ODD ARTS: Knife Crime Prevention Theatre Project – Lauren’s Blog

By Odd Arts | January 07 2021

ODD ARTS: Knife Crime Prevention Theatre Project – Lauren’s Blog

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    Odd Arts Volunteer Lauren’s blog in response to ‘Knife Crime’ Workshop

    During this week, I was fortunate enough to watch the interactive performance and workshops by Odd Arts on knife crime aimed at high school students aged 12-16. 

    The Odd Arts facilitator began the workshop by asking the young people ‘what is knife crime?’ Some responses demonstrated that some of the young people already had awareness of what it was; ‘when knives are used in crime”, “retaliation”, “gang violence”, and “protection”, but other responses showed a lack of understanding as some of the young people hid away from the looming question. During one workshop the facilitator pointed out that you’re ‘65% more likely to get hurt by your own knife’, demonstrating the danger it has not only for others but yourself too. For myself, even at 21, I feel like I wouldn’t fully know how to define such a term, and the facilitator ensured that they rephrased what the young people said to provide a term for them to use. We learnt that for carrying a knife you can be sentenced to prison for 4-5 years, but cooperation with the police can lessen your time.

    The Odd Arts facilitator eased the young people into the workshop by getting them to stand up or remain seated if the statement they said related to them. They included statements such as ‘I would never carry a knife’, and responses ranged from, ‘only if necessary’, or ‘not at all they’re dangerous’.

    The participants were told from the beginning that this was an interactive workshop and they had agency in the hour, being able to comment and respond to what was said or shown. The facilitator achieved this by using the phrase, ‘tell me about that’, when they had gained a response from the young person, encouraging them to elaborate on their thoughts provoked by the question or what they saw. The workshop contained a performance with Odd Arts’ actors, re-telling a narrative of a young person, Ollie, who is involved in conflict and tension with another student at his school; Gavin. Ollie ends up bringing a knife to rescue his brother, who ends up getting stabbed and taken to hospital. The opinions of the young people in the audience were vital and valued during the workshop as they were able to work together, after watching the short performance, to demonstrate what the characters had done right or wrong by changing the actions of the characters. The forum used its themes of social media, family and education as a way to create relatable characters for the young people involved in the workshop to engage with and understand. These seemed to be successful, in that it created comedic moments where the phone was used to share the voice of Gavin who rapped to offend Ollie and additionally immersed the audience into this world much like their own. The inclusion of the narratives format of monologues created truth and reality, as the characters spoke to the young people allowing them to understand how they felt in that particular moment. 

    In one of the workshops, the young people were highly engaged in wanting to change the scene where Ollie tried to ask his older brother for advice on how to deal with Gavin and his gang’s bullying. The use of this improvisation made the young people think about the catalysts for the escalation in how people end up becoming involved with knives can be smaller than they’d imagine. They suggested that adults need to listen to young people with more compassion and there are different types of people you can speak to when you have an issue. Safeguarding at the schools cropped up a number of times and they even formed a scenario of how this would pan out. The facilitator outlined that the service ‘ChildLine’, is open 24/7 for them to call and discuss anything bothering or upsetting them. 

    Watching the workshop pan out, was interesting to see how the young people’s understanding and awareness of the dangers of knife crimes increased throughout the hour or so, and how they became more comfortable once seeing actors perform, to then express their own opinions juxtaposed with the statements and questions at the beginning. The facilitator ensured that these workshops weren’t Odd Arts trying to tell them there’s a perfect way, but to show them that if they can deal with these issues earlier on, change can happen to prevent consequences like Ollie’s. 

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