The Elementz

Hip hop sessions for young people living on an estate in Corby
The Elementz perform at Field Day Festival 2016. Photo: Adam Balcomb

The Elementz, led by hip-hop artist Jamzy Bandicoot and youth work programme the Jam Team, was supported by Made in Corby's Big Ideas programme to run 30 weekly hip-hop sessions for young people. Sessions included graffiti art, dj-ing, lyric writing and breakdance and were aimed at the young people that the Jam Team engage on the streets during their detached youth work.

The project

The Elementz aimed to provide relevant arts activities for hard to reach young people and to support local hip-hop artists in leading sessions with young people in Kingswood.

Made in Corby worked with local artist Jamzy Bandicoot and the Jam Team, a youth work programme operated by Groundwork Northamptonshire. They applied to Made in Corby's Big Ideas programme and were chosen by a community panel for support (both financial and practical). The panel were particularly impressed with the combination of expertise in the partnership, the Jam Team’s existing links with hard to reach young people and by Jamzy showing off his rapping skills during their pitch.

Built in the 1960s, the Kingswood estate is an area of high deprivation with limited facilities/activities for young people and a negative reputation for high levels of petty crime and anti-social behaviour. The lead artist on the project was raised on the estate and the Jam Team have delivered detached youth work for several years, so both had a good relationship with local young people and understanding of the local context.

Attendance at the weekly sessions was higher than anticipated and because of this we re-worked the budget to allow for 30 sessions, instead of the initial 15. Sessions included graffiti art, dj-ing, lyric writing and breakdancing and were delivered by a combination of local artists, youth workers and volunteers. There were some issues with the relationships between the artists, youth workers and volunteers and at the mid-way point of the project some artists and volunteers ceased working on the project. This reduced the number of art forms offered, however the youth workers felt able to fill the gap in graffiti art.

At the end of the project, some of the young people performed songs that they had written to their families and the wider community at Field Day Festival, a Made in Corby event in their area.

What was the impact of the project?

The project enabled 670 participations in 49 hours of arts activities by young people and their families. This was responsible for a 4% increase in engagement in the Made in Corby programme in 2016 (when compared to 2015 data) by J41 Disconnected Youth Mosaic 6 type (using Mosaic segmentation).

The Jam Team used an evaluation method called ‘Youth Stars’ to capture anecdotal qualitative data. The Youth Stars participant feedback mechanism measures self-perception in the following categories: Making a Difference; Hopes and Dreams; Well-Being; Education and Work; Communication; Choices and Behaviour. Feedback taking at the end of the project saw an average 97% uplift in participant scores from the beginning of the project.

One participant commented at the end of the project that:

"I thought that the Elementz was good because it build my confidence up. When I first started the Elementz my confidence was really low and I basically had no self esteem. I was a very angry and frustrated girl because I was bullied and don’t know why. During the weeks I was at the Elementz I gained more confidence and my self esteem improved. After the Elementz I feel that it give me skills that would be with me throughout my life as my social skills also improved."

There were some difficulties in the relationship between lead artist Jamzy and youth workers, that have unfortunately resulted in the partnership not continuing as initially hoped. Despite this, The Elementz captured the attention of hip-hop producers from Leicester who, with support from Made in Corby, have continued to deliver The Elementz in Corby with additional sessions for young adults and mentoring for Jamzy. This was financed through Arts Council England's Grant for the Arts scheme and culminated in a  showcase at the town's theatre, The Core at Corby Cube.

For Made in Corby, the project highlighted the need for continued work with hard to reach young people and the importance of partnerships with specialised youth work providers. They are now planning further programmes with the Jam Team for the next three years of Made in Corby's programme, with a much better understanding of the needs and interests of young people.

 Jamzy Bandicoot