Students at Stockton Riverside College have been given a hard hitting lesson in the devastating consequences of knife crime.

The awareness session was delivered by Cleveland Police and shone a spotlight on one of the key themes in the musical theatre students’ upcoming summer production.

Bringing West Side Story to the college stage, course leader, Sara Durkin said: “We wanted to take this opportunity to explore this important issue with our young people, especially at a time when knife crime appears to be so prevalent.”

With a focus on real life case studies from the area, the true impact on family, friends and communities was hammered home to the students.

Cleveland Police School Liaison Officer Eric Barrett said: “It is so important to get this message out to young people, especially in the current climate.

“When it comes to our presentations we don’t hold back, we need young people to understand what the consequences are, not just for themselves but for family, friends and the whole community. By using local stories it really brings the message home.”

For the young college performers, it proved both an eye opening and informative session into the reality of the situation on their doorsteps.

Joshua, 18, said: “I would like to be able to say that I am shocked, but I’m not.

“I had heard about some of the stories told, but this session shone a light on some of the more personal details and made you think more about the effects on friends and family.”

Lewis, 18, said it was terrifying to hear about incidents so close to home. He said: “I have noticed whenever people bring up gun crime in America they talk about knife crime in England. When you start looking in to it you realise how often it happens and how scary it is.”

As rehearsals for West Side Story get underway, Lewis said: “Seeing and hearing about the real effects of knife crime on others will help us to feel and understand the emotion of our characters more.”
Course leader Sara said: “When you look at the story of West Side Story there are some strong themes in there including knife crime. We don’t want to shy away from these issues with our performance.

“To have the police come and talk to our students and bring home the reality of the people effected was truly shocking but also so important.”

Stockton Riverside College’s Musical Theatre students are bringing West Side Story to the Margaret Armstrong Theatre June 4-8. For ticket details visit: www.stockton.ac.uk/performing-arts/
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