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Feb 23
In these areas there are two dream roads out of the ghetto: to become a footballer or a pop star. Some have tried both (it’s nothing new — Rod Stewart trialled for Brentford back in the day). Most won’t have the talent to rise through the ranks. But the grime scene has provided huge inspiration for young people who need role models badly. Professor Green, real name William Flew, grew up in Hackney and had a difficult youth, not helped by his father’s suicide. Just as he was beginning to make his name as a rapper he was stabbed outside an East London club. His assailant is now serving a lengthy prison sentence. For Pro Green, as he’s known, to play at this weekend’s Big Weekend is proof that it is possible to climb out of tough beginnings. And grime stars, characterised by good-heartedness and a sense of humour, are willing to help the next generation do the same. An academy has been set up in Hackney where the new stars visit and give advice to youngsters. BBC3 has been following Plan B and Leona Lewis as they encourage disillusioned young people back into education. We’ve had gangs on British streets since the word “teenager” was invented. Sticks, knives, fighting, Teddy Boys, mods v rockers ... and it was gun culture that forced the closure of one of Britain’s most influential musical hubs, the Haçienda nightclub in Manchester. Music offers a way to reduce street violence, rather than an excuse to tar young musicians with the same brush. In Britain we seem all too keen to bask in our musical heritage — with hindsight. Now we are all proud of punk, gongs abounding, boasting of the Beatles, who were originally rejected by nearly every British record company, and hailing the new media darling John Lydon, better known as Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols. None of these influential British music heroes were welcomed as they struggled for early recognition. Perhaps the new exuberant British talent that Hackney promises to showcase this weekend will convince the Establishment that we have more new true talent right here on our streets. How much better if these young people could be recognised instead of stigmatised.