One of the most challenging co-creation projects we have undertaken was focused on finding a way to respond appropriately to issues of radicalisation and extremism in ways appropriate to primary school children. Our 'Skills to Resist Radicalisation resource' began as a response to a request for support from Merseyside Police. Tension had arisen in the Birkenhead area after the Brexit referendum, with right wing extremists threatening to protest outside a local school where the intake from Muslim communities was high. The Police approached Ariel and we were able to respond by delivering projects in the school focused on empowering and giving a voice to vulnerable communities.
We worked with the Bengali parents at the school who were feeling threatened and isolated. Initially they talked about how their children sometimes felt excluded, which led to a discussion about how young people’s views are formed and reflection on the similarities between the outdated attitudes that sometimes exist in all communities, particularly amongst the older generation. As a result we were able to develop a short animation exploring how these different views can leave young people feeling torn between these conflicting messages.
We then took this animation and used it as stimulus for workshops with two groups of young people; a mixed Muslim and white group from Wirral and a group from a white, working class area of St Helens. Both groups immediately identified with the core message of the film and were enthusiastic in talking about the issues raise. They expressed a need to talk about how this situation made them feel, describing feeling stressed and under pressure to conform to their family’s values. The young people in St Helen’s came up with the metaphor of a ‘tug-of-war’ with them at the centre being pulled back and forth by their family and school. This idea was then developed by both groups into a series of activities that enabled them to express how the situation made them feel and then explore ways how they could take control of the situation and communicate positively with their school and family. These ideas have now been fully developed into an online module, which is currently being piloted across Merseyside.