Thousands to be educated when Knife Angel arrives in Sunderland next month

Connor Brown (left) and the Knife Angel in Gateshead in 2020 (right)
Connor Brown (left) and the Knife Angel in Gateshead in 2020 (right) -Credit:Chronicle Live

Thousands will be educated about knife crime when the Knife Angel arrives in Sunderland next month.

Tanya and Simon Brown have worked tirelessly to bring the powerful statue, which is made with more than 100,000 seized blades, to the city. It will be located in Keel Square during the month of June and education workshops will run in the City Hall.

The couple, from the Thorney Close area of Sunderland, lost their 18-year-old son Connor Brown to knife crime. He was stabbed to death in an alleyway near the Gatsby's pub on February 24, 2019.

The Knife Angel in Gateshead in 2020
The Knife Angel in Gateshead in 2020 -Credit:PA

Leighton Barrass, then 20, was jailed for a minimum of 20 years for Connor's murder. His accomplice Ally Gordon, also 20, was handed a three-and-a-half year prison sentence for manslaughter.

Tanya and Simon vowed to continue Connor's legacy, following his death, and they launched the Connor Brown Trust. The organisation aims to help young people and prevent knife crime in the community.

They are appealing to everyone who works with those in Year 5 and beyond to book onto the workshops, via The Connor Brown Trust website, as the slots are filling fast.

Tanya said: "We share the tragic circumstances that led to Connor's death in detail because it helps others understand the impact of knife crime in more depth. We feel that in being so open and honest about it is a crucial part of the workshops and we want our streets to be safe, we want young people to be safe. The knife angel represents a visual part of learning and helps to deliver the emotional impact on a bigger scale."

The Knife Angel was created to highlight the dangers of violent crime and the negative effects it brings to society. It is hoped that the structure will bring people together and encourage open conversations around the dangers of carrying bladed weapons, and the potential consequences.

The office of Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Susan Dungworth has helped to fund the initiative.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Susan Dungworth
Connor Brown with mum Tanya, dad Simon, and sister Ellen

Susan said: "We’ve seen too many lives lost because of people choosing to carry knives and so the more young people we reach out to and educate about the dangers of knife crime, the better chance we have of avoiding devastating losses in the future.

"There has been some good work happening across the region, the Violence Reduction Unit is really established now and inspirational people like Tanya and Simon are such a driving force in preventing youth violence. As the new Police and Crime Commissioner, tackling knife crime will remain a top priority – there’s lots to build on and lots more to do."

The workshops will consist of different activities and educational sessions to suit a range of ages from primary school, to secondary school aged children. Youth groups and clubs are also encouraged to sign up. Sessions are 90 minutes in length and are limited to 45 people per session including accompanying adults.

The Knife Angel previously came to Gateshead in 2020 following a campaign by Alison Madgin, from Wallsend, North Tyneside. Her 18-year-old daughter Samantha was stabbed to death in 2007.

North East Mayor Kim McGuinness as the knife angel tells a "stark but necessary warning" around the dangers of knife crime. She said: "It is backed by families who have suffered terrible tragedy and now work tirelessly to prevent others going through their loss.

"I’m proud to back those families and the education work going on in schools across the North East warning young people of the all-too-real human cost involved in carrying a knife.

"I want to thank Tanya and Simon for all they have done here, their sheer determination to prevent tragedy, building on the work of Samantha’s Legacy and so many others who, on a daily basis, work hard to make our region safer.

North East mayor Kim McGuinness
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Susan Dungworth -Credit:Northumbria Police & Crime Commissioner

"Anyone who saw the knife angel when we brought it to Gateshead along with Samantha’s Legacy, knows how powerful it is. It’s hard-hitting and it makes you think and that’s the whole idea.

"I'm looking forward to welcoming the angel to Sunderland as a way of representing the social change we’ve been pushing for across the region to end knife crime . It’s all about encouraging the important conversations - getting schools and youth groups to sign up to the sessions ran by Tanya and Simon.

"Listening to them speak about what happened to Connor is such a moving and impactful wake-up call for anyone who thinks carrying a knife is OK."

Councillor Michael Mordey, Leader of Sunderland County Council, said it is an important part of the wider work underway across the region to make young people think twice about carrying a knife.

Tanya and Simon Brown
Victim Samantha Madgin (top), her mum Alison Madgin and the Knife Angel sculpture

He said: "I think Tanya and Simon’s story will be incredibly powerful in getting the message across to young people about the devastating impact of knife crime and I would encourage everyone who has the chance to sign up for one of these sessions to do so."

Chief Superintendent Joanne Park-Simmons, Northumbria Police's knife crime lead, has urged parents and carers to have those difficult conversations with young people about the dangers of carrying knives.

She said: "A huge amount of work is ongoing to help tackle, reduce and prevent knife crime across Northumbria – through proactive activity targeting offenders as well as crucial intervention work educating young people on why they should never carry weapons.

"We’d like to thank Tanya and Simon for their incredible work in continuing to shine a light on this important issue among young people and our wider communities – and would encourage as many people as possible to book onto these sessions."