We had a number of strong applications, and both Kei and Esther showed such passion and commitment to pursuing a career in theatre and the arts, demonstrating clearly how this Award will support them with their next steps, that we decided to make them joint winners! We wish them all the best with their chosen studies and look forward to seeing them develop as artists with support from their mentors across the year.
Esther and Kei will both be taking up further education courses with the bursary, established to continue Helen’s profound belief that women with a criminal record, women facing discrimination, women living in poverty, and women with mental health needs or in recovery from addiction should have opportunities to become part of the theatre industry.
Esther said: “I feel so honoured to have been one of the first to be blessed with such an opportunity and I am very grateful to Clean Break for all their support with helping to nurture my talent and for standing by me through thick and thin. From the bottom of my heart I want to say a massive THANK YOU to Clean Break for choosing me to give the Helen Pringle Award to.”
Kei said: “Thank you Helen. Thank you Clean Break. I will receive the award with great appreciation, and make it as an opportunity for me to be able to shine.”
The award was judged by a panel of Clean Break staff and Helen’s daughter, Ashley:
“Clean Break was introduced to me through my mum and I am now so honoured to help introduce who she was to others. No words will ever describe how proud I am to be her daughter and of the work she did that was never just a job, but a passion she held. I know that she would want nothing more than for her legacy to be used to further advance and support other women.”
We hope that this will be the first of many opportunities for our Members to extend their creative practise and for Clean Break to support the next steps on their journey.
[BLANK] has been shortlisted for the James Tait Black Award for Drama 2020. The £10,000 prize is awarded to playwrights and celebrates new plays that demonstrate "an original theatrical voice and make a significant contribution to the art form". More than 80 entries were submitted for the 2020 award, the highest number of submissions since the award was established in 2012.
Clean Break and the Donmar Warehouse co-produced [BLANK] in Autumn 2019 to a sell-out run and rave reviews. Written by Alice Birch and directed by Maria Aberg the production was an experimental mosaic of 60 scenes of women and children effected by the criminal justice system. The scenes were selected from a compilation of 100 scenes illustrating fragments of the criminal justice system Alice Birch wrote after her time as resident writer with Clean Break. The offer to a director or production was to choose as many or as few scenes in order to construct their own narratives and make sense of the sprawling impact of the criminal justice system on the lives of women and children.
This year’s shortlist of 3 plays were all written by women. Also shortlisted is Yasmin Joseph, with her hit-play J’Ouvert which premiered last year at Theatre503 exploring the culture and politics of Notting Hill Carnival. Yasmin worked with Clean Break earlier this year when she created Inside This Box for the Young Artist Development Programme, which was then produced at the Clapham Omnibus and Arcola Theatres before a limited digital run in July.
The judging panel’s chair, Greg Walker, who is Regius Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature at Edinburgh, said: "This year’s astounding shortlist works with timely themes in exciting and fresh new ways. When considering the award, we ask our judges to nominate dramas that make them look at life a little differently, and this year’s James Tait Black nominees more than fit the bill in this challenging year.”
The winner will be announced in September, via an online ceremony.
Our building in Kentish Town is more than a collection of offices and studios. For our Members, staff and artists, it is a safe haven and the centre of a vital community. Many of our Members have been vocal about how much they miss being together at Clean Break. With knowledge of this and of the difference it will make to their mental health and overall wellbeing, we have been putting energy and resources into reopening our doors to ensure a safe welcome back for them. It is with great hope and optimism that we announce we will be opening the building (in a socially distanced manner) to commence a Members Programme of theatre making and support from mid-September.
Throughout the summer, we have been engaging with our Members and women attending women’s centres via an online Programme. We take some comfort in the fact that we have extended our reach through Zoom and Vimeo offers, delivered by our women artists, beyond what we have the capacity for in the building. However, we know that there is no substitute for human contact, laughing together in a real space and the offer of a shared meal. We also know and understand that not all our Members will be able to return safely or feel comfortable enough to do so, and will therefore, remain vulnerable and potentially isolated. And so, we will continue to offer online workshops alongside our activities in the building to ensure that no one is left behind. We will also be inviting new Members to get to know us before stepping inside our building by hosting online information sessions – dates will be announced soon.
