So tonight we had the first of the second series of Rock School, the series where Gene Simmons, of Kiss fame, tries to bring together a rock band out of a bunch of school kids. Whilst the previous series took a group of well spoken young people from Christ’s Hospital, a private school, this time it’s a group from a comprehensive school –Kirkley Community High School in Lowestoft, Suffolk.
It’s a pretty different environment, as Simmons realises as soon as he arrives, he pretty quickly comments on the difference in behaviour. Whilst I’m sure the students in the playground are acting up for the camera, it’s certainly true that a comprehensive class will be a very different experience. However a look at the schools most recent inspection report shows that perhaps the TV programme makers are playing up the differences a bit for effect.
However, there is a big difference in the young people with whom Gene is working. Whilst the young people selected at Christ’s Hospital could probably be expected to have good career prospects, and look forward to that, primarily picked because they are musical, the situation in Lowestoft is very different. For many in the selected group see no real future for themselves, seeing Lowestoft as a dead end town, and a boring place to live. A number of the students talk on camera about how much they want to be in the band, and how much it will mean to them, seeing it as a massive opportunity. Many are what would be regarded as ‘problem’ students, some who have been excluded from other schools, others who get into trouble, essentially many of the young people picked appear to be those who are having trouble connecting with conventional schooling and it is pretty heartening to see young people who have earlier said that they really don’t see any point to school really inspired to work at something. Simmons is not getting everything his own way though. There was a bit of drama in the first show in that Chris, who Gene obviously thinks is the ideal front man for the band, and someone with real talent, is taken off on a weeks holiday by his parents. Gene goes so far as to try and persuade his parents not to take him away, but to no avail – so the band line-up is picked without him – a source of more drama to come methinks.
In amongst the music there were some amusing Gene moments too. First off his chauffeur is technically a bigger British pop star than Simmons, in that he was in a band that had a number one hit back in the 80’s – Kiss has never had a number one in the UK. His chauffeur also takes him on a tour of the hotspots of Lowestoft, meeting some OAP’s who actually recongnise him from the TV, and a couple having their ‘Tuesday outing’ down to the pier. It has to be said that Simmons is less than impressed, indeed he forgets where he actually is at times. However, again Simmons initial training as a teacher again does show, that despite the act, he actually is very good at connecting with the young people. He also seems to have learned from some of the problems with the previous class, in that he hasn’t fixed on a particular band lineup – trying to avoid the problems last time when half the group almost totally switched off when they weren’t picked. Certainly it seems that the new series will be just as interesting as the last.
Having said that, there is an interesting little gem revealed by the Radio Times. Whilst it goes totally unmentioned in the series, the school already has a bit of a rock heritage, with a new music suite opened in 2004 by the Darkness, three of whom are former pupils.