We have been collaborating with young people on the complex issue of knife crime, in a way that puts them at the heart of helping us to understand and tackle the problem.
Over the past year, we have been working with young people from four schools across the Avon and Somerset area, in order to better understand why they might carry knives, what support they want from the police, and the issues they face in their daily lives which can lead to them becoming involved in knife crime and violence.
We have supported them to turn those ideas into short, animated films, working alongside student animators at the University of the West of England in this creative process.
The films form part of a wider campaign in Weston-super-Mare, Taunton, east and south Bristol, which sees the students’ work reflected on buses, billboards and bus shelters, as well as the key messages from each film discussed on local radio and in the local media. Importantly, the films and messages are also being shared widely on social media, with a prize on offer for the school whose film gets the most views on YouTube. * (subject to terms and conditions)
The students have also been working with a local film maker to produce a documentary which explores the themes raised in the project and which looks at the work being undertaken by various agencies to tackle serious violence.
The project has involved pupils from Futures Academy in east Bristol, Merchants Academy in south Bristol, Broadoak Academy in Weston-super-Mare and Taunton Academy.
The four films called Speak Up, Eye for an Eye, Life b4 Likes and The Cycle, can be viewed here
Avon and Somerset Police’s Chief Constable Andy Marsh said: “After months of hard work by the students, and the frustration of having to put the project on hold due to the pandemic, it’s brilliant to see this campaign come together.
“The key element of this project is that it has young people’s opinions at the heart of it. We know that police telling young people not to carry knives is not the solution, and police enforcement alone will never be enough to resolve this complex issue.
“By listening to young people’s voices and engaging them in a creative process to produce campaigns which mean something to them and their peers, we hope that they can feel empowered and less fearful.
“What’s interesting is that the four finished films are not only engaging and professional, but they are all completely different, reflecting the thoughts of individual young people whose lives and circumstances vary depending on where they live.”
During the creative process, the young people spent time in workshops with their peers, facilitated by IDEAL Sustainable Development CIC* discussing the issues, before coming up with a film concept that they pitched to a panel who chose one idea to take forward.
The winning teams then spent time developing their ideas with the team from IDEAL and student animators from UWE, who then brought these to life on screen. Legendary animation studio Aardman Productions also gave their support to the project, inviting the young people to attend a special day at their Bristol site, where they learned more about how to create a successful animation. The team at Aardman also provided professional guidance and support to the young people as their films developed.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset Sue Mountstevens said: “Young people should be free to experience and enjoy life without the fear of challenging confrontations or upsetting situations as a result of knife crime.
“I have been saddened to hear that some young people do not feel safe in their communities due to a fear of serious violence. I hope that by working closely with young people on this innovative project we can empower them to become part of the solution.
“It is really promising to see such inspiring films produced and I really hope they have a long-lasting, positive impact on our communities.”
John Parry, Senior Lecturer in Animation at UWE Bristol said: ‘‘We’re very proud to have been part of this important project, utilising our creativity and design skills to communicate the dangers of knife crime.
‘‘Our undergraduate animation students worked incredibly hard to bring the stories and concepts of young people to life and to create films which are thought-provoking and impactful.
‘‘Working on live briefs and real projects are important aspects of our BA Animation course at UWE Bristol so it was a privilege to offer this opportunity to our students and to give them the chance to make a difference to young people’s lives while also furthering their own professional development as animators.’’
* To see the campaign films, to get advice and support, and for the competition terms and conditions visit www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/knifecrime
Follow the hashtags on social media: #SpeakUp, #LiveToYourPositiveBeat, #BreakTheCycle, #Lifeb4Likes
Listen to Heart FM over the next five weeks to hear more info about the project.
* IDEAL Sustainable Development C.I.C. is a Bristol based organisation that designs and runs projects for young people and adults experiencing disadvantaged circumstances in order that they can build positive futures for themselves and the wider community.