I stumbled across the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company a few years ago when I was a London tour guide showing around a large group of high school age Italian students. I took this group of teenagers to the Tate Modern. I remember pointing them in the direction of the entrance and then walking over to the riverside to have a few minutes rest bite. There was a pop up stage outside the gallery and I remember these two young guys with North London accents talking passionately and knowledgably about Shakespeare and engaging this growing audience of passersby. I remember there being a buzz in the air, it was the first time I had personally been entertained by the content of anything to do with Shakespeare. To me, Shakespeare was something forced upon me at school, which I met with fierce resistance. These two young men were linking it to hip hop and making comparisons to music I liked. I remember one of them quoting a lyric from Wu-Tang, who I had just been to see at the Hammersmith Apollo.
A year or so later I was doing my usual thing of watching random ted talks, some interesting, some inspiring, some humorous. But only one was really memorable to me. And that was the one by Akala, the co-founder of the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company. One of the reasons being is that I was able to link it with this experience I had on Southbank. Akala spoke eloquently and passionately about his project, I remember recommending it to friends, sharing it on facebook and later posting it on this blog. This led me to look into other aspects of his career, his music and his ideas and gained knowledge and wisdom that he is able to articulate so well.
This year I was made the lead at my school for our Shakespeare for schools collaboration. As a result of this I thought, brilliant! I’m going to try and get the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company to come and work with the kids. I wasn’t even sure if they worked with primary school kids but I did my best to get in contact with them. I got it confirmed and have been really excited about it ever since. On Thursday morning I was waiting for someone from the group to turn up and teach the kids, when I looked up from my desk and saw Akala stood outside my door. I was completely shocked; I really was not expecting Akala to be the one to turn up.
It was an amazing experience for the children in year 5. I have been the class teacher of both classes that Akala worked with; they haven’t stopped talking about it since. They already had an interest in Shakespeare, but this experience has heightened that to a new level. The children discussed metaphors within Shakespeare’s words, performed sonnets to a beat and wrote their own poetry.
I whole heartedly recommend it to any educator out there who wants to provide an opportunity to inspire young people.
Follow this link to their website.