08:00 – 18 July 2007 – Hull Dail Mail

Wilberforce Assembly - St Mary's College - Hull

A Young rapper from Sierra Leone has been inspiring children across Hull to exchange stories about their lives through music.

Nineteen-year-old Lansana Mansaray, known as Barmmy Boy, is in Hull as part of a project to connect schools here and in Hull’s twin townFreetown, the capital of the west African country.

Over two months, he will work with children from St Mary’s College in west Hull, Winifred Holtby in Bransholme and Wilberforce College in east Hull.

He said: “It’s my first time out of Freetown and it’s really different.

“Everything is more organised, and the schools are all provided by the Government.

“It’s strange, but I am enjoying it.”

Among the issues Barmmy Boy raps about are growing up in Freetown, HIV/Aids and the aftermath of the civil war that ravaged the country for a decade.

He was brought to the UK by Hull-based organisation Cafe Society and funded by the British Council and Government arts programme Creative Partnerships.

Cafe Society organiser Jon Robson said: “We met Barmmy Boy when we went to Sierra Leone.

“He had so much energy and creativity, we thought he’d be fantastic with children here and they could really learn from each other. We got him some funding to buy him a laptop so he could start producing music and videos in Freetown and he could learn the skills to pass on to other youngsters there.”

Yesterday, Barmmy Boy took part in a performance at St Mary’s College, Cranbrook Avenue, with teenagers participating in a special week to coincide with Hull’s Wilberforce year.

This year is the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, which followed a campaign against slavery led by Hull MP William Wilberforce.

Barmmy Boy said: “It’s been great working with people here.

“They have made up their own lyrics about the issues that affect them, and we’ve been editing videos to accompany them.

“I want to take the skills I’ve learned here back to Sierra Leone.

“Many teenagers in Freetown are disillusioned. They move out of Sierra Leone and never bring the skills they have learned back to their country. I believe there is a lot more to do in Freetown. It doesn’t help the country when the youth leave and never come back.”

Hull Daily Mail

Barbara Veloso, 13, of Massey Close, west Hull, who has been working with Barmmy Boy, described the experience as “amazing”.

She said: “I’ve never rapped before, but I have been this week.

“Some of the stories Barmmy Boy told us about through his music are surprising.

“I had no idea many of the soldiers in Sierra Leone during the war were children.”

Andy Rendell, 14, of Malpas Close, in north Hull, said: “I was really shy about singing and it’s been great doing it as a group.

“All of us who took part have discovered hidden talents.”