Breaking Through

A short animation about child sexual exploitation, co-produced with young people affected by CSE. Designed as a resource to support other young people.

Animation still: red crumpled tissue paper background with a drawing of a small girl with an X over her mouth

The animation and a series of accompanying booklets were developed in partnership with Dr Kate Brown, a leading academic at University of York. We worked with young people who were themselves progressing through CSE. Project aims were twofold – to produce a resource to help young people, families and professionals understand experiences of CSE; and to offer creative development to young participants.

Through discussions with Dr Kate Brown, I devised a 6 day programme of workshops during which the participants first reviewed and critiqued current CSE resources before formulating a ‘wish list’ for our co-produced materials. We explored possible content, tone, pacing, audio and stylistic choices for the animation. Content for the script, and accompanying booklets, came from interviews with the group. We reviewed the interviews and highlighted key aspects, reducing complex information down to a manageable script whilst maintaining the integrity of each person’s story. To offer ‘breathing space’ from the difficult content we moved between demanding tasks ­– such as script development – and activities including character generation, storyboarding and image creation. Working and eating together each day allowed us to get to know each other as a group.

I planned the sessions so the participants would gain confidence and skills in working collaboratively and gain experience of working with other professionals. They wrote briefs for a soundtrack by musician Chris Starkey and a booklet designed, by BJ the Bear. The script was professionally recorded at ChapelFM in Seacroft. Using free animation apps ensured participants could continue to experiment and share their ideas beyond the workshops.

For Dr Kate Brown and Basis Yorkshire, the project generated new insights into experiences of CSE, helping to understand the realities of CSE as told by those who know it best. Where the voices of young people themselves often get lost or overlooked in debates about CSE, our animation and booklets – including quotes and stories from the young participants – provide vivid accounts, showing the different ways abuse happens and how experiences of CSE are shaped by wider factors such as welfare systems, criminal justice responses, education, access to money, relationships with parents, and interventions from services and professionals.

The finished animation was premiered in Leeds and continues to be used as a resource to help young people. Excerpts of it have appeared on Children in Need as well as being part of the official selection for a number of international film festivals.

Official Selection Equality Festival 2016 logo
Official selection FreeNetWorld 10 anniversary 2016 logo

Funded by University of York in partnership with Basis Yorkshire.

Basis Yorkshire logo
University of York