Rap gets down on the farm

8th May 2009 at 01:00
It's all happening on an eight-week pilot project exploring respect and fairness

When 13-year-old Finlay writes, he draws his inspiration from the landscape near his Aberdeenshire farm.

So when rapper MC aka Millennium arrived at Mintlaw Academy to give workshops on rapping and hip-hop, it meant a new direction for Finlay. "I've written poems, but no raps," he explains, mike in one hand, his face half-shadowed by his baseball cap. "I live on a farm, so I like to write stuff about farms and wildlife. It's got cattle, sheep, chickens and stuff," says the second-year pupil, at the dress rehearsal for his debut rap performance.

It is a similar story for classmate Shannon Greig who is more familiar with line dancing than hip-hop. "It was OK, it was a bit hard to pick up, but it came on all right," says the blonde 14-year-old, one of the dancers at the school's celebration of diversity, for an audience of parents and guests.

For eight weeks, 80 second-year pupils at this school in the countryside near Fraserburgh have been involved in a pilot project exploring respect and fairness. Finlay summed it up eloquently: "There's a lot of different people in the world; we need to get on together."

Headteachers in Aberdeenshire are keen for children throughout the north- east to get this message. Last year, the charity running this event had requests from 72 primary and secondary schools in the area for projects promoting cultural awareness. It can fulfil only a few.

Multi-ethnic Aberdeen Limited promotes cultural diversity and tolerance and organised this project with funding from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Scottish Government. It is hoped further funding will allow similar ventures in more schools.

Figures on racist incidents in Scotland in 2007-08 revealed that 46 per cent of perpetrators were aged 20 or under and around 23 per cent were 16 or under. "This is not just focused on racism, it's all the other equality mandates as well that we are looking to bring in," says Daniel Christian, project co-ordinator with MeAL. "The real message of this workshop is respect and fairness, treating your neighbour individually with respect. We're looking at all equality mandates which is lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender; then you have disability, age, gender, race, religion and faith," Mr Christian says in the hall in Mintlaw Academy where second- years are rehearsing.

Students consider some of these topics within the curriculum, but Shannon says workshops are more in-depth.

The first four workshops explored pupils' understanding of the equality mandates through question-and-answer sessions with a panel of experts. From the fifth week, they began working on rap and hip-hop routines, using dance and song-writing to express what they'd learnt.

Carolyn Maniukiewicz, director of Ideas in Partnership, ran some of the sessions. She thinks this is important in a rural area, where perhaps they are not used to having such a cosmopolitan mix of people. "And probably particularly in a traditional farming-fishing background, these issues may be subdued," she says. "I am looking forward to the parents coming tonight, as I think without them, the two things wouldn't work.

"Obviously the pupils have got to get the message that they should be respectful across, but they've also got to get it through their families. One without the other doesn't work."

Mintlaw Academy's depute headteacher, Gareth Oldham, says the project fits A Curriculum for Excellence. "It's delivering the four capacities - because our young people are becoming effective contributors and taking responsibility for something and becoming responsible citizens," he said.

"They are investigating and learning about issues surrounding possible discrimination and attitudes to people who are different from themselves. They are learning successfully as well and, because of this, they are much more responsible citizens.

"One thing that's been very good is to challenge pupils' understanding of people with different sexualities from their own and also to challenge discrimination on the grounds of sexuality, which is something that needs to be taken forward."

Ms Maniukiewicz says pupils responded well to the opportunity to express their views and discuss the issues: "On the first day, they would not even mention the word sexuality; now they're discussing it and it's a word they can use."


Finlay's rap

It's happenin again

when you call me that name

and its drivin me insane

and im takin the pain

can you treat me the same

there aint no gain

I don't care if you've got something to say

Cuz I'm a believer in the d.d.a

If I can't walk, can't talk

Don't look at me that way

I have got a name so don't complain

Just call me that name

Don't give me neglect

All I want is respect

Not to be discriminated.

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