Roxana Willis, (Centre for Criminology) whose research focusses on the effect of social background on youth mental health, is involved in the project “What IF”.

The project is funded by a small UKRI grant and it aims to connect UK rap artists and producers with young people involved in drug exploitation, empowering the young people to express themselves through music. A group of Oxford-based youth have been supported to develop rap songs about their experiences, and they have developed 4 powerful songs and videos. The resulting songs created by the young people will be performed at a community-led Festival event to stimulate discussion about local issues.

The project involved 8 workshops with a mix of young offenders and marginalised youth. Each workshop was 4 hours in length, led by the London rapper Rodney P and others. Roxana attended 5 out of 8 workshops. Her role was to talk to the young participants about their experiences, as well as her research. As her research is on youth mental health and offending, the young participants had an opportunity to talk about their mental experiences. An impressive song created by one of the young participants addresses difficult issues of suicide and depression. This will be performed at the Oxford Playhouse on Friday 19 October and Roxana will be attending. Information about the event, and tickets, can be ordered here. 

Roxana said

IF Oxford has offered a unique way for young people to express themselves through rap. By opening up through music, the young participants have explored complex issues such as suicide, self harm, and loss. Importantly, participants have developed new skills to help them handle difficult feelings in the future.