Teenage deaths inspire hard hitting water safety play
The tragic deaths of two North West teenagers are helping to educate schoolchildren about the dangers of swimming in reservoirs, in a hard-hitting schools campaign launched by United Utilities.
Working with bereaved families, the company has commissioned a new play, 60 Seconds of Summer, that will tour schools in June and July this summer, bringing young people face to face with the tragic consequences of open water swimming.
The play draws on the stories of Dylan Ramsay (13) and Paul Lawson (16), who drowned in separate open water tragedies in 2011 and 2017. It is written and performed by north west based theatre company NWTAC and includes graphic scenes and audio of Dylan’s mother Beckie Ramsay describing the moment she heard her son was dead.
Over 700 people drown in the UK and Ireland every year. Many don’t realise the risks of swimming in open water like reservoirs, where cold water shock can kill even strong swimmers in just 60 seconds.
Sian Corr, Health and Safety manager at United Utilities, said: “By taking this hard-hitting production into schools, we hope that we can really get the message across to young people that swimming in reservoirs can cost you your life.
“There is something uniquely powerful about a live theatre production and the fact that the play is based on real-life stories makes it all the stronger.”
Beckie Ramsay, from Chorley, who helped to develop the play along with Paul Lawson’s mother Natalie of Wardle, Rochdale, said: “I never thought that a piece of drama could make people feel the way I make them feel when I tell them Dylan’s story, but this play has done it.
“It is an exceptional piece of work and I believe it is going to make a huge impact. I hope it will be taken on by other water companies and safety organisations to spread this vital message beyond the North West.”
Since Dylan’s death, Beckie has been campaigning for better education in water safety and has set up the charity Doing it For Dylan. Her tireless work resulted in being honoured with a British Empire Medal (BEM) by the Queen this year.
Prab Singh, Managing Director of NWTAC, said: “In 20 years in theatre, this is by far the hardest thing I have ever had to write. To be trusted with the families’ stories is such a huge responsibility.
“I am so proud at the way our young actors have risen to the challenge; while it is a tough show to perform, they know that they are potentially saving lives and bring a passion to it that is so impressive.”
Erin Laffan, one of the actresses who plays Beckie Ramsey in the production, said: “This is one of the hardest roles I have ever had to play as I wanted to do the part justice and get across the emotion and the impact that this tragic event had on Beckie’s life.
“The feedback from Beckie was incredible and we can’t wait to start touring schools now as we know it will have such a big impact on young people.”
60 Seconds of Summer is the latest initiative by United Utilities in its ongoing work to educate the public, and particularly young people, about the dangers of swimming in reservoirs. It follows the launch of a pilot project in April where 20 throwlines have been installed at reservoir locations across the North West, each dedicated to the memory of someone who lost their life in open water.
For further information on reservoir safety, visit: www.unitedutilities.com/about-us/recreation-sites/reservoir-safety/.
For more information about Doing it for Dylan, visit: www.facebook.com/pg/DoingItForDylan/ and https://twitter.com/DoingitforDylan