County shows are an amazing opportunity to raise awareness of modern slavery to hundreds of people in a short space of time. We spoke to Kerry Brighouse from the St Thomas Norwich Trust to hear about their experience of hosting an interactive stand at the Royal Norfolk Show a few weeks ago.
Had you had a stand at the show before?
No, never. The Diocese of Norwich always have a big marquee at the show with all sorts of displays from churches. They approached us and said they were looking for an example of churches in action, churches making a difference in their community. We discussed it and said we would love to focus the stand on raising awareness of modern slavery.
How did you decide what to put in the stand?
We knew we wanted to talk about local instances of modern slavery because our big focus is on raising awareness locally. We wanted to promote what the STN Trust is doing to respond, but also leave people with a way they could respond to the issue themselves.
We have been developing a list of actions that people can take individually to respond to modern slavery, for this event we provided a list of six ways people can engage in this issue and printed them on a bookmark which everyone who came by the stand could take away with them. Pray, donate, fundraise, shop ethically, spot the signs and tell others were our six key actions.
What did the stand itself look like?
It was an interactive walk-through experience. The first room was intended to be dark and oppressive, to convey something of what it might feel like to be a victim of modern slavery. There was graffiti all over the walls - the words depicted emotions that victims might experience. The room itself was made up to look like a multi-occupancy bedroom, which someone in modern slavery may find themselves living in. There were items scattered around like clothing for construction work or children’s shoes, to reference different kinds of slavery.
Around the walls there were ‘windows’ with photos of places in Norfolk where slaves had been found like a farm field, and the city centre. Below each window there were facts about local slavery like the number of victims found in Norfolk and Suffolk. One showed the most common nationalities of victims – people are always surprised to hear that a high number of victims come from the UK.
While the first room was very dark, the second room was painted magnolia and felt like a living room with a sofa to relax on and a television. It shared our response as STN Trust to victims, explaining our mentoring and befriending support. People had a choice of watching a film explaining how we care for victims through mentoring and befriending, or there were framed posters on the wall which explained the same information.
The final room was very white, like a studio. One wall was dedicated to The Clewer Initiative, focusing on the Safe Car Wash app. One was focused on the Norfolk Modern Slavery Collaboration, one focused on STN Trust, and then the exit wall was about spotting the signs and working together to end slavery.
Did you have any surprising conversations?
Lots. Some people were really shocked. We had some jaw-dropping conversations where people were astonished, ‘Really, it’s happening here?’. The very first person on the first day was really shocked that slavery exists here in Norfolk, this a great reminder for us and helped us to focus on what we were doing and why we were doing it.
We also had some very encouraging conversations with lots of people wanting to respond and help. We heard several stories of people who thought they might have seen modern slavery happening so we encouraged them to call the modern slavery helpline if they encountered it again.
Would you do it again?
Definitely, the conversations that we had were about slavery were engaging and effective. We had people constantly coming through and the length and depth of conversations we had with people were amazing. It was very intentional that people would feel like they were taking part in something, rather than passively observing. We wanted people to think about their part in the fight against slavery. To understand it’s about safeguarding vulnerable people in our communities.