Food, Hip Hop and the Green Economy #hiphopgarden

A Community project London, Morden, United Kingdom

An innovative, alternative education model using hip hop to educate and empower young people to live sustainably and grow their communities.

They did it!

On 1st Jul 2015 we successfully raised


of £15,000 target

111 backers


35 days

An innovative, alternative education model using hip hop to educate and empower young people to live sustainably and grow their communities.

We need £15000 to renovate our space to launch and run our first ever 6-month 'Food, Hip Hop and the Green Economy' course, combining green education, personal growth and skills development to support young people to grow their communities.


About the May Project Gardens

May Project Gardens (MPG) is a grassroots, independent, community organisation co-founded by Ian Solomon-Kawall (aka KMT the Freedom Teacher) which aims to educate and empower communities by providing practical, affordable solutions for sustainable living in urban environments. 

Ian discusses the roots of the May Project Gardens and why we are doing what we are doing

At the May Project Gardens, we run Natural City Living workshops every week, from creating a vegetable patch to upcycling, in partnership with a range of skilled tutors. We also have open days every Friday and Sunday, where any community member can visit the garden and learn about sustainable living techniques, such as food growing, composting, juice making, natural cosmetics and many others. Our Outreach service provides workshops for young people, training for education professionals and Corporate team days. We also provide consultancy to festivals, businesses, charities, schools and teachers on how to make sustainable living more achievable and how to use engaging teaching and marketing techniques, such as hip hop, to get these messages across.

Cob Building, one of our regular workshops

A key part of our mission is to educate young people on sustainable living, so that the new generation can integrate these habits into their lives and lead this social change. At the same time, we are very aware of the need to break down some of the stereotypes associated with environmentalism and socially conscious movements. We also want to reclaim Hip Hop back to its socially conscious roots. We have therefore created the first ever ‘Food, Hip Hop and the Green Economy’ course, which we need your support to launch.  Aimed at 18-25 year olds, it combines education, personal growth and skills development for young people to use music to grow their communities. Modules include Hip Hop, Diet and Nutrition, Food Growing, Permaculture, Green Economy and Event Management.


About the team

Ian Solomon-Kawall aka KMT Freedom Teacher, is a social change activist and teacher who uses arts (in particular hip hop) to educate audiences on issues such as climate change, permaculture, and social awareness and cohesion.

Zara Rasool is the Education Manager at MPG, bringing years of experience of education, employability schemes, youth work, third sector ventures and event facilitation to the project. 


Some of the May Team

About the course

How can Hip Hop be used by young people in cities to transform themselves and their environment? 

In the 1980s Afrika Bambaataa pioneered Hip Hop culture, defining it as ‘peace, love, unity and having fun’. He defined the elements of Hip Hop as DJing, MCing, breakdance, graffiti and beatboxing. Combining music, movement, art and knowledge it allows for both personal and social transformation.

Today, the culture that provided salvation for a generation of urban youth has been hijacked to represent sex and violence. We want to reclaim Hip Hop and take it back to its roots - a transformational culture to give disempowered people a way to observe their lives and communicate their experiences.



How does the ‘Hip Hop, Food and the Green Economy’ course empower urban youth?

“If kids grow kale, they will eat kale. If kids grow tomatoes, they will eat tomatoes. If you don’t tell them how food affects the mind and the body, they will eat whatever the hell you put in front of them.” – Ron Finley, Guerilla Gardener, LA

First and foremost, this course uses the Hip Hop energy to support young people to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their health. In the ‘Diet and Nutrition’ module, they recognise the impact their diet has on their mind and body. They learn how to take control of their diets and the value of eating fresh, home-grown produce. Through the ‘Food Growing’ module they develop the skills to grow their own fruit and vegetables.

As the students reconnect with nature, they develop their understanding of sustainability and the ‘Green Economy’. They create spoken word and hip hop responses to their experiences living in cities and the relationship with nature. They use knowledge gained from field trips and research to communicate their observations about how to develop a greener, more sustainable economy.

The final stage of the course teaches to take action. The students, or ‘Hip Hop Gardeners’, use the skills and knowledge they’ve developed to plan and run a ‘Come We Grow’ event in their local community. This event combines music, sustainability education and solution-focussed workshops so the young people can empower and educate their own communities with practical solutions to sustainable living.

