Social media in spotlight as tour visits Bristol schools

August 30 2013

Bullying and its effects will take centre stage when educational provider Unique Voice brings performances and workshops to schools across Bristol.

by Rebecca Day

Bullying and its effects will take centre stage when educational provider Unique Voice brings performances and workshops to schools across Bristol.

From September, the project will be visiting schools around the city – both primary and secondary – to raise awareness of bullying among young people through creative performances and workshops.

According to recent statistics provided by the NSPCC, almost half of children and young people have experienced bullying. And with the rise of social media, it isn’t confined to school – the report reveals that 38 per cent have been affected by bullying online.

The initiative, whose patron is Sir Patrick Stewart, was started almost two years ago by Bath Spa graduates Krystal Keeley, Cat Sparkes and Claire Farnham, who all met at university.

The Triple R anti-bullying tour, which stands for Recognise, Report, Resolve, will be running through to December and aims to highlight the impact social media has on young people’s lives. 

After launching the anti-bullying campaign last year, the group received a positive response from the schools that had signed up.

“We were absolutely blown away by the feedback. We had so many requests, so we wanted to make sure we could cater and support as many school as possible this year,” said Krystal. 

There are currently 17 schools on board – including Redland Green and Orchard School – but the group is hoping to increase numbers. The Triple-R tour came about after the group worked at a school in south Bristol. After observing the school and reading reports, Unique Voice put on a play which reflected incidents based on what had been witnessed.

“The teachers came to watch our performance and asked for it to be presented back to the children, so they could associate themselves with the characters,” explains Krystal. “It was very interesting watching their reactions – they can understand the influence of their decisions and hopefully feel remorseful.”

The visit starts with a performance which reflects emotional and physical bullying, and how it affects the victim. A workshop is then held afterwards, where the children can discuss the issues raised.

Unique Voice – based in Montpelier – also aims to try to uncover who should take responsibility for bullying and why it occurs. “We want to make children aware that if they’re affected by bullying, there’s always a solution,” says Claire.

“Our performances are about building up children’s self-confidence and knowing what they need to do when bullying does happen."

Depending on the age of the children, Unique Voice takes a different approach to performances. There is a greater emphasis on social media at a secondary school level because of the role it plays in their lives.

“The reality is that young people are using social media – there appears to be no escaping it,” said Claire.

“Our performances and workshops are about moving with the times, and drawing attention to the effect social media can have on children.”

Krystal adds how performances to this age group are much more “hearty”, with more emotional moments which home in on the repercussions of bullying.

“The social media element is massive – we need people to see the impact it has on someone. There’s no accountability with people remaining anonymous online.”
Still mildly drawing on social media at a primary school level, Unique Voice’s performances for younger children are based on subtle forms of bullying, such as mimicking and name-calling.

“Bullying at a young age is more subtle and children don’t necessarily realise how their actions affect others,” says Krystal.

After the success from last year’s tour, Unique Voice is hoping for Triple R to gain national accreditation, which they achieved with “Me+You=4eva”,  a project promoting healthy relationships in order to tackle domestic violence. 

Krystal said: “We want to generate more evidence and statistics, hoping to shape future interventions, while supporting local schools.”