A NEW stage show is highlighting the misery caused by loan sharks on Wearside – funded by the criminals’ ill-gotten gains.
It’s Only a Few Quid, performed by community interest theatre company Shontal, will premiere at Sunderland’s Royalty Theatre tonight.
The show, which marks the end of a month-long anti-loan shark campaign in the city, reflects victims’ experiences of illegal money lending, focusing on one lender who fights to escape their desperate circumstances.
North East-based Shontal specialises in using live interactive theatre to highlight issues relating to financial exclusion.
The project has been organised by the England Illegal Money Lending Team, Sunderland City Council and Gentoo Homes.
It has been funded through the proceeds of crime taken from convicted loan sharks through the courts.
Coun John Kelly, portfolio holder for safer city and culture at Sunderland City Council, said: “However difficult your circumstances become, nobody should ever be tempted to get involved with illegal money lenders.
“Using drama to show what can happen to those who do is a great way of getting this message across and encouraging more people to get involved in reporting the loan sharks that prey on families in difficulties.
“We also need to let people know that there is help available, and I hope this campaign will do just that.”
Tony Quigley, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Illegal money lenders have a horrific impact on communities. They prey on some of the most vulnerable people trapping them in a spiral of debt.
“Through our work with partners we are able to crack down on this crime so people don’t have to live each day in fear and misery.”
A recent campaign aimed to raise awareness of the help available to loan-shark victims on Wearside.
Other events and projects included work with Southwick Primary and the SAFC Foundation, which saw children creating a “report a loan shark” banner.
Vic Mackay-Parkin, financial inclusion manager at Gentoo, said: “We know that customers often face difficult day-to-day decisions about money, whether that is paying the rent, some other bill or buying new uniforms for the kids.
“Very often access to credit is only available from the most expensive sources like loan sharks.
“This campaign has helped to raise awareness of the shocking actions that loan sharks will take and I hope it has encouraged anyone owing money to a loan shark to seek help.”
The show is for invited guests only.