CODE: Show addressing county lines drug dealing and youth knife crime heads to Bedford River Festival

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An adrenaline-fuelled show is set to be performed at Bedford River Festival, highlighting the issues of knife crime and country lines drugs gangs.

Told with the energy and excitement of athletic choreography, incorporating mesmerising bike stunts on a specially constructed outdoor set, CODE tells the story of how drug dealers are using children to operate their trade.

Bringing awareness to the events happening under our noses and within our communities, CODE is the latest touring show from physical theatre/dance company Justice in Motion, a company quickly establishing themselves at the forefront of theatre for social change and using their platform to tackle vital contemporary social issues. CODE will be performed for free at the Bedford River Festival on July the 20 and 21 at noon and 3pm.

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Across the country, newspapers report on the drug trading of criminal gangs in both urban and rural areas, a practice called county lines in reference to the ways in which mobile phones are used to organise drug distribution across local authority boundaries. The work has been created to reveal the plight of vulnerable, exploited teenagers (and sometimes younger children) who are lured and coerced into becoming part of this underground industry.

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Justice in Motion

Using the combination of highly physical parkour athletes, stunt bike riders and theatre performers, CODE tells the gripping story of a reality hidden in the shadows of everyday life. With a narrative pulled together and performed by popular Sheffield-based artist rapper and actor, Marcus ‘Matic Mouth’ Smith, whose lyrics provide the insight of someone with a personal connection to the show’s themes, and the professional acting role of 15-year-old Esra Marmet playing the protagonist, Nicky, the show unfolds.

The energetic, breath-taking, and visually stimulating performances details an unforgettable tale of a young person falling prey to a gang. Groomed with gifts and coerced with threats, their victim takes on the dangerous business of drug running. The result is a visually stunning, breath-taking, and mesmerising piece of theatre.

Justice in Motion will hold residency workshops with local young people where participants will explore the themes of the show and learn parkour, BMX tricks, physical theatre and rap skills in a safe environment with the professional team from Justice in Motion. Participants in the workshop will then get the chance to perform in the show alongside the professional performers, adding a unique local dimension to the public performances on July 20th and 21st at Bedford River Festival.

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Cllr Andrea Spice, portfolio holder for economic growth, planning and prosperity at Bedford Borough Council, said: "The Bedford River Festival is a celebration of community and creativity, and we're proud to be hosting CODE Theatre by Justice in Motion this year.

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“This isn't just entertainment; it's a powerful social commentary. Witnessing the chilling reality of County Lines unfold through daring stunts, captivating dance, and powerful music. This innovative performance tackles the important issue of County Lines in a powerful and thought-provoking way.

“We believe it's a vital story to tell, and we hope it will spark conversations and raise awareness among festival goers of all ages. The inclusion of local young people alongside the professional performers adds a further layer of impact, and we commend Justice in Motion for their commitment to social change."

Since launching their County Lines Programme in 2019 the government has been able to confirm that 5000+ county lines have been closed, 15,500+ people have been arrested and 8000+ individuals have been referred by police to safeguarding. In December of 2023 the home office was able to confirm that over 2000+ lines had been closed that year, exceeding the target they had set to complete by March of 2025. The battle however, is far from won and young people still remain at considerable risk.

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CODE’s upcoming tour aims to raise awareness, helping to demonstrate the tell-tale signs of youth exploitation and informing audiences, families, carers and educators how to spot when there may be a problem. Additionally the show intends to help spread the message and inform audiences of the CODE app, a digital resource that provides information on county lines, including ways to access support such as websites and agencies around the UK.

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CODE has been made possible thanks to public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Anchor Foundation and support from 101 Outdoor Arts, Outdoor Arts UK, Oxford City Council and Transend Skatepark.

CODE will be performed at noon and 3pm on Saturday, July 20 and Sunday, July 21 in Harpur Square.

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