made a positive effect. You can’t physically make people do things, they have to want to do it themselves,” she added.

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