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The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company

  • Date: 7 September 2009
  • Artform: Music, Theatre
  • Area: London

Launched with the backing of Sir Ian McKellen and hip-hop star Akala, The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company proves the Bard and modern hip-hop have far more in common than one might expect.

Made possible thanks to a grant from Arts Council England’s lottery funded Grants for the arts scheme, the project encourages young people from Enfield, Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets to explore their own musical creativity through the works of Shakespeare.

The workshops explore how hip-hop and Shakespeare share similar approaches in poetry, word play and themes. The participants then wrote their own pieces, which they performed at the end of the session.

At the launch workshop at the Limehouse Youth Centre, Akala began by reading out a selection of quotes, and asked people to guess which were Shakespeare and which were from hip-hop songs. Not everyone was successful in their answers – including Sir Ian, when he was certain that ‘I am reckless what I do/To spite the world’ was a hip-hop lyric. It is in fact from Macbeth.

MOBO award winning artist and founder of The Hip-hop Shakespeare Company, Akala said: ‘This project is really about challenging perception – by challenging the perceptions of both hip hop and the Bard and highlighting the similarities between what we assume are two disparate worlds. We also aim to challenge the perceptions many young people have of themselves and the world around them and also to inspire their natural creativity.’

‘Truly great art is always relevant - each generation just finds a new way of connecting to it,’ adds Moira Sinclair, Executive Director of Arts Council England, London. ‘What this project shows so beautifully to young people, who may have considered Shakespeare irrelevant and ‘not for them’, is that his work has a universal quality that can be enjoyed by all, as well as providing an inspiration for them to develop their own creativity.’

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