Legacy Youth Zone, Croydon’s soon-to-be-completed youth facility, hosted an event to welcome local rap star Michael Dapaah to its site on Wednesday 26thof September.

The comedian behind fictional character Big Shaq, was born and raised in Croydon and spoke to local young people about his experiences growing up in the area.

Dapaah, whose visit was facilitated by Dwayne Miller of promotion and events company Orthodox, began producing comedy sketch videos in his spare time whilst studying theatre, film and television at Brunel University in 2011, aged 20.

He has since amassed over one million YouTube subscribers following the launch of his mockumentary series, ‘Somewhere in London’, in 2017 and was voted Personality of the Year at this year’s GRM Daily Rated Awards.

His big break came in the form of Big Shaq, a character portrayed by Dapaah in his series whose freestyle rap ‘Man’s Not Hot’, recorded on BBC Radio 1Xtra’s Fire in the Booth, was an instant viral hit.

He visited the Youth Zone site alongside close friend Joel Beya, one of the brains behind the CheekySport YouTube channel and Kiera-Nicole Brennan, who at just 19 years old is one of the youngest TV presenters in the country as one of the hosts of Channel 5’s Milkshake.

They spoke with young people about their involvement so far and even got to go onto the roof of the building which has very recently been installed.

Michael said: “I think this is an amazing initiative, I wish I had it when we were growing up. In terms of facilities and what Legacy will offer the youth, it will keep them engaged. A lot of the time, young people don’t have things to do and they’re bored. There’s been a lot of thought into it which is brilliant – I will definitely be coming down!”

Joel said: “This is going to be awesome, growing up here we never had these facilities. This will be here for generations, not just for this set age – I’m very impressed. This will give young people spaces to go where they can take part in things like football and boxing and everything else. It will generate more people of importance in society; I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Kiera said: “I’m so excited, it looks massive and I can’t wait for it to be open because the amount of facilities that Legacy is bringing for the community is absolutely amazing – I can’t wait to get involved. There will be something for every person in the community to take part in, it will be a second home for them. As soon as I walked in I thought this is exactly what we need in Croydon.”

Legacy Youth Zone is part of charity OnSide Youth Zones’ growing network of state-of-the-art facilities in London and elsewhere in the UK. It will provide the young people of Croydon and surrounding areas with a safe, fun and inspirational place to spend their leisure time with activities ranging from sports in the four-court sports hall and martial arts room and on the 3G kick pitch to music, dance, arts and crafts, cookery and enterprise and employability opportunities.

Barnabas Shelbourne, CEO of Legacy Youth Zone, said: “Michael is a great role model to young people in the area, so we are very grateful that he was able to join us at the site of our soon to be open Youth Zone.

“Our goal is to provide a safe and supportive place for young people to spend their leisure time outside of school hours, and Michael’s visit provided us with the perfect opportunity to showcase the kind of atmosphere we hope to have – fun, inspirational and inclusive.”

Set to open in 2019 in Selhurst, the Youth Zone will serve the young people in the borough aged 8-19, and up to 25 for those with disabilities with them paying just £5 annual membership and 50p per visit.

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