Clean Break uses theatre to keep the subject of women in prison on the cultural radar, helping to reveal the damage caused by the failures of the criminal justice system. Through our unique work, we raise difficult questions, inspire debate, and help to effect profound and positive change in the lives of women with experience of the criminal justice system.
Since 1979, Clean Break has been the only women’s theatre company of its kind, and we continue to inspire playwrights and captivate audiences with our ground-breaking plays on the complex theme of women and crime. For further information about the early years click here.
Through theatre workshops and projects in prisons and in the community which build confidence, resilience and wellbeing, we transform the lives of women who have experienced the criminal justice system or who are at risk of entering it.
Our Members Programme is available to women aged 17 and above. The Programme offers a range of workshops and performance opportunities led by esteemed female theatre artists, underpinned by comprehensive support.
Clean Break’s women-only identity is crucial to our rationale. The treatment of women by the criminal justice system is one of the clearest demonstrations that our society is still unequal and that women are judged by different standards to men. Our vision is of a society where women are neither unjustly criminalised nor unnecessarily imprisoned, and we believe that theatre enables women to challenge their oppression by society in general and by the criminal justice system in particular.
Learn more about women and the criminal justice system at the Prison Reform Trust and Women in Prison websites.
Read about Clean Break’s early history at Unfinished Histories
For a full list of research, articles, recorded events and documentary work on Clean Break click here.
Erin Gavaghan is an experienced executive arts manager who has worked within both new writing theatre and contemporary dance / choreography.
Erin has been Executive Director and joint CEO of Clean Break since October 2018. Previously at Siobhan Davies Dance, she held several roles; most recently as Executive Director (from 2014). Prior to that, she was the General Manager of Soho Theatre (2008-2012), having also followed a path of progression from Front of House Manager (2005-2007) and Deputy General Manager (2007-2008). Since moving to London from Canada in 2000, Erin has also worked at the Royal Albert Hall as the Stewards Administrator and Natural History Museum managing catering services.
Erin studied English Literature and Theatre (Directing) at the University of Victoria (Canada) and attained an MA in Arts Policy and Management from Birkbeck in 2005. She has a passion for life-long learning.
Anna Herrmann has been working in the field of theatre and social change for twenty seven years, specialising in theatre and education with marginalised groups in the UK and abroad. She has been with Clean Break since 2002 as the Head of Education, leading the company’s award winning work with women in the criminal justice system and women at risk of entering it. Anna is co-author of Making a Leap: Theatre of Empowerment: A Practical Handbook for Creative Drama Work with Young People (Jessica Kingsley Publishers). She has an MA in Arts Education from Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and a PG Cert (Distinction) in Race and Ethnic relations. She is a regular visiting lecturer on Applied Theatre courses at Universities across the Country and between 2006 and 2018 was a trustee of Leap Confronting Conflict; a UK based national charity specialising in youth and conflict. Anna sits on the Steering Group of the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance and is also a trained coach and regularly mentors artists in participatory settings.
Róisín McBrinn is a theatre director with over fifteen years experience working in the UK, Ireland and internationally. She has been with Clean Break since 2016 as the Head of Artistic Programme and during that time has directed Joanne (Soho Theatre and RSC) and House/Amongst The Reeds (Yard Theatre) for the company. She was formerly Associate Director at Sherman Cymru where she oversaw the commissioning and developing of new Welsh writing. Róisín has directed for the Donmar Warehouse (Noveccento), Sheffield Theatres (Afterplay), West Yorkshire Playhouse (Yerma), Prime Cut (Villa/Discurso), The Abbey Theatre (No Escape, Perve, Heartbreak House). She has developed new work for Soho Theatre, The National Theatre, The Bush, The Abbey and Sherman Theatre. This summer she is directing a stage adaptation of Roddy Doyle's The Snapper for Dublin's Gate Theatre.
Sabba works in the banking sector and has a particular interest in diversity and inclusion in finance. She currently holds the role of Senior Vice President for EMEA Tax Business Advisory at Citi.
Deborah Coles is Director of INQUEST and leads its strategic policy and legal work. She has unrivalled expertise of working to prevent the deaths and ill treatment of people in all forms of detention, and for more effective investigations, learning and accountability. A passionate social justice campaigner she has campaigned around the issues arising from deaths of women in prison, calling for closure of women’s prisons and redirecting resources into community based services. She is consulted by government, parliamentarians, and other stakeholders at a national and international level. She is an advisor to WIP and on the Independent Advisory Panel On Deaths In Custody.
Doreen is the Director of Warwick Arts Centre. She is a Clore Fellow and an accredited coach (Performance Coach Training Ltd & Relational Dynamics 2009), and has over 20 years senior leadership experience gained working in the cultural and community development sectors.
