Concept and aims
The Community Rail Education Network were approached by Network Rail to create a competition to address the 25% increase in trespassing during the COVID-19 lockdown. Although a poster competition was initially suggested, the group felt that creating films and songs, alongside scripts and storyboards, would be more appealing to young people, given the increased interest in homemade videos on apps such as TikTok. A steering group was formed with members from community partnerships including Community Rail Lancashire, the Penistone Line, the Bishop Line, Tyne Valley, and Southeast Communities Rail Partnership. Despite being located across the country, the group used video conferencing software to meet online and make progress.
After securing £2,000 in sponsorship, the group asked 11–18-year-olds to create content to warn their peers not to trespass on the railway. The project was well-received, with articles promoting Backtrack featuring in local and regional media, including the BBC. Posts promoting the competition reached over 30,000 views on social media, where the competition has over 750 followers. Rail industry judges considered more than 50 entries, and the winning videos and songs have subsequently been played to over 1,500 young people during safety engagement sessions conducted by Education Network members.
The competition demonstrated how community rail officers could work together remotely to highlight an issue that is extremely important to the rail industry. Backtrack gave young people an opportunity to focus on something positive during the pandemic, to increase their confidence and improve and showcase their digital skills. Winner Henry Plume said his success in the competition had “made my whole year”, while Kerri Ankrah-Lucas, who won the social media impact category, said the competition had given young people the chance to “create something amazing after feeling the impact of lockdown.”