Crime: Retired teacher sings 'spiritual raps'

18th September 2009 at 01:00
Dr Joy Philippou is 81 years old, but that hasn't stopped the retired teacher and former X Factor star rapping to youths in a bid to cut crime

Original paper headline: She used to teach, now she's back in schools, telling kids who like to break the rules, if you want to beat the deprivation trap, sit amp; listen to her spiritual rap

An 81-year-old retired teacher has launched a campaign that sees her singing "spiritual rap" to youths in community centres across south-east London in an attempt to cut crime on local streets.

Dr Joy Philippou, who taught at Annecy Convent and Southover Manor in Sussex until the late Eighties, is working with school pupils and youth offenders using her lyrics as guidance on being a good citizen.

Rapping into the microphone to the backing of African drums, the pensioner preaches good behaviour through her self-written songs. The response, she says, has been positive.

"The teenagers enjoyed it so much that they joined me on stage and started dancing to my rhythm."

This isn't the first time she has received positive reactions for a stage performance. In 2007 she made it to boot camp on hit TV show The X Factor when she wowed judges with her eccentric nose-violin turn.

Now she's taken to schools. Her latest rap, Now That's A Real Man, teaches young males to walk away from trouble: "It ain't no fun to carry a gun. If you come across trouble, just turn and walk away. Have nothing to do with it and nothing to say."

The success of Dr Philippou's work with the community has led to her creating the STAR Foundation, standing for Sociable Trustworthy And Responsible.

This November, the STAR Foundation Awards will honour young offenders aged 18 to 25 who have been drug and weapon-free, avoided antisocial behaviour for a year and have contributed to the community. The event will be held at the House of Lords.

Dr Philippou said: "The STAR Foundation is about creating a pleasurable existence and not ganging up on the streets."

Lord Roberts-Davidson, who has adopted the foundation, is working to establish it as an official charity with the hope that Prince Charles and Princes William and Harry will be involved.

The awards are to be hosted by Lord King of West Bromwich with stars such as singer Patti Boulaye and Roger LaVern, legendary keyboardist of The Tornados, presenting the medals.

The foundation will follow the winners and offer scholarships, cheques, holidays or professional equipment to those who keep a police-free record for three years.

Following on from these awards, the ex-teacher is now working to launch the STAR Foundation within schools across Britain.

"It's a sort of junior version of an MBE," said Dr Philippou. "I am sending letters to schools across the country to implement a system."

The idea is for each school to organise its own rewards and nominate STARs who refrain from antisocial behaviour, bullying or trouble with the police.

"My ambition is to get the ball rolling before I'm off to heaven," she said. "I want the awards to e recognised nationally, much like the Queen's Honours List."

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