GW Theatre: CEASE Project
[Communities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation]
Context and Background
Non-profit making GW Theatre Company has been producing powerful, thought-provoking and memorable issue-based dramas to educate and empower young people for 31 years - working in collaboration with young people, families, schools, colleges, local authorities and most social agencies. We use theatre to engage heads and hearts and then changes minds and lives. Our work has reached over half a million young people and we deal directly with issues other theatre companies will not touch. All of our performance work is supported by specially produced lesson outlines and we never work in isolation - working always in partnership with all appropriate agencies and professionals.
For the last five years we have concentrated on developing what we believe is urgent and vital work to help educate and protect young people from child sexual exploitation and abuse. In that time we have produced two theatre productions with Sony Award winning writer Mike Harris, which are now widely acclaimed as leading learning tools for tackling these issues. The first of these is 'Somebody's Sister, Somebody's Daughter', a powerful drama about sexual exploitation and street grooming aimed at young people aged 14 upwards and adults.
"It is important that today's teenagers understand the risk of sexual exploitation and to know where to seek help. The GW Theatre Company has perfected the art of engaging teenagers in a thoughtful and entertaining way though drama and dialogue" Lisa Harker, Head of Strategy, NSPCC
This play has toured extensively into schools and evaluations prove it has had a positive and profound effect on the attitudes and perceptions of the young people who see it. More significantly it has brought over 100 young people forward to either make a disclosure or seek help. It continues to tour and we have now produced a short film version of the play to extend and deepen its impact with young people, parents, carers and other adults.
You can watch the trailer below:
"This is an important, thought-provoking production which addresses many vital issues about CSE" Ian Rushton, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS North West
It is crucial to work with teenagers as they are often the target of those who seek to sexually exploit and abuse, but it is clear that interventions at an earlier age would empower them with the skills and confidence which could really help to protect them as they move through secondary school. We need both Protection and Prevention work. Additionally, there is a body of evidence indicating that younger and and younger children are becoming victims of CSE. These two facts convinced us that we needed a second theatre production to raise awareness with and protect younger children aged 9-11. Thus, In 2015, with funding from 6 local authorities, we produced 'Mister Shapeshifter', an exciting, very contemporary fairy tale about the way some adults abuse childrens' trust and how children can protect themselves. Its purpose is to entertain, inform, and safeguard children against risk and danger in real life and online and to provide a catalyst for further work by teachers and other adults with the children who see it.
"It's great! It really reinforced the messages we give as a school about being safe. The children responded positively and it made them think and consider the actions they take. It dealt with a very difficult subject very well" Airedale Primary School, Wakefield.
This play has now been touring for two years, reaching thousands of children. Again, our evaluations indicate the play is having a very positive impact and making a significant contribution to multi-agency efforts to protect children from CSE. We have proven the the work is having a positive impact and moreover would argue that we have directly changed the lives of some children by giving them the confidence to speak up or disclose.
For us, the importance of working honestly and appropriately with children and young people to tackle these issues cannot be overstated. We must find ways to get past adult anxieties and fears about discussing these things, as this is often a barrier to progress and change.
There are signs that this is happening. After many shocking and high profile CSE cases across the UK many schools are now fully committed to supporting and delivering CSE prevention work. Mainstream agencies such as police, safeguarding teams, local authorities and CSE teams are becoming more pro active as they learn from examples of apalling professional practice in which children who were being exploited and abused were not just inadequately dealt with but wilfully ignored and dismissed. Indeed in some cases they went on to be further exploited and abused by the very people to whom they had turned to for help. Things are getting better, but are far from perfect and there is massive work still to do to defeat CSE and CSA, and we are determined to take a lead on this with our ongoing work...
So what do we need Crowdfunding for?
Because we want to go further in two distinct ways.
1. We want to expand and deepen the impact of our work
To tackle the root causes of child sexual exploitation and abuse, to break down the social stigma of discussing and reporting it, to stop it from being a dirty secret and make it an open truth, to bring it out of the darkness and into the light and to make all children in all communities as safe we possibly can from exploitation and abuse, then we must engage in meaningful ways with parents, carers, siblings, families and the wider community. All of these people could be instrumental in a single campaign: 'Be the Protector'. They also need some support, information and reassurance themselves to counter fear, apprehension and a lack of knowldege and confidence.
To achieve this, and with funding from the West Yorkshire Police Crime Commisoner CSE Fund and Rochdale Council, we are currently developing an animated and book version of our primary age CSE theatre production 'Mister Shapeshifter' - which will enable us to engage with the above people to undertake groundbreaking work. We are working with the BAFTA award winning Fettle Animation and our ambition is to reach millions of people to raise levels of awareness and knowledge. If the eyes, ears and hearts of the majority of people can be fixed on recognising and reporting CSE and CSA then we can maximise the potential to prevent and stop children from being exploited and abused.
We can be clear that we already have the funding to develop the animation and are working on it now.
We would use £10k of the Crowdfunding monies to build learning into the animation and book and to launch both in February 2018.
2. We want to work with children aged 6-9 to develop a completely new CSE prevention resource
We are now convinced there is case to be made for working with even younger children aged 6-9. This may involve producing a new theatre production, an animation, a book and a website - or all of these things. The need is clear and obvious: we know that adulthood is descending on children at an ever younger age and we must find a way to guide and support them through this time of massive social and technological change - doing whatever we can to protect them and without robbing them of their precious childhood.
Learning about positive friendship and trust, and about safe relationships and contact is crucial for children, especially very young ones. This awareness, this foundation learning for life, can give them the skills they need to recognise harmful, exploitative and abusive behaviours and relationships. If we give them [and their parents, carers and families] a sense of what is right and true, then we can give them a capacity to understand when something feels or is wrong - in whatever circumstances and with whomever - even if it is someone they should be able trust, including someone from their family.
The key aim of all this work is to put the safety and protection of children at the core of everything.
The addition of this new piece of work would complete a unique programme of GW Theatre CSE prevention work covering the age range 6-25 and adults too, which would all be part of a national resource entitled CEASE: Communities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation
We would use £10k of the Crowdfunding monies to commence research and development work on this new piece of work and as a foundation to draw in other public funding partners.
Your contribution will help us to work creatively and reach many thousands of people with powerful, vital messages and information and support on an issue that affects us all.
We aim to raise £20k.
The cost of just one serious CSE trial and rebuilding the life of just one child afterwards can be over £6 million pounds. If you help us to raise £20k we might be able to reach 6 million people and prevent countless children, their families and their communities from having their lives destroyed by child sexual exploitation and abuse.
Make a pledge please.
See more information about GW's work at www.gwtheatre.co.uk