Sovereign Comics, Liberty Lines and Youth Unity near target to launch anti county lines project

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Sovereign Comics, Liberty Lines and Youth Unity are nearing their £12,000 target. At the beginning of March, they began crowdfunding for support on a project dedicated to raising awareness and educating youth on the dangers of county lines.

One half of this objective has already been met. The comic book and its interactive version (a first of its kind focusing on county lines in the UK) was the brainchild of the South London talents at Sovereign Comics. The group behind the creative venture includes co-founders Paul Nelson and Dean Richards, both of whom are firm believers in the power of ‘edutainment’ as a catalyst for social mobility. Given the importance of education in helping to facilitate this, a focus on county lines was inevitable.

“We’ve identified certain barriers to education for some groups. In certain areas, some influences stop students from getting ahead. Even if they’re good at a certain point in time, the influences in the area stop their progression, so before we can even touch on things like mathematics or English - the core subjects of the curriculum - there are other things that aren’t being looked after. For instance, they have a ‘PSHT’ system in some schools, but how effective is that if they’re not really talking to the people that need these issues taken care of?”

Dean Richards, Co-founder of Sovereign Comics

The community response has encouraged them. Speaking to OBV, Paul Nelson, another co-founder at Sovereign Comics, explained that the lack of ingenuity elsewhere was one catalyst behind the idea.

“We’ve always felt that what we have our approach to societal issues, and problems required a level of innovation that we’re bringing but not seeing out there. Seeing how well this fundraiser has gone has just reaffirmed the need for what we’re doing.”

Paul Nelson, Co-founder of Sovereign Comics

The £9,100 needed to publish the comic book was partly funded by the work of volunteer ‘runners’. They raised additional funds by covering county line routes from London to Plymouth, London to Swansea and London to Norwich. The comic book and its interactive edition will be launched over the coming months.

The stretch target of £12,000 is aimed at allowing members of these organisations to receive formal training before heading to schools and educating from the material in person.

Urgent action needed

The urgency behind the crowdfunder is related to the scale of the issue. The 2019 Rescues and County Lines project suggests over 4,000 teenagers are currently being exploited across 41 counties.

The stories which are finding their way into the national media are revealing the gravity of what these youths, many of whom are boys are going through. The fact remains that so many of these youths are trapped and left with as little say in leaving this life as they had when being groomed into joining.

This was the case for ‘Kieran’, who Nadine White, then of Huffington Post, documented during their series on county lines at the beginning of last month. He had been groomed into county lines as early as 13 and said that they left him with ‘no choice’ but to sell drugs.

These experiences are a point of motivation for the group. Paul Nelson, who grew up in Deptford explained why work on this project has a personal meaning for him.

“We come from communities where loved ones or family friends or people we know are connected to youth going through child grooming and are becoming victims to county lines.”

Paul Nelson, Co-founder of Sovereign Comics

The solution to ending the modern-day slavery of country lines does not end here. Educating youth on its dangers and the warning signs of would-be predators does not materially change the environments which foster the use of minors within the drug trade and all that comes with it.

Despite reports that would suggest otherwise, Inequalities in housing, education, and the relationship between communities and the police are just some factors which must also change. Campaign groups such as Fearless and Black Child Agenda are both helping to highlight these issues, but Liberty Lines, Youth Unity and Sovereign Comics are hoping to show the role edutainment can play in being part of that solution.

There's still time to support their work to educate youth on the dangers of county lines. If you want to help, click here.


Mayowa Ayodele

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