Using art and culture to tackle youth violence through Coventry City of Culture initiative

We’ve signed up our first Artist in Residence as we seek to use creativity to tackle youth violence and build better connections with young people in Coventry. 

Respected film-maker, poet and playwright Kay Rufai will explore the role that arts and culture can play in breaking down barriers between officers and younger members of our communities. 

It’s part of a new approach to tackling youth violence - called Barriers to Bridges - and is being funded by the Coventry City of Culture Trust and PCC. 

Kay Rufai
Kay Rufai

We know there are some young people in Coventry who are at risk of criminal exploitation and serious youth violence. We’re hoping Kay can work with them to understand their experiences and help them find a voice. 

The 37-year-old British-born Nigerian will share his time between young people in Coventry - who have encountered the police - and our officers in a bid to find real solutions to the problems of youth violence in in the city. 

As part of this Kay will conduct 10 days of in-house research and development with the force by observing day-to-day policing as well as interviewing officers and staff in particular roles. He’s also run up to 10 workshops for young people who’ve been in contact with the police. 

Kay Rufai
Kay Rufai

Then Kay will have six weeks to put together a final presentation summing up his experience which will be showcased at the CVX Festival in August.

He said: “I’ve delivered residencies with various communities before, from young people in gangs to undocumented young people navigating their livelihoods across the San Diego and Tijuana border, to refugees and formerly incarcerated people. I’ve never worked closely with the police like this before so the prospect excites me.

“I’m someone who loves to embark on challenges to improve my growth, both personally and professionally. When I came across this opportunity to take on a creative residency and work with young people it stood out as a perfect opportunity to learn more about the structures and practices that already exist and use my creative skillsets to bring about care-based approaches to policing. 

“I’m looking forward to getting the opportunity to learn – from both the young people but also through engagement with the varied team within WMP. I’m also looking forward to co-creating some artistic outputs as a result of my residency.”

The project forms part of the role we’ll have in Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 and build on some of the opportunities the year-long honour will bring. 

Chief Inspector Helen Kirkman said: “This is a really exciting opportunity for us to build bridges with young people in Coventry by getting them involved in art and culture. 

"We want them to be able to trust us and engage with us and we’re really looking forward to seeing what Kay comes up with. 

"It’s an exciting venture and wouldn’t be possible without funding from the City of Culture Trust and the PCC so we’re really thankful for their belief in the initiative. 

“It’s an exciting time for everyone in Coventry and a chance to put the city on the map.”

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