When we think of the arts many people’s mind go straight to Da Vinci, Opera and snooty old people sipping on red wine talking about the effervescence of brush strokes. Now don’t get me wrong, take me to an art gallery and I promise I will become said snooty art critic; but that’s not what all the arts are about.
With the community of urban art growing stronger by the day, graffiti, hip-hop and many other forms of street art are (rightly) being taken seriously in the art world (think Banksy or Diversity).
For those of you who don’t know, I am from the wonderful Blackpool seaside, and yes before you ask; Little T, Afghan Dan and Soph Aspin also live here. Now we might laugh, but the BGMedia scene has taken the country by storm and is a great example of the growth of urban art in Blackpool (but that’s a whole different blog post!)
Today isn’t about grime, today is about hip hop and more importantly why children across the UK and in Blackpool desperately need hip hop.
FY Wingz is a charity organisation that offers free dance classes to the kids of Blackpool to allow them to express themselves, develop themselves and to keep them out of trouble.
I spoke to long-time member of FY Wingz about the organisation and the effect it has on him and many others:
So, tell me a bit about yourself?
Well, I’m Callum, I’m 17 and I’m with an agency called Wingz Academy, FY Wingz.
How I got into FY Wingz, it was like 10 years ago now. I used to watch Michael Jackson like 24/7. I must be the world’s best MJ impersonator by now surely, but that’s how I got into FY, and I’ve been with the artistic director Sam ever since.
Throughout being with FY my love for hip hop and that whole community as just grown honestly, I can’t even describe it.
What arts are you currently involved in?
I’ve just finished my Art and Design course at college, going onto the foundation course at the Uni centre @ Blackpool and Fylde.
I do a lot of street art with some contemporary mixed in with it as well, I like to try new things.
Which leads into, how did you get into hip hop?
When I started FY Wingz, like I said I was mad about Michael Jackson, who obviously isn’t hip hop. The other kids that went there just got me into it. I remember I was on my way there the first time and my mum put on some Eminem in the car like “This is hip hop, you’re gonna love it!”. So it was kind of force-fed to me, you know what I mean? *laughs*
How did you find out about FY Wingz?
Well before they were FY Wingz they were FY West Coast.
My mum works at schools and the artistic director Sam and her partner were doing a workshop at her school. Well I was trying to be Michael Jackson and I was dancing and everything, so my mum told me about it, got in touch and I went to my first class.
Whats the best thing about being in your troop, that is what it’s called isn’t it?
Crew, troop, yeah that’s right.
Yeah, whats the best part about being in that?
Probably the family aspect, you grow to love everybody . No matter how much you wanna kill each other sometimes, you do grow to love each other. Whenever we do something we always get comments, people say “you’re not like any other crew we’ve seen, you’ve got that connection”.
We’ve been doing it for so long with each other that we are just one big family, and I love that about it.
FY Wingz has just finished Popnocchio, what was that like for you?
Popnocchio is an urban hip hop twist on the tale of Ponocchio. I played Quite Frank Hank who tries to steal Popnocchio and take him to Stomboli who’s like an evil toy maker.
We did that through the summer, day in day out, and my feet were basically dead *laughs*.
That’s all there is to it, it was just a great experience and we’ve got another project coming up now called Twist, which is the same but for Oliver Twist.
And what did that experience do for the kids at FY?
It gave the kids a sense of professionalism, it gave them an insight to the theatre world and it gave them more confidence.
We held auditions for it, we had a lot of kids that don’t usually come to school of street and things like that ,so we had a few in the show who don’t usually do that sort of thing, and it gave them that confidence, showed them what its like to be part of something
Why do you think the arts are so important for young people?
Because it gets them off the streets *laughs*
If I wasn’t doing this now I’d be out doing something I shouldn’t.
Yeah, I mean FY is based in some of the areas of Blackpool that need that help
That’s the areas we target. High poverty areas, and when we run Wingz Academy and School of Street it’s for kids that don’t usually get those things. They come from low-income families, that’s what that’s for.
So FY Wingz is that place that kids can go for that second family?
Yeah well it’s all free. All government funding. So they can literally walk in off the street and join in. If they wanna do it, they wanna commit to it, then they can do it… no issue. It gives them a skill set and obviously then it’s not just “my only skill is kicking a ball at people’s cars.”
Does Blackpool need hip hop?
Sure it does, yeah. When you look there’s so many different cultures in such a little place. When I started, hip hop wasn’t really a thing in Blackpool. There’s such history with rock, indie, you know there’s always been that here but there’s never really been a hip hop thing but I think they’re missing out on something great. I’m biased but hip hop is one of the best!
In terms of art, what needs improving in Blackpool?
Funding. People don’t think art is important as other things but funding. You can’t do anything without it.
Obviously we have the Grand Theatre, the Winter Gardens, the Grundy, art centres, dance groups, do you think Blackpool has good variety in terms of art?
Yeah we do. I think we need some bigger galleries to be fair, but it definitely is an arty place. A lot of art is from Blackpool and a lot of good stuff has come out of here.
Yes! We have a lot of history with art, drama, comedy, music, do you think more people need to hear about that?
At the moment it is a very underground thing isn’t it? You don’t really hear about it to much unless you’re in that community.
When you think about it, Blackpool sometimes lives up to its name of being a broken town, at the moment anyway… but I don’t think that’s the people’s fault.
There’s something wrong, I think its to do with funding. It is a small seaside town. It is corrupt with poverty, but that’s why we need more art, liven it up a bit!
How do you think these institutions of the arts can promote a more welcoming environment for young people?
I think were crammed with kids in tracksuits, with man bags and perms doing nothing. They need to do something, art can give them that something. But free events man. Just anything. Just get them in, get them doing something. But its difficult, funding and that.
So this is a pretty infamous question that I get asked a lot. We’re home to the great BGMedia, whats your thoughts?
Well grime is a strand of hiphop. I can’t really have an opinion on it. FY Wingz did a thing with Little T, I could’ve done that, but I decided not to. My mum works in a school and the schools try to not associate themselves with the grime scene so yeah I could of done something with our MC Jay madden, but no I’m not into it.
But… *laughs* it is what it is!
At the end of the day it’s kids getting themselves involved in something.
Putting Blackpool on the map as Little T once famously said…
Yeah yeah I guess. They love him because he’s funny, not for his music, but he’s getting known. Soph Aspin, Afghan Dan, they’re doing something, getting their voice out there, putting Blackpool on the map (probably not for reasons I’d want) but they’re doing it. Maybe it will spark more interest in Blackpool, we all have to help each other.
Whats one thing you’d say to the kids of Blackpool?
Don’t do drugs? *laughs* I’d say, find something you love, find something that really inspires you and pursue it. Pursue what you love.
Big thanks to Callum for the great insight on the hip hop community in Blackpool. Be sure to check out FY Wingz upcoming shows on their website @ https://www.skoolofstreet.com/fy-wingz-crew and on their twitter @FYWingz
Photo Credit: FYWingz
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