‘What has rap done for us?’ ask Eileen Walsh & ‘Dr. Hip Hop’

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Derry-based filmmaker Eileen Walsh will curate a unique celebration of hip hop culture in the North at ‘Imagine!’ Belfast’s annual festival of ideas and politics this weekend.

‘What has hip hop ever done for us?’ will take place in the Sunflower Bar on the corner of Kent Street and Union Street from 7 p.m. to midnight on Sunday.

It will involve, Ms. Walsh explains, the exploration, through film, dance, comedy, discussion and music, of both hip hop and graffiti culture and how they have been expressed in the North.

“We had a very successful event at last year’s festival, which actually sold out, so I was thrilled to be asked to do something this year,” said the Derry-based curator.

“The festival director Peter O’Neill is very interested in and supportive of work that comes from Derry. I’m delighted to be involved with this wonderful and very interesting festival again this year.

“The event I am running is a tribute to hip hop culture in Northern Ireland. It should be a pretty interesting evening. It’s totally devoted to hip hop and involves film, music, dance and comedy with the world première of a brand new interactive hip hop-themed gameshow, perhaps the world’s first.

“I’m designing the show especially for Derry-based comedy legend Rory McSwiggan (aka Les Ismore of Let’s Get Quizzical fame).

“Rory is a fantastic artist and is someone I’ve always wanted to work with. When I came up with the idea of the gameshow I knew Rory would be the perfect compère so was delighted when he agreed to be involved. I’ve written a new character for him. He’s going to be a hip hop doctor so I am busy now designing his stage outfit! I’m hoping it’ll be the perfect evening for people to wind down from St. Patrick’s Day.

“It’s a whole evening that celebrates the underground hip hop culture in Northern Ireland, going way back in time from the start of the Troubles, to the present day,” she said.

The event will include the screening of Chris Eva of Subculture Productions’ ‘Bombin’, Beats and B-Boys’, a celebration of the North’s hip hop scene, featuring contributions from MCs like Wile Man [Eamon Craig] from Derry.

There will be a Q&A and after the film. Guest speakers will include Mr. Eva himself, ex-MC for Belfast City Breakers and founder of 3 CORE, Geoff Allen, Portrush rapper Slaine Browne and the godfather of breakdancing in the North, William Madden.

It will be chaired by Caitriona Mullan, Chair of the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD).

Said Ms. Walsh: “There will also be live performances of rappers and breakdancers or B-Boys, as they prefer to be called. Belfast and Derry are the two biggest cities in Northern Ireland and there is so much creative talent in both places. Sometimes I find it surprising that they are not more connected, so I guess with this event I am trying to bring the cities together a little more. I’m hoping the gig at the Sunflower will be a good way of helping people to meet up and connect and talk to each other.

“I became really interested in hip hop through the work I was doing on the documentary film ‘Together in Pieces’, which I produced for the Community Relations Council a while ago and co-directed with Derry film maker David Dryden. I was interested in the graffiti and street art culture in Northern Ireland and wanted to explore how it reflected the changing political landscape. Hip hop is really interesting and a great way of connecting with young people.”

It promises to be a fun night with Mr. McSwiggan unveiling his new persona Dr. Hip Hop persona.

‘The whole thing is going to be very interactive and hopefully amusing as audiences watch Rory learn to get down with the rappers and build up some serious street cred. I’ve no diva behaviour to report from Rory so far...the only thing on his rider is a Cadbury’s Crème Egg trifle so we should be okay with that,’ said Walsh.

Tickets priced £12/£10 are available at https://imaginebelfast.com/events/what-has-hip-hop-ever-done-for-us/