Leila’s Windrush Generation Rap

Army@TheVirtualFringe is drawing to a close with a delightful final flourish. Yesterday we were delighted to surprise 12-year-old Leila McPhate with a trip to Redford Barracks to be presented with a professional recording made by Army musicians of her rap inspired by the Windrush generation.

Leila pictured by Cpl Nathan Tanuku. MoD Crown.

Leila, from Larbert High School in Stenhousemuir, wrote The World Is A Dark Place as her entry for Never Such Innocence, an international arts competition to give children and young people a voice on conflict.

The young rapper, who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), had learned at school how people from the Caribbean were invited to the UK to help it rebuild after WWII but frequently faced injustice and discrimination. After seeing the black British artist Dave on the Brit Awards she decided to address the issue with a rap.

The Army was among the supporters of the 2019/20 competition and Leila’s song caught the eye of Lieutenant Colonel Wendy Faux, the Army’s head of arts, who led the team behind this year’s three-week Army@TheVirtualFringe event.

She was so impressed that she arranged for the Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra to create a new soundtrack for her rap. Leila was invited to the barracks where Colour Sergeant Richard Kerr, Musician Brittany Johnnie and Corporal Scott MacFarlane of the Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland presented her with flowers and a copy of the music on behalf of the Army.


Leila, who hopes to be a writer, illustrator or musician when she’s older, was taken along to the barracks by her father David along with teachers Gary Balfour and Mhairi McAinsh.

A big cheer for Leila from her teachers and the Army reps as her dad gave a congratulations kiss.

The soundtrack was created by Lance Corporal Adrian Calef, the Principal Cellist of the Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra, bringing together a variety of styles and instruments into what he described as an “epic orchestral hip hop sound.”

Corporal Calef

A total of 15 of the school’s departments were involved with entries for the competition and they included a 3m x 2m artwork called Pray for Aleppo which gave a bird’s eye view of the bomb damage suffered by the city during the Syrian civil war.

Other pieces looked at everything from the Suffragette struggle to win votes for women and the experiences of conscientious objectors.

The Army sponsored the competition’s Fight for Freedom category which focussed on the role of African and Caribbean Commonwealth countries in defeating the Axis powers (Germany, Japan, Italy and their allies) and in post-war reconstruction.

A verse and chorus from The World is a Dark Place:

I feel like we should be regretting

Running away from depression and asking forgiveness

You feel sorry because of the screaming, the hurting, the burning, the teaching and the bleeding.

The knowledge was low, the hating high.

They should say goodbye and the only thing they could do was lay down and cry.

The teaching knowledge was not enough to get to college.

We are all in this community, we all deserve humanity, art and biology stop all this insanity because the Windrush generation was treated appallingly.


We can’t do this again

Or this will never ever end

Why can’t we just be friends?

Will someone just please help us?

We can’t do this again

Or this will never ever end

Why can’t we just be friends?

Will someone just please help us?

  • Army@TheVirtualFringe, from 10 to 27 August, featured more than 40 free online events and activities, including arts sessions for young people. It replaced the annual Army@TheFringe event which sees an Edinburgh drill hall turned into a Fringe venue hosting high-quality productions exploring issues about life in and out of uniform.
  • Leila was the overall winner in the 11-14 category of the Never Such Innocence competition.
  • Original music by David Fesliyan was used by Leila to record her competition entry. For more about David see https://www.fesliyanstudios.com. The project started off as a new arrangement of David’s music but evolved into a new track specifically created to accompany Leila’s words.