Huntingdon teens hoping to save young lives

When Young Lives approached a Huntingdon-based crime prevention charity and asked for help to make a road safety film, nobody could have foreseen just how dramatic it would be. CATHERINE BELL meets some of the Huntingdonshire teenagers behind the hard-hitting project.

AT less than 15 minutes long, Think Future Not Funeral might not rival Hollywood epics for running time – but it does pack a powerful punch.

What makes the short film, available to view on YouTube, all the more remarkable is that it was written and performed by teenagers – with no previous film-making experience.

The youngsters, all from Huntingdonshire, are involved with the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (Nacro)

Last year, St Ives-based charity Young Lives was commissioned by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Road Safety Partnership to work with Nacro Huntingdon to design a youth-led road safety campaign aimed at passengers and drivers aged 16 to 25.

The result is a film not for the faint-hearted. Real firefighters, police officers and paramedics were all involved in Think Future – and the gritty realism drives the message home.

Kaya Williams, 17, from Alconbury, “died” in the film. She told The Hunts Post: “We want to shock people.”

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Dan Hurry, 18, lives in Huntingdon. e said: “At some points we just had to stop filming. We had a word we could shout if any of us wanted to stop and get out and two people called it.

“One of the actors has been cut out of a car before and he had a panic attack because it brought back memories.

“The scariest bit was being there while they cut the roof off. Trudy Shephard (from Young Lives) and Lucy Warboys (from Nacro) started crying when they could hear us in the car…”

The teenagers worked with film-makers from 20Twenty Productions and Get Creative, as well as Dale Roberts from Piixel, a specialist in special effects.

The group was also supported by the wider community, with help from Richard Jenkins of Youth Results UK, Urban&Civic, Allways Garage at Alconbury Airfield, Tony Thacker, from Ramsey fire station, who donated the car, and Green Watch from Huntingdon fire station.

As well as storyboarding the film and writing the script, the youngsters researched figures to back up their stark warning.

Kaya said: “Statistically, more young people are killed by road accidents than by drugs, which really surprised me.”

Harriett Lawler, 17, a mum from St Ives, said the project had opened her eyes.

“I know not to be stupid,” she said. “I’ve got a little girl so I would never drive fast anyway, but I know now how easy it is to be distracted.”

She added: “I want them [other young people] to think twice about driving dangerously.”

For Kaya, it was also important that teenagers realised the effects a road accident has on everybody involved.

She said: “It doesn’t just affect them, it affects everyone – family and friends.”

Dan agreed: “Someone was killed in a road accident at my old school, and it affected the entire school. That was three or four years ago but it sticks in my mind.”

Posters advertising the Think Future campaign have already gone up in hospitals and schools across the county, and the video will be shown at Cambridgeshire’s secondary schools.

Harriett said: “I showed it to my mum and she thought it was really good. My dad said it was really effective.”

The young people all agreed that they wanted to make a difference.

“When they put the film on for the first time, everyone was shocked. Ryan and Joe had to leave the room,” Dan said. “The film was supposed to be 90 seconds but they think this is the shortest they could get it down to. We want people to realise the dangers. If we save one life today that’s more lives in the future – it’s their kids and their grandchildren. Any lives that we can save will make this all worth doing.”

Kaya added: “They normally say it is the driver’s responsibility to make sure everyone is wearing seatbelts but it’s not – it’s everybody’s responsibility.”