‘Bobby’ – teaching young people across Kirklees about child exploitation
Bobby’, the educational performance that teaches young people across Kirklees about child exploitation, county lines drug trafficking*, knife crime and domestic violence.
Since September 2019, Kirklees Council have commissioned Penguin Acting to perform an educational, interactive show to thousands of young people across Kirklees. These shows are accompanied by pre and post workshops in school between the young people and staff from Safer Kirklees* to further reinforce the preventative work.
*‘County Lines’ is a term used when drug gangs from big cities expand their operations to smaller towns, often exploiting children to help move and/or sell drugs.
*Safer Kirklees is the name of Kirklees Council’s Community Safety Partnership.
The show, which recently featured on BBC Look North, addresses a number of national and local issues with the aim being that the primary school children gain an understanding of how young people, just like them, can be coerced into county lines drug trafficking.
‘Bobby’ is a twelve year old boy who has recently moved to West Yorkshire with his mother. One day when Bobby is playing out on his scooter he is approached by two young men, Rocco and Damon, who give Bobby £5 to buy sweets on the agreement that Bobby will be their friend and help them in the future.
It doesn’t take long before Rocco and Damon order Bobby to start hiding packages in his room which the pair later ask him to drop off at various addresses. Despite Bobby’s unwillingness to get involved he becomes easily swayed by the offer of money, food and computer games.
Bobby, who doesn’t know what the packages contain, is soon confronted by his mother as she has received a call from the school regarding his poor attendance, his lack of effort and his constant use of his mobile phone. Bobby’s mother, who didn’t know her son had a mobile phone, soon finds three packages in Bobby’s rucksack and wants answers. Bobby comes clean and tells his mum everything, horrified his mother forbids Bobby from seeing the older boys and threatens to call the police. Bobby pleads with his mum not to as that would end badly for the both of them.
Rocco, Damon and Lola (Rocco’s girlfriend who he has a violent and abusive relationship with) soon come looking for Bobby.
The show has three alternative endings and the young people get to see them all.
1) The first ending is that Mrs Jones (Bobby’s Mother) rings ‘Grandad’ who lives down South, they decide to move away from West Yorkshire and move in with Grandad. It’s explained to the young people that not everyone is fortunate to have this option.
2) The second alternative ending is to pay off the debt. Bobby wants to give back the packages of drugs but Mrs Jones has disposed of them. Bobby then agrees to continue working for the gang to pay them back.
3) The final ending is that Bobby is avoiding the gang and for his own personal safety is carrying a knife around in his backpack. After school, Bobby is confronted by Rocco and Damon who find his knife on him and use it against him.
After the third and final ending plays out, the actors stay in character and take a seat to carry out a Q&A session with the young people. The young people ask a variety of questions to the cast.
“Bobby, why did you carry knife?”
“Bobby, why didn’t you just say no when they asked you to deliver the package?”
“Rocco, why did you hit Lola?”
“Mrs Jones, why didn’t you just give the parcels back to the older boys?”
The Q&A sessions allows the actors to talk through some of the bad decisions their characters made during the performance, and likewise, it allows the actors to question the young people,
“What would you have done differently?”
“What should Bobby have done when he was first offered money?”
“Is it okay for Rocco to hit Lola?”
“Do you think carrying a knife is good for your protection?”
Once the Q&A has finished, the actors de-characterise and drop the act by speaking to the young people about who they really, explaining that they are actors. This helps the young people understand that what they have seen is just a performance and the actors are portraying a fictional character.
Students and teachers have provided lots of positive feedback about the show.
When the show finishes at the end of March it will have been shown in 50 primary schools across Kirklees to an estimated 5,000 young people. The show is also complimented by pre-workshops in the schools between Youth Intervention staff from Kirklees Council who speak to the young people about the themes covered in the production of ‘Bobby’. Post-workshops are also conducted to follow up on the show with the young people but also with parents. The workshops aim to get parents involved in the conversations and help them identify the signs that a young person is being coerced into ‘County Lines’ activity.
The show, ‘Bobby’, also featured on BBC Look North, please watch the video below.
Thank you to the Penguin Acting and Theatre production team for delivering a thought provoking message through your production of ‘Bobby’ for our Year 5 and 6. #saferkirklees #safeguarding pic.twitter.com/2pppM5KXqq
— Gomersal Primary (@GomersalPSchool) October 16, 2019