The Knife Angel came to Chelmsford’s Central Park this week and the striking sculpture forged from thousands of blades is already getting people talking about how to tackle knife crime.

The 27ft artwork was lifted into place in the early hours of Monday morning and as the sun rose over the park, it quickly drew a crowd of visitors who stopped to take photos and talk to each other; from joggers, dog walkers and parents taking their children to school, to groups of curious people, old and young, who had travelled there just to see it.

Picture credit: Keep it 100 Essex

Messages from bereaved families

The National Monument Against Violence and Aggression, more commonly known as the Knife Angel, was created by the British Ironwork Centre and artist Alfie Bradley to start exactly these conversations.

A common topic was the many weapons used to construct the sculpture, more than a thousand of which were collected from Essex with some inscribed with devastating messages from victims’ families. Andy Prophet, the deputy chief constable of Essex Police hopes the sculpture will remind young visitors of the terrible cost of knife crime.

“Every single child or young person carrying a knife, putting themselves and others at risk, is one too many. From a police perspective, from a schools and education perspective, from a voluntary service perspective, we must continue working together to do everything we can to raise awareness and get knives off our streets.

Whatever situation you’re in, carrying a knife is never the right thing to do.  Sometimes we hear the phrase ‘it’s for my safety’, but knives won’t make you safer. I can tell you that from personal experience. A knife will either cause you or somebody else serious harm.”

Andy Prophet, Deputy Chief Constable, Essex Police

Knife Angel Chelmsford’s focus on youth violence

Every place the sculpture visits commits to a month-long programme of anti-violence education and the focus of Knife Angel Chelmsford is very much on youth violence. Throughout September, young people will be asked to sign up to become Knife Angel ambassadors and to renounce violence as a way of resolving disputes.

Chelmsford City Council is a key partner of the Knife Angel project and Cllr Rose Moore, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Greener and Safer Chelmsford, says it’s been incredibly heartening to see young people coming to find out more.

“The legacy we want for Chelmsford is to empower young people and actually include them in conversations about knife crime. Too often young people are spoken at; they’re not engaged with. The Knife Angel is in a park surrounded by play and recreation provision for all ages from two to twenty-five. We want young people in Chelmsford to be a part of discussions about youth violence and to tell us what they want and need.”

Cllr Rose Moore, Chelmsford City Council’s Cabinet Member for Greener and Safer Chelmsford

Positive youth culture celebrated

Discussions about knife crime are just part of the story for Knife Angel Chelmsford; celebrating positive youth culture has an equally important role to play. The visit is being led by youth organisation Keep it 100 Essex and its founder Luisa Di Marco says this focus on inspiration and opportunity is crucial.

“Nurturing positive youth culture is what we do at Keep it 100 Essex and I want this visit to help provide real alternatives, so that we can persuade young people who might consider picking up a weapon to take a different path.

As well as the programme of education and outreach already underway, our new youth awards will be held in the city at the end of the Knife Angel’s visit and will offer support with careers in music, media, and the arts. Winners will receive a package of career development in their chosen field and the mentors for this include the Knife Angel creator Alfie Bradley, a Radio 1Xtra presenter, an acclaimed music video producer and a MOBO winning DJ to name just a few.”

Luisa Di Marco, Keep it 100 Essex founder

Outdoor theatre later this month

The new KI100 Awards is just one of the events happening as part of the Knife Angel Chelmsford programme. Between 22 and 25 September, free outdoor performances of R4J, Chelmsford City Theatres’ modern version of Romeo and Juliet will be performed in front of the Knife Angel and at other locations around the city.

New knife amnesty bins for Chelmsford

New knife amnesty bins have also been installed in the city close to the sculpture in Central Park and in the city centre near the riverside entrance to the Meadows Surface car park. Although the Knife Angel will only stay in Chelmsford for a month, these bins will remain long after the sculpture has departed for another city.

The Knife Angel is in Central Park between 6 September and 4 October. If you’d like to become an anti-violence ambassador, it’s easy to do online and you don’t have to give any details that would identify you. Go to the Keep it 100 website to find out more.

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