A Preston-based rap duo has released a new video as part of the Give Us A Break campaign in the run up to next month’s national anti-bullying week. Fiona Finch reports on why the video has special significance for Matthew and Callum Bennett.
The power of music and lyrics has opened new doors and given new hope and confidence to a Preston father and son rap duo.
Now they are hoping to help others find similar hope and confidence with the help of a new video which they have produced for an anti-bullying campaign.
Their musical journey started just a few years before Matthew Bennett , 40, was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 36.
His son Callum, now 21, was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 16.
They began working together as a way of helping Callum increase his confidence and in time this helped him overcome a stutter.
Meanwhile Matthew says his life changed when he got his diagnosis.
They have drawn on Callum’s experience of being bullied when younger and Matthew’s struggles with addiction and isolation to create the video Spectrum: Give Us A Break.
It is now on YouTube and is being used to promote the Give Us A Break anti-bullying campaign.
They were invited to contribute to the campaign by Anna Kennedy who organises the charity showcase event Autism’s Got Talent and created the campaign to help prevent youngsters with autism being bullied.
UCLan graduate Matthew said: “It makes us feel super honoured. Our sole goal was to try to reach those people who are struggling and make them feel better and give them the strength to carry on. The song is about stick with it – it will get better.”
Callum, who is studying for a degree in screenwriting at UCLan, said: “I find it quite overpowering the response it has already got from people...I just thought I was writing something I wanted to say, but it still comes as a really lovely surprise when people enjoy the song.”
He added: “It was quite difficult for me because it was drawing on things from my younger life and also putting that into a song, but as soon as we had got what we wanted to write about it was quite easy. I hope it will give any victim that’s going through anything, that it will reassure them that speaking out is the best thing – and give them the confidence to say it.”
The creative rap duo, who released their first album Parental Advisory in October 2018 under their stage name FMA + 12 Gage, said they had to go out of their own comfort zone to create the new song.
Matthew stresses they felt it important to “deliver a softer more emotional song” than the ones they normally create: “We were searching for an idea. We normally shout and scream all the time – that’s our go to, we had to do different things to capture the things we wanted to convey.”
They were intent on getting their message across directly without distractions and for part of the video just the words of their song appear on screen.
There is also at times a special focus on colour and motion. Matthew said: “The sounds of the song and not just the words tell the story.”
Describing the video as the result of “two months of hard work, trial and error, frustration and many scrapped ideas” Matthew said creating the final version was a labour of patience: “It took 30 hours from start to finish. You think these things are really quick watching them It’s only when you see behind the scenes you realise how much effort goes in.”
The video turned into a family affair with his partner helping and his stepson appearing in it on key images.
The same team which helped produce their debut album worked on this video too.
Callum and Matthew first met Anna Kennedy when they were invited to perform at the Autism’s Got Talent show in 2017 and Matthew recalls how delighted they were to appear in the show. Noting it was the first time he had experienced “a truly welcoming and accepting environment” he said: “I was diagnosed in the final bit of my third year (at UCLan), before that I was always the troublemaker. I was always searching for something to help like drugs and things, because I didn’t realise what was actually going on. I couldn’t cope with all the sensory input going on. Conversations really tired me really fast. You’re trying to be like everyone else. Since finding out I was autistic I could just stop doing things I wasn’t good at, that changed my life.”
He continued: “Being autistic is a very lonely experience – you see, hear and feel things differently to others, which makes it hard to connect with people. Autism’s Got Talent is a place where that loneliness did not exist. It was such a comfortable, understanding and welcoming environment. We met so many amazing and talented people and had far more fun than we ever expected to. Anna has managed to create something that both shows the talents of those on the spectrum as well as showing those same people that they’re not alone in this world.”
Anna said: “I started the Give Us A Break campaign five years ago when I was working with the anti-bullying alliance. So many parents wrote to me because their children were being bullied at school. I thought I would give the campaign each year to individuals who have been on Autism’s Got Talent. I thought, ‘Let’s do a rap’. The boys are so powerful, they are so passionate. They’ve worked really hard on their lyrics. It’s already had nearly 4,000 views in the last couple of days. People are sharing it now ”
The video draws its name not just as a message for those on the autistic spectrum but says Matthew because “everything and everyone is a spectrum” and besides he “likes the word”.
* See the video at https://youtu.be/fUxJcot_li4
* For more information about the campaign see annakennedyonline.com
* Anti-Bullying Week 2019 runs from November 11-15 and has the theme Change Starts With Us.