We have been offered extraordinary support from our wider network of artists, Patrons and friends during lockdown. We want to say a huge thank you to all the volunteers who have worked on our Creative Buddy Scheme; to those of you who wrote messages of support to women in prison as part of WRITE 2 CONNECT; and to our phenomenal Patron Zawe Ashton and our friend Polly Frame who have both given hours of their time to mentor our young artists. Not to mention the brilliant Maxine Peake, who presented our BBC Radio 4 Charity Appeal in June and helped shine a light on the experiences of our Members and the vitality of our programme to many new listeners. And to our amazing funders and donors who have been flexible, generous and considerate during this period, we say a special thank you. The support has been overwhelming, particularly from ACE, National Lottery Community Fund and some of our loyal trusts and foundations. But the need for help continues as the pandemic brings new challenges to our Members, and our resolve to create life-changing theatre grows.
A few weeks ago we shared our response to the killing of George Floyd and also writings from our Members about the impact of racism on their lives. Since then we have facilitated a series of online conversations - Reflective Circles - where our Members have talked together about how they are impacted, what their experiences are at Clean Break and what they would like to see us doing moving forward. As part of a clear strategy to step up and be actively anti-racist across our programming and organisational structures, we are listening and implementing what we learn.
Amongst the things we had to cancel when lockdown started was our programme of workshops and training for those interested in our unique practice, developing new skills, and gaining a deeper understanding of our approach. We have reimagined these offers and will deliver courses online later this year. Watch this space for more details!
And what about our audiences? We miss you! We hope that some of you were able to catch INSIDE THIS BOX, our young artists production streamed online for one week in early July, brilliantly edited by our partners Eastside Film. We hope you have also caught up with the blogs by a few of the 24 artists on our 2 METRES APART project, who have been collaborating online and continuing to invest in what is so special about Clean Break - the alchemy of our Members and the women artists we work with. We look forward to sharing with you the legacy of these collaborations at a future point when we can enjoy live performance together again. To this end we are currently working hard to confirm new dates in 2021 for the rescheduling of TYPICAL GIRLS by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm. This big, bold show with songs, co-produced with Sheffield and Soho Theatres was originally planned for this Autumn.
Changes have been immense for all of us since March 2020; included in this was bidding goodbye and thanks to our outgoing chair Kim Evans and a big welcome to our new Chair Alison Frater. As lockdown eases, and we begin to come together again in small ways – Clean Break continues to be here for our Members and all women who need us, our community.
We look forward to reimagining new ways that we can continue to amplify the voices and stories of those who are often unheard. The need for our work is as vital now as it has ever been.
Erin, Anna and Róisín
In our final 2 Metres Apart blog, Nicole Hall and Katherine Chandler look back over eight weeks of working together remotely.
I was excited, nervous, buzzing before our initial conversation. Having been offered a place on the project it was as though things became very real.
Although we didn’t know one another I felt an instant connection and Kath’s warmth, wit and compassionate nature put me at ease (we clicked).
The hour chat felt like 5 minutes and before I knew it, we were off the call and I was left with a mixed bag of ideas (buzzing).
Being a performer and having the freedom to do what I wanted with it without a pre written script and direction left me feeling like a little fish in a huge ocean (after flapping for a while, I allowed the flow to carry me).
The one thing I did know for sure was that we are a perfect match (thank you Clean Break)
I tried to go into the process with a complete blank page and yet the synchronicity was unreal. We both felt the magic of lockdown coupled with the comedy amidst the trials and tribulations was a great starting point.
On the second call we discussed our week and again it flowed, I felt the element of music (my first love) had to be in the mix. I’ve never written professionally but Kath made me feel at ease about it all as she referenced my emails as ‘writing’ (oh yeah. lol)
Through the struggle of life in lockdown, responsibilities and the lot there is a beauty which is hard to deny; love, compassion and a sense of freedom (when I allow it) when connected with likeminded people (such as Kath).
Third call, again things flowed there was laughter and banter etc – more of the same please!
