Carrying a knife and the implications and consequences that can result from it are being explored at an innovative virtual reality session for teenagers and young people with additional needs at Mahdlo Youth Zone in Oldham.
We’re hosting a two-hour session with the acclaimed educational programme Virtual_Decisions, using virtual reality headsets to place participants in knife scenarios that take them on a journey of different outcomes depending on the decisions they make while immersed in the action.
Taking place in Senior Zone on Friday 7 July, between 7 and 9pm, young people aged 13- to 19, or up to 25 for those with additional needs, can take part in this session completely free. We have chosen to waive our normal admission fees for the session in recognition of the gravity of the subject matter.
Omar Akhtar, Mahdlo’s Health and Wellbeing Coordinator, says: “The session is a unique approach to revealing the potential consequences of their actions. In the face of prevalent knife crime, it empowers them with awareness and understanding.
“The workshop will give young people a vital opportunity to engage about knife crime in the safe and secure environment we provide to young people from all across Oldham.”
Virtual_Decisions is a multi-award-winning, interactive virtual reality in education programme devised by a Birmingham company called Round Midnight. It uses the science of adolescent decision-making to create immersive virtual reality experiences that tackle gang culture, youth violence and risk-taking behaviour.
By wearing a VR headset, each participant is placed in a real-world scenario where they are faced with multiple dilemmas in which they must make a choice. Each choice results in various outcomes, showing that every action has a consequence. The production uses real-world actors aged 13–18 to give authenticity to the piece.
Following the immersive 11-minute VR film, a workshop then explores the issues raised in more depth.
The programme has won the backing of Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who says: “I think this technology and the Virtual_Decisions programme really helps young people understand what’s involved before they ever face a situation in real life.”
Rebecca Bromley-Woods, Education Lead, Greater Manchester Violence Reduction Unit VRU, adds: “Round Midnight and the Virtual_Decisions programmes have become our go-to offer for both primary and secondary phase education across Greater Manchester.
“I have observed children transform ideas and attitudes through the virtual realities experience, which is so effective in grasping interest before the team step up to sustain this through conversation and shared lived experiences. The RM team are excellent at sensing the red flags and keeping a safe space.”
The Mahdlo session will be run by a director and two facilitators from Round Midnight, and it is hoped local police, councillors and Oldham’s Positive Steps charity will attend too.
The Virtual_Decsions KNIFE programme was developed following the success of Round Midnight’s original immersive programme called Virtual_Decsions GANG, previously featured on Channel 4 News, exploring gang culture, criminal exploitation, and anti-social behaviour.