The power of music to tackle knife culture

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The MIA felt compelled to share the outcome of a recent article featured in The Guardian about Music Fusion, a music project supported by industry Charity, Music for All. The response that Music Fusion received after being featured in the mass media was hugely unexpected, touching and definitely food for thought!

Music Fusion are supported by industry Charity, Music for All. They work with young people who are referred to them from youth offending / probation teams, children’s services and other youth support agencies. Music Fusion serves areas of extreme social deprivation in Portsmouth, Havant, Southampton, Gosport and Fareham and focuses on channelling troubled youngsters’ energy away from crime and violence into ‘conscientious rapping’

Music Fusion were recently the subject of an article in The Guardian titled ‘Knife crime: using the power of drill music to tackle gang culture’, which outlined how Music Fusion were on the front line of tackling ‘youth violence’ and whether young people’s music was to blame for these rising violence rates.

What happened after this article was published, was something truly unexpected

Here’s the article published in the Guardian: ‘Knife crime: using the power of drill music to tackle gang culture’

Here’s some thoughts from Jinx Prowse, the Chief Executive of Music Fusion:

Once we found out the article was published, we excitedly watched our inboxes to see the public’s reaction. To our surprise it was our letter box that contained the most unexpected community feedback.

In a green bag, amongst all the other post, was a Zombie Knife. For those of you unfamiliar with the term this describes very large knives designed for their brutality over any reasonable function. This knife was particularly dangerous as the 40cm blade could fold away into the handle. This knife was deliberately designed to be carried on the street.

Music Fusion share our building with the Spring Arts & Heritage Centre. When I reported the incident to the Spring, they looked surprised and said, ‘Wow, that’s the second knife this week.’ After some thought our general assumption is that one of our young people read the guardian story (or at least the headline) on the prolific social media around the article. They wanted to get rid of some big knives and thought, ‘Music Fusion will do the right thing’.

The Spring dutifully phoned the police who requested we come and hand them in to our local-ish Police Station. In the end one of the staff from the Spring drove to Waterlooville and handed the knives in. I thought about that member of staff and how uncomfortable it must have felt to walk up to the public desk and hand over such questionable items, give their name, address and where they found the knives. We know that most of our young people have an unhealthy relationship with the Police. They are literally the last people they will turn to if they have a problem.

The question got asked… ‘Who does a young person trust when they want to dispose of a knife?’

A Guardian analysis of official statistics this year showed a 46% average increase in knife-related offences in 34 English and Welsh counties since 2010. In 2010-11, there were 451 crimes involving knives or sharp implements in Hampshire. That had risen to 868 by 2017-18.

Who benefits from Music Fusion?

Music Fusion work with young people who are already caught up in the judicial system. We know that there is a clear need for education, a safe place, something to do and somewhere to go for our young people.

What we have learned is they also need somewhere to hand in knives.

In response to growing youth violence and knife crime in our locality, Music Fusion are looking for support to help run the next phase of our award-winning Words Not Weapons programme. This will be the fifth album, tour and web documentary we have delivered since 2011 to directly address the growing incidents of youth violence in our local communities. When it comes down to weapon amnesties; yes, we are a direct response to a problem right on our doorsteps. However, our primary focus is on a long term, ethical investment in thousands of young people, teaching them kindness, empathy, respect and resilience. Success for us is reconnecting our most vulnerable young people with their communities. We have been at this for over ten years and have a portfolio of evidence that our strategy is working.

Quote from parent, “Drugs, drinking & stealing were always on the agenda… then being beaten up and threatened with a knife… then stealing cars and running drugs for the big boys. It was a downward spiral for my boy. The police were involved and then social services, then YOT… THEN MUSIC FUSION! Thank you for giving me my kind beautiful son back, the boy I knew I had raised! He works hard now as a well respected labourer and loves coming over to Music Fusion when he can. The turnaround is amazing. I know most of it was his own work, but my god MUSIC FUSION was there at just the right time in my boy’s life. Thank you for letting him live inside the music you create and letting his lyrics be his way of coping with life the right way!”

Music Fusion is interested in meeting local business owners to see if there are any opportunities to develop closer community ties. If this subject is something that you care about, please feel free to get in touch with Jinx – jinx@musicfusion.org.uk

The young people also recorded a track on the day the Guardian came down to visit: