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Silent Witnesses
Theatre Centre and Birkbeck, University of London, aim to reduce the risk of children witnessing or experiencing violent crime becoming perpetrators themselves

This month sees the inception of Silent Witnesses, an 18 month long collaboration between Theatre Centre and Birkbeck, University of London working with Year Five pupils across ten inner-city primary schools from Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool, London and Manchester.
The project, the subject of a documentary being produced by Actorshop Productions, is a partnership between Theatre Centre and senior developmental psychologists Dr Edward Barker and Dr Natasha Kirkham from Birkbeck.
Silent Witnesses aims to help children deal with violence they may have witnessed in their community, on television or in computer games. The project also seeks to raise awareness among parents and teachers of the role they can play in improving children’s safety and wellbeing. It will culminate with a tour of a new play by Ed Harris in spring 2014, commissioned and produced by Theatre Centre.
The project comprises three stages:
Stage One
Ten Year Five classes from five cities will participate in a two day residential programme run by playwright Ed Harris and developmental psychologist, Dr Natasha Kirkham. These involve creative writing workshops and group discussion.

Stage Two
Ed Harris will draw upon the material created in the workshops and the conversations held in schools to create a script that will be developed and rehearsed by Theatre Centre.

Stage Three
Theatre Centre will tour the production to targeted primary schools across the UK. (Bookings accepted from June 2013.) Children, teachers and parents of children at participating schools will complete pre-play and post-play questionnaires evaluating their attitudes to violence and their responses to the play.
“This project will be of great benefit to the children and staff at Mandeville Primary School. Gilpin Square and other neighbouring areas experience a high level of crime. Many children have witnessed shootings, knife crimes and criminal damage, amongst other crimes. Very rarely do they talk about them, particularly to school staff.” Emma Penzer, Headteacher, Mandeville Primary School
“We hope that by including children’s voices in the development of the play we will help to engender an atmosphere where children can talk to adults about their experiences of witnessing violence, and adults are equipped to support children and help them reduce their potential to react aggressively themselves.” Dr Edward Barker, Birkbeck
By the end of the 18 month long project researchers from Birkbeck will have gathered evidence from over 5,000 children, teachers and parents about the role of creative expression in changing responses to, and understanding of, violent behaviour. The collated data, research and resulting documentary will be drawn upon by lead educationalists, academics and parents.

For more information and to get involved

Contact Information
Organisation: Theatre Centre
Contact Name: Alan Ward
Contact Email: