Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

I Turned My Life around and Landed a Movie Role

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

I Turned My Life around and Landed a Movie Role

Article excerpt

Byline: Barbara Hodgson Reporter

ARAPPER from the West End of Newcastle has told how he beat the odds to land a role in I, Daniel Blake.

Despite a tough start in a "rough" area, Kema Sikazwe turned his life around with the help of music and a local youth club.

And, after famous director Ken Loach heard his inspiring story, he offered the 23-year-old a part in the film which everybody is now talking about.

Kema plays Daniel Blake's next-door neighbour China in the Palme d'Or winner, which has won critical acclaim alongside nominations for the British Independent Film Awards and now the European Film Awards.

On the back of its success Kema even finds himself getting spotted in the street.

"I've shaved my head since the film but people in town have been recognising me and saying 'are you China from that film'? "It's weird. I don't know how to take it - it's quite surreal."

Kema, a self-taught musician, is a rapper and singer-songwriter who performs gigs and releases music under his stage name of Kema Kay.

Music proved a saving grace as he was growing up in the West End where there was a lot of crime around.

"I used to get into trouble at school and I'd get into fights," he said.

His parents had split up when he was young then his mother died and he poured his feelings into lyrics.

"Music gave me a purpose," he said.

He credits the Chat Trust in Arthur's Hill, a youth project for 13 to 21-year-olds, with helping to steer him onto another path.

Now living in Gosforth, he returns there regularly as a volunteer to help inspire other disadvantaged young people through music and he has just been made a trustee.

"I want others to know that surroundings don't have to define who you are," he said.

Director Ken Loach "The trust helped me get off the streets when I was younger and helped me see the consequences of my actions."

Intent on improving his life, he went to Gateshead College at 18 to pursue his music and the hard worker was nominated for student of the year.

Then he joined a local extra agency, NE14TV, accepting anything that came his way. …

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