Our last session was off of the back of me having had a tricky week. I felt a lot more solemn and could be nothing but honest about what was going on for me. Kath helped show me the positivity (she’s a real light) I felt the fear creep in with the feeling of ‘endings’ and Kath gave me a real 180-degree spin on it and suggested it was but a beginning to endless possibilities. Undeniably the experience is one to always treasure and has reignited that fire which had been dimmed (but always flickering) for a while.
Here’s to even more of the same (I hope) the next phase of 2 Meters Apart. To the whole of Clean Break, (Staff, Members and Artists) I thank you (from the bottom of my ‘cheese ball’ heart).
Over and Out x
Me and Nicole first met by phone. I was nervous about the first connection just because we didn’t know each other and I wanted us to get along. Nicole felt the same. We got along straight away. We had an hour chat. We’re both talkers. We had a laugh. Nicole is open and funny. We talked about who we are and what we are interested in creatively. Nicole has a particular interest in music and comedy and magic. Without knowing this I had already started to write a monologue about a woman stand up so I felt optimistic that there was a creative connection already bubbling.
We agreed to meet on Zoom the following week, again there were nerves - what if we ran out of things to say or something went wrong?
Again we talked for an hour. We could have talked for more. Zoom chats have become so everyday and if felt easy to communicate this way. Nicole has lots of stuff going on. We talked about lockdown, about our families, things we were dealing with. Our ‘everyday’ becomes the main topic of our chats. Our days, every days, ordinary days, extraordinary days, bad days, good days, getting through the days, Cardiff days, London days, sunny days, lost days. That feels like something to me. I don’t know what yet. I ask if in our next session Nicole minds talking through her everyday for me.
Between sessions Nicole emails me with thoughts. Sometimes things that have happened in her days. She sends me short YouTube videos of her performing magic. Flashes of who she is.
Our third session was more of the same. We still laugh and chat, I think we’re both open with lots of similarities and common ground and over the weeks we’ve got familiar with each other. Nicole makes me think about stuff. I value our hours.
The openness of the project has allowed us to take our time, see what happens, which can prompt a low level confusion for me that I’m not doing something right but slowly ideas begin to come into my thoughts.
In our last session Nicole talked about the end of the project and I suppose I hadn’t thought of it having an end. I feel like it’s a start. The thoughts, still unformed, are in my head. Stage 1. Phase 1. First wave. Pre-peak - Lockdown jargon.
In our second 2 Metres Apart blog, Funke Adeleke and Danusia Samal reflect on the process of making art in lockdown.
It has been a cathartic journey working with someone as talented as Danusia. She has been helpful, constructive and suggestive along the way. Which in turn has helped to shape the way we’ve worked.
From our first chat we talked freely about our experiences in lockdown and how we are coping.
This in turn fed into our discussion about the things we’ve missed and what we yearn to get back to once the pandemic is over.
We discussed missing live music, performing and seeing shows.
This helped to form an idea of what we would like to put into our creation. We also talked about what has been happening to us as individuals and I told Danusia about my experience of living with a new flat mate and how they are truly disrupting my life.
She helpfully suggested different ideas about how we could go about creating something by the second week. The first being a website that we could use to exhibit the work we create.
We jointly decided to call it Vibrations, as in the feelings that we’ve been going through during the lockdown, both high and low.
In the next week, I started to write different poetry which I submitted for the website.
Then Danusia, suggested that we write monologues from the perspective of the two housemates.
I wrote from the male’s perspective and she wrote from the female’s perspective.
By the fourth meeting we had both worked on the monologues, redrafting them as necessary in the previous weeks, the monologues include music and spoken word.
Currently, I am learning both monologues to record them as a video which Danusia will edit cleverly and they will be on our Vibrations website.
Working on this 2 Metres Apart project has really helped to shape the way I work and ask questions as well as think about things I wouldn’t normally think of.
It has also shown that it is quite possible to collaborate with the aid of the technology that we have available to us nowadays, so although it isn’t the ideal situation. It can work.
It has been a joy to have something to fully focus my energy on as well as material for my acting showreel which is all very exciting for the future and can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on.
Funke and me had our first virtual ‘meeting’ in mid-May – a cathartic catch-up about our lockdown experience so far and the things we missed which Covid19 had snatched away: Theatre, nights out, live events. We’re both actresses and singers. We’d both performed in bands and although the previous year had brought less music to our lives, we both missed live music, singing, and being part of an audience.
