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Knife crime: A new way forward

Knife crime artwork
Artwork from the four animations

Avon and Somerset Police have been collaborating with young people on the complex issue of knife crime, in a way that puts them at the heart of helping the police to understand and tackle the problem.

Over the past year, they 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.

They 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 four films are called Speak UpEye for an Eye, Life b4 Likes and The Cycle.

“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.”

Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens

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 You Tube (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.

“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.”

Chief Constable Andy Marsh

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.