Hackney youngsters give mediaeval poet Chaucer hip-hop-style remix

youngsters from Hackney perform a new take on Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales

youngsters from Hackney perform a new take on Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales - Credit: Archant

A group of talented youngsters helped bring medieval poetry into the 21st century at a special performance in King’s Cross.

Fourteenth-century classic The Canterbury Tales by celebrated poet Geoffrey Chaucer was given a hip-hop-style remix at the British Library in Euston Road, which is home to his original manuscripts.

The young people, aged from 16 to 24, took The Wife of Bath’s Tale, The Prioress’s Tale, The Pardoner’s Tale and The Miller’s Tale, looked at different interpretations of the stories and rewrote them with the voice of today’s youth.


Jasmine Osei, 17, from Rowley Gardens, Manor House, said: “I really enjoy poetry. I love making up my own poems.

“I had heard a tiny bit about Chaucer before but did not know his work in any great detail. His work is crazy – but crazy in a good way. It’s the sort of thing only a crazy or intelligent mind could come up with.”

Brian Saldedo, 17, who lives in Meeston Street, Homerton, was pointed towards the project by a youth worker.

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He said: “My youth worker suggested I do it because he thought I was quite expressive.

“I’ve enjoyed it. I was not aware of The Canterbury Tales before. It wasn’t something that interested me.

“The project has give me more confidence and I feel I can express myself more clearly.”

Spoken-word artists Charlie Dark and performance poet Patience Agbabi help the young people learn performance and presentation skills and give the tales a contemporary twist.

Mr Dark, 43, creative director of Chaucer Fast-Forward, said: “I feel it’s important for young people to be aware of the lyricists, writers and wordsmiths that went before them. If you don’t know the history, then you can’t shape the future.

“We picked Chaucer because Shakespeare has been done to death.

“By placing the world of Chaucer in the mouths of the young and allowing them to remix and reinvent his words, this project aims to encourage the exploration of the new language and the inspiration and confidence it can bring to a young person’s life. I think hip-hop is almost the voice of the youth. It’s the only form of music that allows them to express themselves.”