At the beginning of the year I got an email, quite out of the blue, regarding working with a group of adults with learning disabilities. They needed someone fairly urgently and needed a performance of some sort for their launch event at the beginning of February.
I was free- sure! Why not? I had little/limited/no experience working with adult clients with additional needs, but was keen to do something different and extend my experience. So the day after the email arrived I found myself working with Leonard Cheshire Disability as part of the Can Do project alongside People First.
I once wrote a rap within 2 minutes on a job interview which still rings in my head as the weirdest thing I’ve ever done to get a job. Mainly because the rap was trying to introduce a group of young people to the problems with human trafficking (we were encouraged to present the information in a fun and engaging way).
I wrote the rap for this group in 15 minutes or so, around the theme of ‘breaking down the word NORMAL’; they were keen to challenge the use of the word. We started by discussing the lyrics and made sure everyone understood and agreed with the meaning and message. It was quite a deep conversation to start such a fun afternoon of rehearsing a full-on rap song.
The group met every Wednesday and we grew to trust each other and developed a piece of drama which was to be filmed for the launch. This, of course, included the rap which was growing stronger and stronger, it was also brilliant fun.
The group were honest, truthful and refreshing to work with. They let me know if things were a bit slow, if anyone was struggling and also we spoke a lot about what we were enjoying. One person, Racheal (who has given me permission to mention her), was particularly brilliant. She told me how she was really unsure about me in the first week and found the rap really difficult. I was honest right back at her- I, too, was really worried about how to work with the group. We ended up getting on really really well and she even ended up with an important line in the rap. Racheal was passionate about the message in the lyrics and constantly reminded everyone of the importance of what was being said.In our reflection sessions Racheal chose a picture of someone leaping across a large gap and said “that was me leaping forward, becoming more confident over the weeks. At the beginning I wasn’t sure but I took the leap and liked everything.” Another particpant, Sarah chose a photo of a rollercoaster – she said “when the rap started it was difficult at first but then got easier so it was up and down but I really started to enjoy it. We can do anything, new experiences, learning new things”. Of course, the whole group were brilliant and our reflection session was really touching as they all said such lovely things about our time together.
It felt different to a lot of my work with young people, what we were doing felt important. It felt like something really special and the work that went into it was something incredible both from participants and artists/organisers.
Fast forward to this week, our rap/film was shortlisted for a Lord Mayor’s prize and I wrote ANOTHER rap for a school booking I had. I think it’s time to buy a baseball cap and gold chains and get into the rap game full time.
More information can be found here.
And you can find the finished product (produced by David Andrews) here! Scroll down the page to find the video.