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Boys Don’t in St Leonards

Culture Shift has played a small part in supporting spoken word artist Rosemary Harris on the R&D phase of her company Papertale’s latest piece of work, Boys Don’t.

Boys Don’t is all about crying, what happens to boys when they cry, and how the responses they get shape them as they grow into men.

What is the experience of crying, for boys and men? Is it a positive or negative, does it carry feelings of relief or shame, or something else entirely? Why do boys stop crying as they get older?

Over 5 years Rosemary has delivered 3 successful spoken word shows for young audiences, taking spoken word to literally thousands of people across the country, offering many their first experience of live literature.

Boys Don’t features: Hadiru Mahdi, Tanaka Mhishi and Steve Tasane, three male spoken word artists who draw on their own experiences to look at personal, social and cultural issues that affect boys’ ability to express their feelings.

With help from Culture Shift, Steve and Rosemary have worked over 5 weeks with a small group of year 7 boys at St Leonards Academy to explore some of the issues and develop their own spoken word pieces, culminating in May 2016 with the group sharing their work with the performers and a scratch performance of Boys Don’t.

Who was involved?

  • Y7 boys at St Leonards Academy and Linda Harding
  • Project facilitators: Rosemary Harris and Steve Tasane
  • Other Performers: Hadiru Mahdi, Tanaka Mhishi
  • Douglas Jack, CAMHS Primary Mental Health Team
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It has been an exciting opportunity to work with our Year 7 boys in a context outside of the traditional classroom. I was very pleased to see that at various points, every student had a positive contribution to the topic and discussion. It was also excellent to see most of the boys develop the confidence to create their own rap, be willing to share it with others and be able to stand up and perform this to an audience.


I am glad to say that every student was very quick to praise the rap and the poetry you shared with us. These boys are typically low achievers within English with low literacy levels and they were definitely engaged to see these used well.

Teacher, St Leonards Academy

Quotes from the group about Boys Don’t:

It’s great and better than any other thing I have watched.


It’s good because boys don’t talk about their emotions. They are worried that people take the mickey.


The R&D phase for Boys Don’t is supported by Arts Council England. Boys Don’t is a Papertale show developed with Half Moon Theatre and Apples and Snakes SE.

Boys Don't team