Partners work with young people in Barrow to raise awareness of knife crime

Date posted: 15th March 2022

Forty-eight Year 8 pupils from Furness Academy in Barrow have taken part in a pilot programme to raise awareness of the seriousness of knife crime. The initiative aimed to educate young people about the effects that carrying a knife can have on potential victims, the perpetrator, families, medical staff, peer groups and the wider community.

The interactive programme was set up in May 2021, after several serious crime incidents in Barrow and concerns that some young people felt the pressure to carry a knife as a means of protection.

The initiative is led by Cumbria County Council’s South Cumbria Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) and Drop Zone Youth Projects and is supported by Cumbria Police, Walney Community Trust, Child Centred Policing, Barrow Integrated Care Community (ICC) and University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT).

Feedback from the students was extremely positive and the main points they raised were:

· that they preferred external agencies to come in and deliver programmes

· that they were moved by the personal stories and felt it helped them understand certain consequences

· that they found the interactive delivery and learning from experience was beneficial.

Simon Laheney, Headteacher at Furness Academy, said: “This project has really helped a number of young people understand the complex reasons that lead them to engage in knife crime and all too often with tragic consequences. If it results in one less tragic loss of life, or better decisions being made by young people because of what they have learnt and understand, then it already has been worth the effort that everyone involved has put it. Of course, it will do much more than that and I for one am really grateful that our students were afforded the opportunity.”

The six-week pilot programme included:

· an introduction to historic local knife crime cases and the case of Kiyan Prince who was fatally stabbed outside the London Academy in Edgware, London on 18 May 2006

· a personal account from a local teacher from South Cumbria PRU, recounting his experience of losing a relative to a fatal stabbing and the effects on a family

· the opportunity for pupils to question police about how the cases they had learnt about would be dealt with legally

· a presentation from police around weapons, what knife crime is, the consequences, true and false interactive scenarios and a talk about the Knife Angel

· a session led by local Emergency Department nurses from UHMBT on the medical and physical impact of knife wounds, how it affects medical professionals and the long-term consequences of being stabbed

· an honest evaluation and feedback session

Jez Mark, Lead Engagement Officer from South Cumbria Pupil Referral Unit (PRU), said: “South Cumbria PRU and Dropzone set up an educational project around knife crime as we were concerned at the number of young people making disclosures about carrying or allegedly carrying and there being a ‘pressure’ to carry on young people. We put together a six lesson programme that looked at the effects and consequences of knife crime from a number of perspectives including those directly affected victims’ families, police and the NHS.

“The project so far has received positive feedback from students, schools, parents and all professionals who are a part of it. This has created a high level of need from schools in the area, all of which have wanted a specific type of delivery which we have adapted to. We are also now working with primary schools to provide awareness sessions around knife crime. Since the project began in May we have worked directly with 600 young people and we have a request to work with many more."

Cath Corkhill, Director of Drop Zone Youth Projects, said: "The Knife Angel has been such a positive piece of art to have in Barrow that has supported an extensive piece of education that's been/being delivered in local schools. The sculpture has provoked many conversations, some amazing photos and a really unequivocal response. Due to this we are continuing to develop the project and hope to have our own artwork created, with the support of Barra Culture, to begin an art/education, tour enabling our schools to request the installation and package to spend time within their establishments so we have a legacy of learning left by her visit."

Maxine Baron, Development Lead for Barrow ICC, said: “The Knife Angel was erected outside Barrow Town Hall where it stood proudly in front of the magnificent town hall building. The Knife Angel encouraged reflection and empathy from our community for all of the knife crime victims that the sculpture honours and immortalizes. It is hoped the Knife Angel's arrival could improve awareness of the effects knife crime has, not only had on the victims and their families but the community as a whole. Well done to Cath from Drop Zone who has made this possible.”

The team driving forward the initiative is currently working with other secondary schools and primary schools in the Barrow area to deliver the project and was instrumental in securing funding for the Knife Angel to come to the town earlier this year.

Michael John Hudson wrote the below poem to mark the Knife Angel tour:

Knife Angel - A Poem By Michael John Hudson

I ventured out to thee;

On a mid-winter’s night-

Choosing to alight

From my motorised safety cell,

In order to see for myself-

This crusader for public health,

Steadily, all the hub-bub-

Gone before and happening currently

Had come to raise my curiosity

What would I see and what would I then feel?

Upon staring up at the Knife Angel.

The answer would come soon enough….

Arriving at the site,

Soon after the eighth-stroke of the night,

To look up at this figure of gargantuan height,

Its presence could not cease but move me-

The encroaching darkness seeming to magnify-

The statue’s poignancy,

Fore-lit and backlit by a kaleidoscope of shimmering shades,

Flooding onto the surface of the exhibit,

To underscore unignorably every one of those dreaded blades,

The legacy,

Of every one of those egregious deeds…

Collectively seizing my soul-

I became overcome with emotion-

As the presence started to swallow me whole…

On the low, I was alone-

This was so,

For a short while,

Existing in a state of solemnity,

Wanting to pray,

For those lost…

To their families,

Whose pain shall never allay,

Never before had I known the power of the display-

As the minutes became moments, falling away,

Realising for some, this frame of mind is so deeply ingrained,

Locked in…

As I began imagining

Every blood-curdling howl

In notice of every formed detail,

Every feature-

Of this steel-bladed structure-

Each edge bearing a stained scripture-

Of a life erased-

Stilled in time and can’t be regained,

Truly thought-provoking,

The Knife Angel gets people talking,

Why so honest? Why so truth-bearing?

With nothing at all to hide.

I guess now, it’s out in the open-

A distillation of a campaign,

That we can rightly champion,

No pretence,

Just the realities to be seen,

Allowing for a national conversation,

To take place, about this culture.

Founding public dialogue,

Spanning far and wide,

In the hope that it will prevent the needless loss of future lives,

The Knife Angel representing the pain we have long held inside.

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