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Dramatic alert to teen risks; Actors warn of alcohol, drugs and sexting.

Byline: Brian Daniel? 07733 002 822 ? brian.daniel@ncjmedia.co.uk

ALCOHOL fuelled youths have been running riot at a Northumberland tourist attraction - or so it seemed. In fact, these were actors from the Gibber Theatre Company, hired by The Duchess of Northumberland's Alnwick Garden to demonstrate to youngsters the down sides of drugs, alcohol and "sexting" - the sending of sexually explicit text messages and pictures.

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The partners put on an interactive Reality Road Show with the aim of offering support to children and teenagers who feel under pressure to engage in such activities.

Children from Haydon Bridge High School watched actors in a series of realistic scenarios which show young people indulging in varying degrees of risky behaviour.

Youngsters were shown around the attraction's high security Poison Garden, which contains opium poppies, cannabis, coca plants and an array of poisonous flowers.

A total of 200 secondary school children from across Northumberland are taking part in the road shows this week, alongside children's social clubs, with 400 primary aged pupils having attended previous workshops on taking risks and peer pressure.

Vicky Blackburn, company director at Gibber, said the road show was designed to be "hard hitting" and "fast paced" and to look at issues that are relevant to teenagers.

"We know they are going to drink, we know they are going to indulge.

"It is about helping them make informed choices, teaching them that they can say no."

Haydon Bridge pupil Grace O'Brien, 14, said afterwards: "I thought it was really good and with the actors I did not realise they were actors."

Asked if she felt there is pressure on young people to engage in drink, drugs and sexting, she added: "I think there is, I would not and I would not feel pressured to doing anything.

"Some people are and they are a bit naive."

Rebecca Davison, 14, added: "A lot of people do it because their friends do it and it makes them feel older."

The roadshow was funded through public donations into a coffin placed in the Poison Garden to raise money for projects to tackle drug abuse.

Similar activities with Gibber were staged at the garden in 2007 and 2008 and the Duchess is hoping they will become annual events.

She said she was particularly concerned by sexting.

"I never expected five years ago when we began working with Gibber that we would be going with sexting, it was not a problem that young people faced.

"Every year technology is moving so fast and the way young people are using the internet is frightening."

St Paul's RCVA First School at Alnwick, Seahouses Middle and Northumberland Academy's Josephine Butler campus at Ashington are among the schools to have taken part in the sessions.

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STREETWISE LEARNING Gibber with the Duchess of Northumberland and students from Haydon Bridge High School
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 21, 2013
Words:475
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