Urban Music Leaders


Project Information


From 01 September 2012

Until 30 June 2013


Sir John Thursby Community College


Ben Mellor & Martin Stannage - PenUltimate Collective (see Martin in action on YouTube)


Read the blog here.



Additional Information

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Urban Music Leaders

At first, when they actually gave us the microphone, I was like, I don’t want to say anything! Dreading it, saying nooo!! But now I’m like, give me the mike! Give it me, I want to do it right now!

With funding from Youth Music, young people and teachers at Sir John Thursby Community College in Burnley worked with BBC Radio 4 National Poetry Slam winner, beat-boxer and MC, Ben Mellor and Martin Stannage. This developed both the young people’s confidence to express their thoughts and feelings through poetry, spoken word and rap, but also gave music staff inspiration and ideas which developed their approach to the teaching of urban music styles.

The project has had a huge impact for the school but in unexpected ways. The idea for the project was born of a desire to attract more boys into quality arts opportunities, as here at MPA we often find that once young people begin secondary school, our projects tend to hold more appeal for girls. However during the last year, this situation has surprisingly flipped around so that as we have seen more boys engage with our other projects, Urban Music Leaders in its second iteration attracted an entirely female group.

This was a terrific outcome as it contributed towards identified development objectives within the Arts Faculty at Sir John Thursby. In particular, the faculty has recognised that with a student body in the majority made up of young people of Asian heritage, young women rapidly become too self-conscious to perform as it is not in keeping with notions of appropriate behaviour for women within their faith and cultural community. The faculty has tasked itself with exploring ways to mitigate this reluctance to perform. Urban Music Leaders worked to give voice to young women in school who clearly articulated the sense of empowerment their involvement had generated. In particular, rather than ask the young women to perform, a film-maker documented their creative process. When this film was screened in school, pupils were filled with pride and keen for the film to be made publicly available. This gave the group the confidence to plan their own performance which they gave during their Arts Week in July to accompany a screening of their documentary film to the whole school.

As a result, we have gone on to identify other groups of young women, particularly of Asian heritage who are interested in, and would benefit from, similar sustained work in this genre. The group wish to remain active within Sir John Thursby, and their teacher intends to continue facilitating the group to meet, providing them with support in terms of beat composition and lyric writing.

You can view the film by selecting Project Videos at the top of the right hand side of this page.

Urban Music Leaders was commissioned by Mid Pennine Arts in collaboration with Sir John Thursby Community College.


Youth Music is the leading UK charity using music to transform the lives of disadvantaged children and young people. They support and develop exemplary music provision at every stage of a young person’s development, whether it’s the first time a mother and baby make music together, or a talented teen’s debut at the Royal Albert Hall.



Comments from young people’s focus group:


Because, with lyric writing, you can’t just put sentences together and throw anything together, it just won’t work. It has to all be connected in some way.  So with the relations game, it definitely helped us to do that. 

I think the free-writing is really interesting, because whatever comes into your head you just write. 

Yeah it’s really fun. 

It was more like expressing yourselves than like, analysing stuff in English, that’s just different. 

It just comes in your head and you have to write it down, the thing that you have to say, like...  

And there were screeches and screams in the background and that makes it… you imagine a bit better and you can write better stuff down. 

You have to think about like what’s going on. Get whatever’s in your head and just write it down. And any images that come into your head, just write them down. 

It was like a lyric writing session thing – rap and beat-boxing. 

It actually has learnt, like me, like personally, it has made me more confident. 

Definitely, definitely has made me feel confidence. 

At first, when they actually gave us the microphone, I was like, I don’t want to say anything! 

Dreading it, saying nooo!!

But now I’m like, give me the mike!

Give it me, I want to do it right now!

I prefer writing a sentence and finding the rhyming word rather than the other way round.

I wrote about a little girl, a teenager, being bullied. And I didn’t know that was in my head, it just came out randomly on the page and that’s what I produced.

Mine was war, poverty, race, discrimination and things like that.

And mine was sort of personal, it was very messy and just like, all over the place, but it showed characters and personalities.

I have been helping year 7s make base beats and how to make the snare drum sound.

I like being pushed, I like working under pressure.