You’d think it might be depressing to talk about this, but actually it became an interesting discussion on how we could regenerate that feeling, even if it was going to be a while before we performed anything live, or saw anything live.
It was in that spirit of ‘liveness’ that we let our first couple of sessions be chats about anything. Our week so far, what was annoying us… we also talked about what could we make and how we could be creative. I then compiled a list of some ideas based on what we discussed. You can see them below:
In the end we selected and merged a few of these. We created a website which could be a space to put our ideas. Then we started writing together. The piece is two sides of an argument - inspired by stories Funke told me about where she was living (don’t worry, it’s still a fictional piece!) Funke wrote a brilliant monologue from the point of view of a male flatmate and I wrote a response from the point of view of the female.
Since then, we have gone back and forth discussing and editing our pieces each week. How do they tie together? Who are the characters talking to? What is the journey? Funke is playing two very different characters with opposing perspectives on a household dispute. She is doing this brilliantly. Poetry and music will hopefully weave their way in too.
We are now at the stage of final drafts of our monologues, which Funke will rehearse, perform, and record in the next few weeks. I’m looking forward to then editing the two pieces together – using sound and music and video editing to tell this funny, familiar, and hopefully relatable lockdown story. We have both really enjoyed 2 Metres Apart and we are looking forward to sharing what we have made.
Over 8 weeks during lockdown twelve pairs of Artists met digitally as part of Clean Break's 2 Metres Apart project. It was a space to work creatively, share ideas, and see what arose from the process whether that was to co-write together, to each respond to a selected stimulus, or for one artist to write for their partner to perform. The project was focused on practise rather than product, providing our collaborators the space to explore and experiment.
In three blogs, we have asked 6 of our Artists to reflect on the process of this new way of working, published alongside their collaborator. In our first blog, Lucy Edkins and Sonya Hale share their experience of working together and the triumphs and challenges of making work under lockdown.
A lockdown collaboration sounded like a lifeline to me. My two foster girls have just moved back in with their aunt after a total meltdown induced by lockdown insensitivity to their case from the powers that be. My son and I, enjoying the calm after the storm, were frequenting my little studio near Markfield Park so that we could have a change of scene and get into a bit of spray painting.
In the midst of producing silly self-tapes for adverts, writing up the answers to the Clean Break questions was a welcome slice of reality. In keeping with the self-taping, I filmed the answers in the studio kitchen while my son struggled with his home schooling and people worked around me.
A month after the girls left, I get an email to say I’ve been successful – it starts almost like a rejection, saying how many high quality applications they’ve received, so I was steeled for that, but very happy to get accepted, and later was pleased to see how many familiar faces I saw on the project.
Sonya seemed as keen as I was to get the ball rolling. We were emailing the next day and by Friday I was at a street party with kids doing sponsored runs for the NHS and bunting up for VE Day. After a comedy moment trying to answer my phone, I took the call around the corner away from the noise and we got chatting. Sonya was energised and inquisitive – her method was to fire off a lot of questions, some of which I could answer there and then, some of which I hesitated to share with the neighbourhood.
So, the next step was writing. I did my best to keep up. Essentially, we bashed out the idea pretty quick. Then it was a matter of responding in different media... I was creating a body of work in spray paints, inspired by my son’s enthusiasm for the medium and our creation of a character who did the same. We began by talking up the possibility of a short film idea. I would do a lot of the filming, create ideas for visuals, perhaps do voiceovers, and Sonya would concentrate on the written structure of the piece, the plot, etc.
Sonya worked by getting responses and pulling the various fragments together, always checking in to make sure I was happy with the process.
It became apparent that a short play fitted more into the expectations of the project and what we were able to achieve in the time given. Sonya got busy and thrashed out the results of our to-ing and fro-ing and I responded with a few little edits.
I think the blend of our voices was an interesting and stimulating process, and, given more time and commitment, could produce a unique and engaging piece of work. I hope Clean Break are able to continue to support these kinds of collaborations between Members.
