Hard-hitting film on knife crime rolled out in Leeds schools as charity warns of lockdown impact
Pupils across Leeds are being educated on the impact of knife crime through a hard-hitting documentary.
Total Insight Theatre, an award-winning arts charity, has created the 20-minute film using real-life stories which highlight the devastating consequences of carrying a knife.
The film is being delivered across secondary schools, pupil referral units and youth centres across the city, followed by an interactive session.
Actors deliver the stories using the same tone, emotion and pauses as the real victims and their families, from a young teenager recovering in hospital to a mum who lost her son in a knife attack.
As the Yorkshire Evening Post's Saving Lives After Lockdown campaign looks at ways to prevent an upsurge in knife crime post-lockdown, Total Insight says it is increasingly having to adapt the project for younger children.
The charity's head of participation and development, Ella Schwarz, said it is vital for young people to understand the long-term consequences of carrying a knife.
Ella told the YEP: “After the film, there's an opportunity to go through each story and see how that fate could have been changed.
“For the young boy who had been stabbed, his story started when he was excluded from secondary school when he was around 13, he was hanging around the wrong crowd.
“We get the young people to understand that the choices they make now have an impact on their future.
“It’s making them aware of the serious repercussions of petty crime that can escalate quickly and the repercussions for their mental health, which a lot of them might not realise as a young teenager.”
The film has replaced the charity's theatre productions, which were halted by the pandemic.
The stories cover child criminal exploitation and the repercussions of joint enterprise, making young people aware of how being around the wrong crowd could land them in prison.
At the end of the interactive sessions, the pupils are given leaflets with the numbers for local support services.
Ella said: “There’s always a young person who looks like they aren’t paying attention, or they’re very fidgety.
“We’ve learnt that often that’s the person who needs it the most, so we make sure there’s something they can take away.
“It’s getting the young people to understand that if they were to call Crimestoppers or the youth services, they could save a life.”
The charity found that 96 per cent of participants felt more informed about knife crime and its impact following the sessions, while 94 per cent of those at risk of carrying a knife said they were less likely to do so.
“It shows the power of a real story and the authenticity that comes from that," Ella added.
"We’re the messenger for what has happened and we always give young people the opportunity to lead the room.
"It's not about scaring the young person, it's about explaining the severity of the issue - dropping off a rucksack for someone to make a little bit of extra pocket money can really escalate until you don't feel safe walking down the street."
Ella said educating youngsters on the impact of knife crime was more vital than ever as lockdown restrictions are eased and the charity has adapted the sessions for primary school pupils.
She added: “We’re increasingly finding that we’re having to design schemes for younger children, especially after lockdown.
"The young people and children at risk are getting increasingly younger, so it’s a pressing issue.
"As everything opens up it's important we take a broad approach, providing lots of different entry points for children and young people to get support.”
Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.