Alison is an advocate for the transforming value of the arts in the criminal justice system, and writes on arts, health, and justice in the scientific, medical and general press. She is currently Chair of the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance, a trustee of Clinks and a member of the Transforming Lives Advisory Board, Prison Reform Trust. She is a visiting professor in the Department of Criminology and Sociology at Royal Holloway and a public health lead researcher on a probation based mental health study at UCL. Throughout her career, Alison has fought for women’s rights and held lead roles in public health working to tackle health inequalities. She’s been a senior leader in the voluntary and public sector, with positions including: Chief Officer at the Brook Advisory Centres; Director of Public Health in Bristol and in North Hampshire; Head of Public Health in NHS England (London).
Alison Jefferis is Head of Corporate Affairs (EMEA, APAC) at global investment firm Columbia Threadneedle Investments, a member of the firm’s regional Executive Committee and Culture & Conduct Advisory Group, and Chair of Columbia Threadneedle Foundation. She has over 20 years’ experience in corporate philanthropy and chairs Clean Break’s Development Committee.
Winsome Pinnock’s stage plays include Rockets and Blue Lights (Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre) Glutathione (Young Vic Theatre) The Principles of Cartography (The Bush Theatre) Tituba (Hampstead Theatre) Cleaning Up (For Clean Break at Oval House Theatre), Taken (For Clean Break at Oval House Theatre) IDP (Tricycle Theatre) The Stowaway (Play for young people, Plymouth Theatre) One Under (Tricycle Theatre) Beg Borrow or Steal (Kuumba Community Arts Centre) Water (Tricycle Theatre) Mules (Royal Court Theatre Upstairs and Clean Break Theatre) Can you Keep a Secret? (Connections at Royal National Theatre) A Rock in Water (Royal Court Theatre) Leave Taking (Liverpool Playhouse Theatre, National Theatre, Belgrade Theatre Coventry and Lyric theatre, Hammersmith) A Heroes Welcome (Royal Court Theatre Upstairs) The Wind of Change (Half Moon Theatre) Picture Palace (Womens Theatre Group). Radio plays include Leave Taking (Radio 4) Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas (Adapted from autobiography by Maya Angelou for Radio 4) Clean Trade (Radio 4), Lazarus (Radio 3), Her Father’s Daughter (Radio 4) Let Them Call it Jazz (adapted from Jean Rhys’ short story, Radio 4) Indiana (adapted from novel by George Sand) The Dinner Party (Radio 4) Something Borrowed (Radio 4) and Water (Radio 4). She co-wrote the screenplay Bitter Harvest.
Awards include the Alfred Fagon Award (2018) George Devine Award; Pearson Plays on Stage Scheme best play of the year Award; Unity Trust Theatre Award. She received a special commendation from the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. She was Senior Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University and writer in residence at Holloway Prison, Clean Break Theatre Company, Royal Court Theatre, Kuumba Arts Community Centre, Tricycle Theatre, and The Royal National Theatre Studio. Her play Leave Taking received a major revival at the Bush Theatre, London in 2018 and a new version of One Under was produced by Graeae Theatre Company in 2019 for a UK tour. She is currently developing screenplays with the BBC and Kindle Entertainment.
During the 2020 lockdown Winsome Pinnock’s short play Una Calling was debuted online by The Globe Theatre as part of the Shakespeare and Race Festival. Her latest play Rockets and Blue Lights received the Alfred Fagon Award and was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 as part of the Lockdown Theatre Festival and received an OfComm Award for excellence as an online cultural experience and won an Offie award for best audio production in 2021. Winsome was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2020.
Despina Tsatsas is a theatre producer with experience in both the charitable and commercial theatre sectors and is currently Executive Director of the Young Vic. She is a Clore Fellow, a trustee of The Laura Case Trust and was a volunteer at Holloway Women's Prison until its closure.
Tanya strongly believes in alternatives to custody and is passionate about demystifying and decriminalising the lives of women who have survived incarceration. She has over 15 years’ experience of working to achieve transformation and justice in both the criminal justice and violence against girls and women sectors.
Tanya currently supports young people at risk of criminal and sexual exploitation, who lean on substances to cope. She is able to voice the structural barriers they face while providing agency to empower them for their interpersonal development.
Tanya is a counsellor and psychotherapist, a guest lecturer at Westminster University and a lived experience researcher who values working collaboratively to flatten power hierarchies in order to amplify the voices of those who are most marginalised and disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system.
We’re always on the lookout for people to join our year-round Volunteer programme, which takes in everything from workshop skills and arts administration to catering and gardening. You’ll get the opportunity to develop your skills and confidence in a welcoming environment, while also learning more about the way we work. To find out more, come along to one of our regular Volunteer Days or email Samantha McNeil, our Volunteer Coordinator, at email@example.com or call 020 7482 8600.
"There is a positive energy about the place which makes it a lovely place to work."