Last spring in Bandon, Ireland, a team of local youths came together to produce their very own rap tracks in a workshop put on by the local Garda — Ireland's police force.
The seven-hour workshop was attended by eight young people, all members of the Bandon Youth Project, which is an initiative providing mentorship and diversion to at-risk kids in the community. They got a chance to work closely with Garry McCarthy (GMC Beats), a veteran Irish producer who helped them write lyrics, choose backing tracks and record their raps.
"A lot of the songs were about them having their voice heard," says Community Garda Damian White, one of the key organizers of the workshop. "They spoke about issues in their own lives, and it was great to see them be able to channel their feelings into the music. I think the workshop helped them feel like we were listening — that their voices were being heard."
The workshop, which was hosted and sponsored by the local Riverview Shopping Centre, helped connect the youths to the police and the shopping centre — two groups who have had some contentious relationships with their community's younger members. The workshop is just one aspect of the Garda's strategy for youth engagement, which includes everything from pool tournaments to family festivals.
"We're looking to get young people from the Project involved in our community," says White. "We're working with them rather than ending up at their door. The more of these initiatives we have, the more we build a community spirit."
Both the shopping centre and the participants were delighted with the outcome, noted White. And while the workshop's over, the teens kept their songs, which they had a chance to perform for the entire town at the Bandon Summerfest.
"Rapping lets people tell the world who they are," says McCarthy. "It's another form of expression. I always tell people to embrace their own culture, embrace their own accent, their own slang words, and for them to be themselves."