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It all sounds a bit risqué, but there’s nothing for a more conservative audience to be fearful of in this lot. In fact, far from being a taboo subject, The Skanques are emblematic of a proactive role in community development being taken by a number of councils across the inner west.

For the name refers to an all-girl electro pop group, comprised of five women in their mid-teens pulled from their usual lives and thrown together into partnership. Essentially a creative mentorship, the initiative aims to boost the women’s self-esteem and facilitate an understanding of the social forces impacting their lives.

The Skanques are an initiative of Inner-West Youth Theatre Projects, a joint effort orchestrated between Ashfield, Strathfield, Leichhardt, Burwood, and City of Canada Bay Councils. Mimicking Australian Idol in its selection process, young females between the ages of 14 and 16 auditioned for a place in the final quintet. The selected five were then mentored by professional musician Luke Dal Santo, and worked with creative advisors to develop lyrics.

Anyone who fitted the age requirements was allowed to audition for the group and, in this instance, council did not necessarily favour those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The quality of contestants’ voices was a consideration, but also required was a basic understanding of the social issues facing teenagers. According to the group’s spokesperson James Winter, “these issues ranged from one’s popularity in the school playground and self-esteem, to negotiating young romance and the problem of boys tearing rifts in female social networks.”

The group’s lyrics were generated from discussions with Mr Winter and other creative advisors about teenage alienation. Mr Dal Santo allowed the women to choose from various instrumental tracks he had composed, to which they could fit their lyrics. “As they were novice creative artists, the creative autonomy of the young women was never compromised; they were very grateful for the professional guidance,” Mr Winter said.

The name of the band was chosen as an ironic take on the notion of a skank: a young female who has been marked as a delinquent by her peers. The group sought to reappropriate the name and illuminate the social forces that cause peers to win or lose in the popularity stakes. As the group sing in ‘Who’s that Girl’, “She’d never tell you where she’d been or all the places in between, she came back as a beauty queen and left you for dead…”

You can hear their music at www.myspace.com/theskanques. They will soon release an EP, which will also be transformed into a musical, touring the inner west by June this year.

by Marcus Coombs