Why is this course unique? 

  • Personal: At MPG, we believe that real transformation starts with the self. This course primarily focuses on the personal development of each individual student, providing them with the space to grow and using collaborative goal setting to ensure tangible results.
  • Practical: We will use hands-on, experiential and integrated teaching methods throughout the course to allow students to develop their skills through application and to gain a holistic understanding of each module.
  • Collaborative: We believe that it is important for young people to gain experience of working collaboratively with a range of people to prepare them for diversity of the working world. We employ youth work principles in our teaching, empowering students to contribute to how and what they learn. Our cohort of students will be a vibrant mix of genders, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientation, physical abilities and socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Accessible: Our vision is for every community in every city to have access to affordable, fresh, locally grown produce, and we believe that the next generation can make that happen. To do this, we also need to make the course accessible and affordable to any young person that wants to take part.
  • Sustainable: Urban environments have become synonymous with unsustainable consumption and growth. This course not only educates young people about sustainability, but provides a sustainable model for community development and the spread of knowledge. As each cohort goes through the course, they are able to return to their communities and transfer the skills and knowledge they have gained.



Why are we crowdfunding?

MPG has been working with its local community in Morden, London for eight years. We pride ourselves on our community-based, grassroots and independent approach. Until now, we have survived on individual donations and personal investment from the founder. However, the launch of the ‘Food, Hip Hop and the Green Economy’ course begins the new incarnation of MPG. Crowdfunding is in line with our ethos of community, grassroots and people powered approaches and allows us to create an innovative and alternative education model for young people to grow.

How will we spend the money?

  • Tuition fees: 24 sessions for a cohort of 20 students over a 6 month period including preparation, evaluation and on-going support
  • Off-site trips: 3 off-site visits including Bristol and local farms
  • Resources: Tools and equipment including a video recording camera, garden tools, books, CDs, pens, paper and all other related resources.
  • Online portal: Website building and management to create an online portal for students to access extra resources and materials during the course and once they graduate, and to communicate with each other.
  • DJ equipment: A midi-controller and mixer for the young people to produce their own music.
  • Studio upgrade: Sound card, keyboard, speakers and microphones for students to record their own music.
  • Capital costs: Including rent of premises, insurance and utility costs.
  • Development: Spreading the course to other areas of the UK including publicity, marketing materials and outreach sessions.


What do people think about us?

“May Project have provided excellent outdoor workshops, skills and team building activities… they have been in key part in our programme this year and have brought over 200 local people together doing something positive for the Merton borough.” Jenny Leonard, The Challenge Network

“I think that the May Project is a very engaging and useful project because you learn a lot and you feel very comfortable...when you finished your day you feel like what you learnt is really useful” Solomon B., age 12, local Merton resident

"Having worked with dozens of social enterprises over the years, the May Project Gardens has really stood out to me as an organisation run by unconditionally dedicated staff, who know their subject area inside out and truly understand how to implement social change in an innovative way. Their workshops are the most engaging I've encountered - stimulating even the greatest cynics in the group. I think their model has real potential for scale in the current, environmentally-conscious climate" Mona Bani, social enterprise consultant, Project Manager at The Shaftesbury Partnership and Education Director at Everyvoice

“We finally got a chance to meet with the Freedom Teacher, KMT…We are on our way to a UK temple of Hip Hop” KRS-One, rapper, teacher and founder of ‘Temple of Hip Hop’

“One of the great pleasures of running Permaculture Design Courses is that it gives me an opportunity to meet no end of creative and inspiring people who are working hard to make real differences in the world and in their communities. None more so than Ian Solomon Kawall, aka KMT Freedom Teacher.” Graham Burnett, Permaculture author, teacher and founder of Spiralseed

“Endless fun, highly informative, a relaxed style which was really wonderful to attend” “An epic experience to learn how to create an inclusive classroom” National Union of Teachers training course participants

"MPG is a space that provides a calm environment for my sons to be creative." Victoria Learmond, local Merton resident and mother of two


 Let's reclaim Hip Hop back to its roots, let's empower young people to take control of their health, and let's support them to transform our communities.