Arc news: April 2012

Girls Have Their Say

Girls Have Their Say

Girls Have Their Say represent at London Crown Prosecution Service for International Women's Day!

Arc was delighted to be invited to perform a Forum Theatre version of Girl E - the latest in The Blade Trilogy by Clifford Oliver, and present the new Girls Have Their Say film at the recent 'Girls and Young Women: Safer Communities and Confident Futures' event in Southwark.


Here's the CPS press release with quotes from CPS London Chief Crown Prosecutor Alison Saunders and Carole Pluckrose for Arc: 


The Crown Prosecution Service in London today welcomed girls and young women from Lambeth, Barking and Dagenham and Lewisham to an event aimed at identifying ways to stop girls and young women becoming involved with gangs.

The event entitled ‘Girls and Young Women: Safer Communities and Confident Futures' was held to recognise last week's International Women's Day.

The three hour event at the CPS headquarters in Southwark was attended by an invited audience of 60 girls and young women, who live in local communities affected by gangs to find out how they think the problem can be tackled and to raise their awareness. They spoke to CPS London's senior prosecutors participating in a timely debate which looked at aspects of the law such as joint enterprise and sexual violence.

CPS London Chief Crown Prosecutor Alison Saunders said:

“We are committed to tackling the problem of gangs which blights many communities in London. One way we can do that is to talk personally to the young people who live in those areas. They have the knowledge and experience to inform us about what is happening and guide us in ways we can tackle this problem.  We can also ensure that young people are aware of the risks they run in getting involved in gangs so they can make the right choices, choices which will impact on their futures.

“Girls and young women often play key roles, either as gang members themselves or as the girlfriend of a gang member, finding themselves pressured into criminal activity. But they can equally play key roles in standing up, influencing their peers and leading the way towards a brighter future away from the gang influence.

“Today's event was a great success and prompted a lot of thoughtful debate. I will be feeding back to my staff the messages we got from these girls and young women and I hope that the event gave the participants food for thought which will positively influence them and their peers.”

The event also featured a new film by London company Arc Theatre's Young Women and Girls programme. Arc Theatre is an organisation which specialises in creating and performing theatre that challenges assumptions and promotes change. Their new 20 minute documentary film Girls Have Their Say features a former female gang member talking about her own past experiences backed up by dramatisations and original poetry from the girls and young women involved with the programme. The film, which touched upon many aspects of gang membership, provided a starting point for the debate which followed.

Arc Theatre's Artistic Director Carole Pluckrose said:

“The aim for us in the work we do is to create strong leaders by supporting and developing young women who may be at risk of becoming gang members or may live in communities affected by gangs.

“Events such as this give these young people a voice and show them that people in positions of power, particularly law enforcers in the Capital, are willing to listen to what they have to say.

“It is only through highlighting the issues facing girls and young people that we can find ways to address them.”

The former gang member featured in the Girls Have Their Say film attended today's event. She has asked not to be identified. Speaking after the event she said:

“It's so important that people speak out. Keeping quiet doesn't do anything and it won't solve the problems. I've had loads of experiences with gangs and my motto is if my past can help change even one girl's future then I have done something great.

“A lot of girls might think they will gain confidence from being in a gang and for a time that might be right. But they have to be aware of the outcome of their actions. I have been in such horrifying situations that I've had a breakdown.

“I want to teach people who join gangs what will happen in the long run and what the serious consequences can be.”

Read original CPS press release online


Here's some feedback from participants and teachers following the event:

Cristina Caramanuta, Year 9 student:

"The CPS event was about the daily problems we experience in REAL LIFE! And how we can solve them together. It highlighted the experiences that young girls can go through from getting themselves pregnant or getting raped by young, mature and older men.

"A short film was made by about thirty girls from different schools about everything that happens and can happen in real life. I am saying 'real life' because schools are a protected site that delivers education and exposes us to positive behaviour appropriated for real life.

"During the break there was lots of food and drinks and you could even make your own tea or coffee. There were sandwiches, fruits, strawberries mandarins and grapes. Crisp and biscuits was also available. It was like a feast.

"After the break there was a theatre forum performance, four people played different characters in different situations. What was special about the performance is that it showed you scenes from the past to the present and highlighted the impact that the different scenarios and choices made how it affected your circumstances and behaviour in the present. They allowed you to see the outcomes of the choices they made and asked us to express what choices could have been made in the audience discussion and feedback. The four actors was perfect, you could understand everything that happened."

Nasteha Ahmed, Year 10 student:

"I have to say the highlight of my day at the CPS trip would have been meeting Angie LeMar, even though I was astonished by everything that had taken place.

"I was quite amazed by the play that was performed, the different scenarios that was played out explained why people are the way they are. It was very interesting.

"The female ex-gang member that exposed a lot to us was quite motivating when she spoke about her experiences she had with gangs. Although when she spoke about the growing levels of sexual violence against girls and women that joined gangs really shocked me, especially when she said that many girls and women are willing to risk being raped in return for the status of membership.

"Also the girls who made the short film Girls have their Say said that it was not just the boys that are in gangs, girls form gangs too was really good. The whole event was inspiring and I had a wonderful time. It was an opportunity not to miss."

Miss Rosemary Roberts, Teaching Assistant/Creative Leader Coordinator at Islington Arts & Media School:

"We were truly empowered by this experience and we look forward to being invited to other such events. Our girls were especially inspired by the short film and the Forum Theatre and expressed the desire that this should be disseminated in a whole school event.

"The event really opened the eyes of one or two of our girls of what is really going on in our society and especially affected one girl in a positive way.... Our Head teacher supported this event and was thrilled that it was such a success.  It was suggested that we feature this event in our summer newsletter."


Girls Have Their Say runs until August 2012 and is financed by the Home Office through the Communities Against Gangs, Guns and Knives Fund. To find out more about this and our new programme for young women Finding the Words, funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, visit our March news.

Girl E was commissioned by British Transport Police and is now available for booking - email Nita Bocking at Arc or call 020 8594 1095 to find out more about this and The Blade Trilogy.

Home Office Paul Hamlyn Foundation British Transport Police


Read about Girls Have Their Say, Youth Theatre, Drama Club and Truce! young people's projects in our April Newsletter with an introduction from Sue Fish OBE, Criminal Justice Commander at The Metropolitan Police.

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