Round Midnight and West Midlands Police - Main 1

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Engagement is crucial to delivering effective education, particularly on social issues as serious as knife crime

Quick read

➨ Round Midnight, based in Birmingham, has been tasked with creating an interactive virtual reality film to educate young people about the reasons for and consequences of carrying a knife
➨ West Midlands Police commissioned Round Midnight to create the virtual reality film
➨ It will be rolled out at schools across the West Midlands in September

The story

Theatre company Round Midnight Creative Arts is working with West Midlands Police to help reduce knife crime within the region in England using virtual reality.

Round Midnight, based in Birmingham, has been tasked with creating an interactive virtual reality film to educate young people about the reasons for and consequences of carrying a knife, as statistics show the West Midlands region of England has the second highest knife crime rate in the country behind London, despite an 8.5% reduction throughout the pandemic.

West Midlands Police commissioned Round Midnight to create the virtual reality film as part of its Virtual_Decisions Universe, following the success of its film about gangs, which won three Digital City Awards, including VR/AR Project of the Year, Best Use of Technology and The Tech for Good Award.

Virtual_Decisions: KNIVES explores the reasons why young people carry a weapon and the consequences. The virtual reality film is designed so participants can choose their own path and make decisions, each having a different outcome.

Once participants have completed the 11-minute virtual reality film, they take part in a specially designed creative workshop that explores their decisions and the consequences of their actions.

Round Midnight and West Midlands Police - Virtual_Decisions_ KNIVES
Virtual_Decisions: KNIVES is designed so participants can choose their own path and make decisions, each having a different outcome

Virtual_Decisions: KNIVES is currently being trialled at three schools in the region: Hamstead Hall Academy in Handsworth Wood, Greenwood Academy in Castle Vale and Ormiston Sandwell Community Academy in Oldbury. These schools also provided the actors for the experience so have been involved in the production.

A second trial will take place in four schools in the Lozells and Sparkbrook areas of Birmingham before film and workshop are officially rolled out at the start of the new school term in September across the West Midlands.

Round Midnight worked with Professor Peter Langdon from the University of Warwick, of the Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research, to create the virtual reality films and support workshop materials.

Langdon says: “Round Midnight’s Virtual_Decisions Universe is providing a real solution to help with some extremely serious social issues. Educating our children in this way shows them the repercussions of their decisions and actions and it has the potential to help save lives in the future.”

A really engaging way to educate young people

Lucy Kirwan, temporary chief inspector at West Midlands Police, which has funded the programme, stresses the importance of education in dealing with knife crime: “It is essential that we educate youngsters on the dangers of knife crime as too many people are seeing carrying a weapon as their only option and too many lives are being lost.”

“The Round Midnight team has created a really engaging way to educate young people on social issues that could have a real impact on their lives. The Virtual_Decisions Universe has proven to be impactful, and we saw through the first Virtual_Decisions: GANGS, how this way of educating children, which allows them to be the decision maker, can drive positive change. With the new knives film, we are hoping for the same success so we can continue to reduce knife crime across the West Midlands.”

Sami Cornick, development manager at Round Midnight, comments: “We have seen that using theatre and VR helps educate young people on important subjects within personal, social and health education has resulted in real change, so we are really pleased to be working with West Midlands Police on such an important issue.”

“Our Virtual_Decisions: GANGS programme worked really well so we know educating children on these social issues can help them throughout their lives, show them how to make the right decisions and most importantly save lives. Also, the way this has been created means that hopefully this can be rolled out across the UK, with other police forces, neighbourhood police units, in schools and in prison services as part of rehabilitation programmes.”

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Images: Round Midnight

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