Worcester Cathedral's county lines schools project

27th April 2023 | County Lines

The Clewer Initiative

Interchange is a powerful example of how a Cathedral can use its influence and position to teach young people about county lines

Worcester Cathedral recently hosted Interchange, a county lines schools day for secondary school-aged children. As part of the day, young people enjoyed a specially-commissioned film, took part in a forum theatre performance and attended three challenging and informative workshops.

Daniel Parnell, Director of Welcome, Learning & Engagement at Worcester Cathedral, explains: “One of the goals of Worcester Cathedral is to be a catalyst for change in terms of social justice. We try to shine a light on local issues where we see an absence of justice. At a conference organised by Cathedrals Plus, we heard about a schools modern slavery project that The Clewer Initiative had worked on in partnership with Ely Cathedral. We decided to get in touch with The Clewer Initiative as we were keen to do something similar here in Worcester Cathedral.”

As a Cathedral, we are at the heart of our community and have a voice which we can use to educate, inspire and challenge. Interchange was a powerful example of how to use this voice to fight the injustice of modern slavery and county lines.

Vice-Dean, The Reverend Canon Dr Stephen Edwards
Worcester Cathedral

Finding partners

As a team, they decided to give the project a county lines focus and began considering who they could work with. Jo Wilson, the Learning and Community Engagement Officer at the Cathedral, explains: “From the beginning, I was keen to get as many partners as possible on board so we could benefit from their wisdom and experience. I believe that when you work with others, it increases the reach and longevity of a project or resource.

“I approached various regional bus and train companies and met Fiona Saxon of the Worcester Community Rail Partnership who was really excited about working on something together. The Rail Partnership was aware of increasing numbers of young people hanging around train platforms and the danger of county lines. In turn, Fiona introduced me to Platform which is a rail education scheme that works with schools to empower young people in accessing the railways. We could see real potential to develop an educational resource together and organise something significant at the Cathedral.

“In partnership with The Clewer Initiative, the Diocese of Worcester’s Mothers’ Union and Worcester Community Rail Partnership, we devised a plan. Our vision was to use the arts to engage with young people and teach them about county lines. We commissioned a short film to be shot around Worcester and feature a young person who you wouldn’t expect to be drawn into county lines. West Midlands based film maker, Nicola Prestage of Tiger Features beat more than 20 others to secure the brief. We were amazed at her concept and worked closely with her on the scripts and film locations. The police were also involved in talking to Nicola to ensure the film was accurate and realistic.”

When writing "Which Side of The Track?" I thought a lot about not re-victimising victims. Many county lines films focus on what the victim could have done. I wanted to point out there is often no way out for the victim but there are so many reachable moments when friends, family and community members could safely step in and help.

Nicola Prestage
Film maker

The actual day

The schools day in March was attended by more than 80 young people, ranging from Year 8 through to Sixth Form. Jo adds: “I had a particularly strong response from several Special Educational Needs schools who brought their students to take part in the day.”

The programme included an introduction to county lines from The Clewer Initiative; a forum theatre drama which had been devised and performed by sixth form students from Kings School, Worcester; a screening of the new film 'Which Side of The Track?' and three 20 minute workshops entitled Targeted, Expectation v Reality and Looking for Help which teams from the Cathedral, Platform and The Clewer Initiative wrote and facilitated.

The forum theatre drama was a powerful channel to communicate many of the issues surrounding county lines. The sixth formers from Kings School acted out the 10 minute performance in which a young person makes a series of “bad choices” which ultimately leads to his downfall. The performance was then started again and the audience were invited to interrupt and stop the drama whenever they wanted and suggest an alternative response. This enabled the young people to think about the choices they have and how they might avoid county lines or help someone before it is too late.

At the end of the day, Worcester Cathedral launched a Schools Graphic Design Competition which will enable the education project to continue over the coming months.


Clem Studholme of The Clewer Initiative was involved in facilitating some of the workshops and provided an introduction to county lines. He comments: “Interchange was a brilliant day because it enabled us to inform many young people about the nature of county lines and the impact it can have on individuals, families and communities. We explained the scale of the problem, looked at some case studies and explored the level of deception and manipulation that is involved.”

A young person who attended Interchange explained: “Prior to the day, I knew very little about county lines. Now I realise it could happen to anyone, even children. I see how easy it is to get caught up in county lines and so hard to get out of it. Today has been really important because at least one child in our school will probably get targeted and if we don’t know how to deal with it, we will be extremely vulnerable. Now we have all been educated so we all have a chance to spot the signs.”

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It is not enough to say “it shouldn’t be happening” or “that child should be in school.” You need to do something about it. The whole community is responsible for raising our children. The film and drama at the schools days were excellent in highlighting the role we all play in fighting county lines

Judith Grubb
Worcester Diocese Mothers’ Union

Next steps

The Worcester Cathedral Learning Team is excited about building on what they have done so far. They are sharing the workshop lesson plans, activity worksheets and film with schools across the county and online. They are also working with Worcester Theatres on a county lines schools project. Young people from five local schools will develop spoken word performances about county lines and show them at the Swan Theatre in June. On this day, the Cathedral Learning Team will host the county lines workshops again and show the 'Which Side of The Track?' film.

Jo Wilson concludes: “We’ve been working on Interchange for more than a year and are delighted that through it lots of young people have learnt about county lines. We are also thrilled that this is not just a one-off day but something that we can develop further. I would encourage other Cathedral Learning Teams to consider how they could use the platform they have to educate young people about the horrors of county lines. Using the arts has been particularly powerful and engaging. It takes a lot of time to develop links and forge strategic partnerships but it is really worth the effort.”

Prior to the day, I knew very little about county lines. Now I realise it could happen to anyone, even children. I see how easy it is to get caught up in county lines and so hard to get out of it. Today has been really important because at least one child in our school will probably get targeted and if we don’t know how to deal with it, we will be extremely vulnerable. Now we have all been educated so we all have a chance to spot the signs.

Young person who attended Interchange

Tips for other cathedral teams

  1. Get as many partners as possible on board
  2. Commission and work with others you totally trust
  3. Think about longevity - how could you film or capture what you create so it could be used in other settings in the future?
  4. Know that everything takes time and dogged determination - Interchange took more than a year to plan
  5. When reaching out to local schools, send information about the prevalence of the crime and how easily young people can be drawn in, so schools see the urgency and importance of what you are doing.

Which Side of The Track?

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