Remembering Ben Kinsella

A group of children in school uniform looking at images on a wall at the Ben Kinsella exhibition

This year marked 15 years since the tragic murder of Ben Kinsella. To remember him – and to prevent other young people falling victim to knife crime – the Ben Kinsella Trust set up a permanent exhibition, now housed at Finsbury Library. CEO Patrick Green tells us more

The exhibition first came about in 2012 and we’ve been at Finsbury Library since 2015. It helps young people understand knife crime in a sensitive and real way. The family set it up in Ben’s name, to try to do whatever they could to stop what happened to them happening to another family.

We spoke to a lot of young people at the time about how they’d like to be educated about knife crime and they made it clear that it should be part of the school curriculum. But they also didn’t want someone to simply tell them what to do – they wanted an authentic experience.

The result is a series of interconnected rooms which help people understand the impact of knife crime on the victim, their family and community, but also that of the offender. You learn while you walk, at your own pace.

We tell Ben’s story, but also other’s stories as well. We use immersive theatre, video – a real mix of experiences. We have a graphic novel room, which helps people understand how peer pressure can play a part in steering you to making poor decisions. We deal with social media, too, and how that is possibly influencing your thinking around knife crime.

We also tackle a lot of the myths around knife crime, some of which have existed for decades. The biggest myth is that carrying a knife will protect you, when we know that’s not true. It’s clear when young people arrive with us that some of them feel that if

they were ever in a crisis, if they pulled a knife out it would offer them the ultimate protection. Some people also think there are safe places to stab somebody – that you can have an injury that’s not life-threatening. But even the smallest of cuts can affect your life chances. We provide a really strong counter to these myths, working through all the facts.

Carrying a knife is carrying misery, heartache and endless pain and suffering, for the victim and offender. Helping young people to understand this has a strong effect on them, because they’re now associating the knife with that pain and suffering. For most young people, that’s a game-changer. It has a massive influence on their behaviour and attitude to certain situations. The result is that they make better and safer decisions.

Every child who visits completes a before-and-after survey and we take verbal feedback. We’re constantly monitoring what young people are saying and adapting the exhibition accordingly. For the 15th anniversary, we’re rolling out a youth ambassadors programme to work alongside the Trust and continue getting that youth voice out there, building on the work of No More Red with Arsenal, Adidas and Islington Council.

Young people are the best influencers we have. If you nurture their talents and skills they can go on to do great things. Showing young people that we recognise that is a really powerful statement.

The exhibition is open and free to all Islington schools and youth groups. To book, visit the Ben Kinsella website

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