Volume 18 Number 1
Break-Dancing for Opportunity
01 February 2005

Connected 2 (C2) courses are Open College Network accredited and put a particular emphasis on disengaged, so-called ‘hard-to-reach’ and ‘at risk’ 15- to 25-year-olds.

WHOEVER WOULD have thought that break-dance, hip-hop and discjockeying could become the core of an anti-poverty strategy? Connected 2 (C2), an innovative cooperative in Huddersfield, England, has made them just that. Last year it won the West Yorkshire Social Enterprise Award 2004 for its contribution to the local community and economy.

C2 started four years ago and uses creative activities as an incentive to further the education of young people. ‘At the beginning the quality of the music was not the main pillar of the group,’ says Chris Chinnock, one of the project’s seven staff. ‘We just wanted to put some ideas together to help those kids who drop out of school due to a lack of motivation and other problems.’ Nowadays, their courses are Open College Network accredited and put a particular emphasis on disengaged, so-called ‘hard-to-reach’ and ‘at risk’ 15- to 25-year-olds. Some 300 young people have passed through their courses so far.

Expanding each year, C2 now has a complete video and sound recording studio, dance and drama training rooms, digital video cameras and web design facilities as well as a rehearsal room. When I visited, young people were learning IT and multimedia techniques in the computer room, while others were busy in the recording studio.

There was an atmosphere of movement but not disorganization; variety and colour but not confusion.

The cultural diversity of the students creates a stimulating environment. ‘It’s all about sharing the experience of creativity,’ says Chinnock. ‘Racism has not really been an issue for us. Our work is not about colour.’

C2 is financed through the Learning Schools Council and Neighbourhood Renewal, both government schemes, but hopes to move towards selfsustainability.
Through the BEAT Project (Believe in yourself, Educate yourself, Achieve personal goals and make positive Transitions), C2 works closely with Fartown High School and 25 of its school-leavers who are not attending mainstream lessons. Its Equalizer Project provides individually tailored programmes for people who have been registered unemployed for six months or longer, to help them back into the labour market.

C2 recognizes the importance of sharing information and cooperating with other organizations and networks. ‘We negotiate with the system and try to get the most out of it, but at the same time we take care to foment a culture of respect,’ says Chinnock.

Many of their students are referred to them by other associations or schools. Once the youngsters are trained, they have not only the technical expertise to find a job, but also the motivation to maintain high aspirations.

Following the success of their Hip-hopportunity pilot project the company became part of the Entry Into Employment (E2E) network, designed to help young people who are currently not in education, employment or training. In this context, continuous monitoring and personal advice play a crucial role in rekindling individuals’ forgotten interests.

‘Individuals and the values they have is the greater strength of C2,’ says its General Director, Lloyd Pusey. ‘I see many people receiving and demanding more and more. My goal is to stand where I can help people to stop demanding and milking. We don’t have an end. There’s always going to be more young people who need help.’

José Carlos León Vargas