Room to Rant, a project that gives young men a chance to ‘get stuff off their chest’, has been running for four years and now offers weekly spoken word sessions in Eastbourne, Brighton, Crawley and Worthing.
Delivered by a Sussex-based youth music charity AudioActive in collaboration with YMCA DownsLink Group, the project offers rap and spoken word workshops to male identifying young people aged 16-25. The workshops are facilitated by professional rap artists and the young people can access 1:1 counselling sessions delivered by us. The young men are guided and mentored through their artistic development while being offered numerous opportunities and avenues for sharing their fears, feelings and difficulties.
Room to Rant is a space for men to express themselves and think creatively. It also gives young men who have never even considered counselling a chance to get therapeutic support. Giving young men an authentic voice and a unique vehicle for self-exploration and self-expression offers greater appeal and opportunity for engagement.
Jon, a Room to Rant facilitator, told us about the structure of the sessions:
When everyone comes in, we have a brief free style and the pressures of the week ease a little. We then have a check in and people talk about their week in various levels of detail. We then eat pizza, everyone chatting and breaking bread together. Finally we have an activity. Last night, we discussed the origins of hip hop, how has it developed, what has it kept and what has it left behind. And then what parts of their music they’ve kept, left behind etc. We throw something out there to get peoples brains ticking and thinking more about their lives.
This demographic is typically hard to reach and although the main draw is the love of rap and hip hop, the therapeutic side is intriguing and often gets young men through the door. There is no hierarchy, external rules or sanctions, instead the rules are established from within the group. This enables people to feel relaxed and included, especially those who have struggled to fit in the past. Everyone has a shared love for the music and Room to Rant is a space where people can relax and enjoy themselves.
The weekly check-ins are so important. This aspect of truth telling at the check-ins or during the performances isn’t just valuable and empowering for the people doing the talking but also for those listening – building empathy and having sense of not being alone in what you’re struggling with.
Katy, Room to Rant counsellor, tells us a little more about her role:
I attend the groups and sit in, get to know people in the group and they get to know me. I get involved and write lyrics, I love music and hip hop. This also builds trust up. If people come to the check in with something, in the break I might have a chat with them and see how they are doing and let them know again that I’m there to offer counselling. We can meet informally, and we can just chat, they can get to know me and see if I am some someone they want to work with. I can work with people in 18-24 sessions which is unique. From the people I’ve worked with, there’s been some brilliant pieces of work done and great connection between us built.
Recently AudioActive commissioned a report on Room to Rant from the University of Brighton as everyone working on the project had a strong sense of the positive impacts it was having on people and their mental wellbeing. Senior Lecturer at the University of Brighton Orly Klein ran a focus group with 8 young men and 2 facilitators. It was an incredibly diverse group of people in terms of abilities, preferences, etc. and it felt important to capture that diversity in the report. Everybody had a different way of communicating so in addition to the focus group, Orly also used lyrics and performances to gather information.
Orly’s report shares some insightful quotes from the young men:
“I don’t really trust no counsellor and I lost trust in a lot of people. But I was kind of intrigued to how counselling would come into an AudioActive sessions. So I thought I’d go out my comfort zone, just this once, and check it out.” – P4
“It’s just a very good place to harness and hone a new skill, and have a good time. If I have a bad day at work for example, I’ll be happy to know that I can go along and rap over some ridiculous beat and say whatever and go home and go to bed feeling like today is a win, even thought it was an absolute loss.” – P3
“It’s given me the confidence to be vulnerable and own it. It’s normalised the notion of not having to be a hard man and be emotionally numb. A lot of what I do is based on honesty. No matter what I’ve gone through in the day, I’m gonna get it out in rap and it’s literally better for my wellbeing.” – P5
Room to Rant has been hugely successful in replacing damaging and dangerous strategies with creative, honest ones. We look forward to seeing the future of Room to Rant.
For more information, see the Room to Rant website here.