In our local area, young people looking for belonging are being drawn into groups and gangs who deal drugs.
Give and Take is our preventative programme, creatively addressing the issues involved from primary school onwards.
In 2018, Thames Valley Police sent a letter to parents of secondary school students across Wokingham. They reported, “We have seen a rise in anti-social behaviour across the area involving young people, and many of the issues appear to be linked to drug and alcohol misuse. The drug use appears to be based around cannabis and an increased use of the drug Xanax.”
Chief Inspector Sarah Grahame recently said: “Wokingham is a very lovely place, but we do have criminals coming to exploit children living there.” Drug networks can target teenagers, particularly those who are lonely or vulnerable, without good support networks or unpracticed at making good decisions. They offer them a sense of friendship, belonging and excitement, and use them for drug running or dealing.
It’s clear that young people and their parents need help – Give and Take is Soulscape’s response. We’re working in partnership with schools, parents, police and other youth agencies to look at the reasons why teenagers end up taking or selling drugs, and to equip them with the confidence and resilience to resist this pressure.
What is Give and Take?
Through the Give and Take project, we talk with school students about what people might offer to give you – and what they might take from you in return. About giving love and respect or taking advantage. About how giving drugs to others can take away their freedom.
We’re working with creative arts students from Reading College, who have developed the schemes of work, performances and presentations with us. Armed with their creativity, experience and understanding of the issues, we bring Give and Take into schools in the autumn term.
How does Give and Take work?
We work with students at the top end of primary school and at secondary school. Using creative methods including film-making, animation, dance, music, theatre and visual arts, the emphasis is on creating positive narratives about life: having positive aspirations, doing positive things and living an alternative lifestyle that doesn’t have to conform to the pressures around us. We think about how to make good decisions. With the older students, we explore addiction too, and how it affects people’s lives.
At the end of term, we proudly display the young people’s creative work at a public exhibition hosted by Reading College. We want them to be proud of what they’ve made, and also to know that their opinions and voices are being heard by adults.
What is different about Give and Take?
Give and Take is not a policeman or teacher standing at the front of a class of teenagers and lecturing them about saying no to drugs. We take a much more interactive, explorative approach, with discussion, creative thinking and self-expression around these topics. And we hope that by working with younger children to address some of the risk factors, we can help prevent them becoming vulnerable to exploitation and addictions later on.