Heaps Decent is an Australian based dynamic arts organisation working with young people & emerging artists from marginalised & disadvantaged communities, providing a means by which they can tell their story in their own way. Heaps Decent supports change, positive futures & the development of high quality Australian music with a unique identity.
hey (at) heapsdecent.com

Campbelltown workshops

August 28, 2012

A little while back, Kristy Lee, Shantan and Pablo Calamari finished a series of workshops in Campbelltown at both Lomandra school and the Reiby Juvenile Justice Centre. In an unconventional format, here’s a bit about their experience….

Kristy and Shantan interviewed each other to give us some insights into the project.

Kristy: What was a highlight from the workshops at Reiby?

Shantan: The young people we work with at Reiby are around the ages of 11 and 12 and are just the babies of the Juvenile Justice Centre. They would look forward to our sessions. Each week we would explain to them the concept for the session and it was just amazing to see the all put their heads down and start writing their little raps. A lot of these kids I am not sure participate so willingly in school. The highlight was to see them so into it, and really develop their creative writing and confidence in performance as the sessions continued.

Kristy: Most memorable moment from the workshops at Lomandra?

Shantan: If you are unaware, Lomandra is a school for young people between 10 and 15 with severe behavioural issues. There was a kid called Ahmad, that didn’t want to write or record anything in the first sessions we did. However, eventually we got to talking about the things he was into – cars and food – and began writing some of my favourite material from those sessions. He had this great voice and lyrics which really captured his sense of humour. From then on we couldn’t keep him away from the microphone.

Kristy: Can you remember the best line/lyric from one of the songs?

Shantan: Don’t ask me why, but I like this line from Ahmad… “Rolling through Bagdad, yallah habib. Police pull me over, I’m like ‘yeah that’s it'”

Kristy: Did you find it was harder or easier working with the young people from inside the Juvenile Justice Centre?

Shantan: Working in Juvenile Justice Centres is not how you would imagine it. It is full of it’s own challenges, however, for the most part the kids

at Reiby were like angels for us. The punishments are a lot harsher than a normal school, and also on weekends and holidays they spend a great deal of time in a cell by themselves (Think of how you spent your childhood. It is a terrible way to grow up). So I think they look forward to school and in particularly our sessions where they are getting to make the sort of music they are really into.

Kristy: Besides staying awake in the car, what was the most challenging part of the workshops for you?

Shantan: None of us have been doing these sessions that long. It is a relatively new program. So at this stage there isn’t a set curriculum. Evaluating what has worked, seeing where the kids are at, and attempting to move it forward each week. The biggest challenge has been coming up with fresh concepts each week for songs that will engage their imagination and they will be able to write about easily.

I think we did a pretty good job at this, if I do say myself.

Shantan: Can you tell us a little about the kids you work with at Reiby and Lomandra? 

Kristy: Lomandra is a school for young people who have some severe learning difficulties, so it provides a stepping stone environment for them to get back into a main stream school. Reiby on the other hand is a Juvenile Justice Centre with young people who could be in there any length of time ranging from a few days up to years.

Shantan: Is there a session for you that was most memorable?

Kristy: At Reiby we had been getting great songs out of the boys, but the lyrics were all a little based on talking themselves up, typical rapping style about how fresh their kicks were etc. So we went in there one week and played them some of the other Heaps Decent tracks from Homebase where young people open up a little more and talk about some more serious topics, one being change. So we challenged the Reiby boys to do the same and write about change and try to step it up lyric wise. And they totally did – the results were amazing and it almost felt like a little breakthrough to get some of them talking about some deeper subjects.

Shantan: What is your favourite song that was produced from the workshops?

Kristy: One of the very first ones we did out there “Reiby Soldiers”. The hook goes: “Reiby Reiby soldiers, rolling like boulders, Reiby Reiby soldiers, ya hear what we told ya?” and it’s about 75bpm and has a whole lot of attitude.

Shantan: Is there anything that surprised you about the young people you worked with?

Kristy: Definitely the changes over the weeks. At first glance, it is hard to ever imagine some of the young people we meet ever opening up and trusting you enough to give things a go when you suggest them. But I think consistency pays off sooo much, and having us go back each week and showing that we were really excited to see/work with them meant that they eventually met us halfway and really let go a little.

Shantan: How capable a freestyler having finished these workshops are you? Have these razor sharp lyrical skills of yours got you out of any sticky situations?

Kristy: Ha ha – I knew you’d ask me this Shantan! Yes, I do have to say that I feel my free-styling has improved a little after these workshops. It is probably a favourite past time, annoying you and Adam with my dodgy freestyle attempts in the car each week. I wouldn’t ever say that my raps are serious or any good – but I could give it a shot for a few bars. Are you challenging me to a battle Shantan? 🙂