A group of ex-offenders visited a West Norwood school on Thursday to try and turn kids away from gun and knife crime though theatre.

The former criminals - part of the Synergy theatre project - came to the Norwood School in Crown Lane as part of Lambeth’s peace month to try and show through a mixture of role-plays and discussion, the harsh reality a life of crime can bring.

In the two hour session year 11 students at the girls school were asked to talk about their exposure to gangs while the ex-offenders talked frankly about their lives and experiences in prison to deglamorise gang, drug and criminal culture.

The Synergy project was set up to help serving and ex-prisoners through theatre. Many of their members now give talks at schools to stop children making the same mistakes they did.

Mark Williams, 38, an ex-convict who served five years for robbery, ABH and theft, said: “Its so easy for people to slip into the wrong path, the pressures on children at this age are very real.”

Examples of roleplays the students were asked to take part in included finding a gun and what could happen as a result. They were asked what could happen because of peer pressure or a desire to seek revenge.

“These are not situations which are completely alien to these people,” said Mr Williams. “They have family members or friends who are in these situations and they are aware of these issues.

“At that age children can think a life of crime is cool but we have to show them how it can ruin your and other people’s lives,” he added.

Synergy’s Artistic director Esther Baker said ex-prisoners, because they had come from the same backgrounds as many of the pupils they speak to, could relate to them. She said their passion to stop young people making the same mistakes as them had a profound and powerful effect.

Ms Janine Rose, Norwood School’s assistant head, said: “We’re delighted that Synergy has paid The Norwood School a visit again. Our pupils always gain a great deal from their workshops and discussion groups – Synergy really relate to the students on a one-to-one basis.”

She said the visit was part of pupil’s Citizenship course, providing an illuminating insight into ethics, and taking personal responsibility for your actions.

To learn more about Synergy or their up-coming productions visit synergytheatreproject.co.uk.