Young people standing around the Knife Angel at a vigil

A touching vigil to remember victims of knife crime and youth violence was held in Central Park on Saturday. Bereaved families and key members of the Chelmsford community gathered for a moment of reflection in front of the Knife Angel sculpture just after sunset.

Sculpture lit up purple

At 7pm the Knife Angel was lit with purple light and a procession of young people wearing white hoodies to symbolise positive youth culture surrounded the sculpture with white feather lanterns. They stayed in position around the angel while the crowd listened to moving speeches from those affected by violence.

The vigil heard from Stuart Newton, a knife crime survivor who was repeatedly stabbed and left for dead in an attack in 2019. Since then he’s been helping others to understand the devastating impact of knife crime.

“There are a hundred thousand blades there on the Knife Angel and my name could easily have been written on the back of one of those knives with my family grieving for me. That’s why I’m here. I could be angry about what happened to me and a lot of people are. A lot of people seek vengeance when something happens, but what will that do? It’s not going to change the situation of what happened to me. I just want this to stop.”

Stuart Newton, knife crime survivor

Ceremony created to bring community together

The ceremony was created by campaigner Luisa Di Marco, who runs youth organisation Keep it 100 Essex. Luisa, who has been leading the Knife Angel’s visit to Chelmsford, set up the vigil as part of a programme of events while the National Monument Against Violence and Aggression is in the city.

A key message of the vigil was to encourage communities to come together to find more effective ways of tackling the causes of youth violence. Fittingly, the event was supported by many local partners, including Chelmsford City Council, Chelmsford CVS, Chelmsford Theatres, Chelmsford Drama Centre, Xplore Arts, The Samaritans and Essex Police.

Keep it 100 founder Luisa Di Marco
Keep it 100 Essex founder Luisa Di Marco

After a minute’s silence to remember victims and their families, Luisa Di Marco asked those assembled to continue the Knife Angel’s legacy.

“A life lost to violence, including youth violence is the end of a story. I ask you to think about what part you can play in reducing violence in our community. Our young people need us to pull together right now. We have a responsibility to our youth. We need to be proactive about their wellbeing and positive about their culture. As you leave here today, help us ensure that the Knife Angel’s presence is a genuine catalyst for change and think about what you can do to help.”

Luisa Di Marco, Keep it 100 Essex founder

The vigil came to a close with a performance of ‘I am Love’ by singer Joy Malcolm, a celebrated vocalist for Moby and Basement Jaxx.

Vigils took place across the country

Over the last few months, Luisa Di Marco has been working with communities across the country to turn this moment of remembrance into a national event. On Saturday evening vigils also took place in Liverpool, Manchester, Leicester and Camden with communities coming together in different ways to stand against violent crime. In Liverpool, where the Knife Angel made its very first journey in 2018, a vigil was held at the Anglican cathedral and landmarks across the city turned purple in support.

The Knife Angel departs next week, but there’s still time to see it for yourself this week in Central Park before it leaves. If you’d like to be part of its legacy to the city, you can sign up to be an anti-violence ambassador on the Keep it 100 website.

To find out more about the Knife Angel and its mission, visit the British Ironwork Centre’s website.

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