I was delighted to be asked to do the 2 Metres Apart project and even more delighted when I was partnered up with Lucy Edkins. I didn’t know Lucy but had, however, seen her perform in Inside Bitch at the Royal Court theatre and I was very impressed. When we got chatting we discovered we had many things in common; Lucy and I both have a ‘colourful’ past, we both have teenage sons and we are both interested in a variety of arts. Lucy, however, usually expresses herself through fine art while I more commonly write. Initially Lucy said she didn’t want to write but when I read some of her amazing work I knew she had to. Similarly, initially I said I didn’t want to perform. However, after discussion we both encouraged each other and embarked on a real partnership whereby we would both write and perform.
To start with we decided just to have fun creatively; we embarked on a game of artistic consequences whereby I would write or draw something and send it to Lucy who would respond by writing or drawing (or painting) something inspired by what I sent. We wrote and painted some great things. I had not painted since high school so it was an incredible experience for me. What emerged was a lot of wolves and moons and howling and also lots of references to the sea. Also, two strong characters started to emerge, namely Spray-girl and Tent-girl. Spray-girl was very much inspired by Lucy and Tent-girl was very much inspired by me. Lucy sent many images and ideas and I started to weave them together into a short story. Once we had the basic framework for the short story, we could start to shape some of the poetry that we had written in our game of consequences and chisel it into shape to fit with the tale we wanted to tell. Lucy wrote a lot of beautiful, exciting poetry so we decided to include a lot of direct address monologues in the piece. It worked really well.
Working with Lucy who is very creative but historically expresses herself in very different ways to me really encouraged a little artistic explosion whereby we both felt inspired by each other to work in different ways. I have not drawn or painted for many years and I felt very rusty when it came to this. However, our experiences like this in real life became fuel for events in the story that we wrote. In the story Tent-girl, like me, has never expressed herself artistically before and in the story we wrote, as in life, the two girls would never have met before if it hadn’t been for coronavirus but thanks to the lockdown situation they end up sharing a lot of artistic work and uniting on this.
This project, for me, felt like so much more than just a coming together to write a piece for a commission. Lucy and myself really worked as a partnership; we encouraged each other to express ourselves in new, unique and beautiful ways. We submitted the first draft of our little story and I hope that we get the opportunity to work together more in the future, to sculpt it and then perform it together. But more than that I hope Lucy and myself continue to encourage each other creatively, by continuing with our game of artistic consequences amongst other things, to see what else emerges for the future.
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 Frater: ‘Clean Break has reached out to connect with and raise women’s voices in the face of many crisis during an extraordinary journey to success as a leading-edge theatre company. As its new Chair, I know Clean Break will survive and thrive beyond the present pandemic. Theatre has sustained and changed me and I’m excited by the opportunity to stand alongside women who won’t be ignored and whose artistic and educational work inspires a personal and political agenda for change. The work of Clean Break reveals the causes of crime and the impact of a racially discriminating and moribund criminal justice system on individuals, their families and communities. I take very seriously the privilege of stepping into the shoes of previous extraordinary Chairs who’ve driven a fantastic mission to champion women’s lives and life chances through the advocacy and authenticity of theatre. I am especially grateful to Kim Evans who has been hugely welcoming and a great inspiration.’
Erin Gavaghan, Anna Herrmann, Róisín McBrinn - Clean Break’s leadership team: ‘We are delighted to welcome Alison as our Chair. We have had the pleasure of working with her over a number of years in her role as Chair of National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance and have witnessed her outstanding contribution to the Alliance as it has grown in stature, influence and ambition. She brings to Clean Break the inimitable combination of expertise in criminal justice, women’s issues and the arts, and we know that she shares our vision and our mission of a world where women are no longer criminalised but are able to fulfil their full potential. Alison has the tenacity, resolve and skillset as well as warmth and compassion which we believe will serve us well in the years to come post Covid-19, as we commit to rebuild better and differently.’
Alison takes up the position from 23 July, succeeding Kim Evans OBE who steps down from the role following eight years of service.
After 8 years of leading Clean Break, Kim Evans OBE is stepping down as our Chair. We have been incredibly lucky to have Kim at the helm for two terms, leading Clean Break through so many creative challenges and exciting moments.
‘Kim has been a phenomenal Chair. She has steered us through significant organisational change and an incredibly tough external climate, with care, expertise and commitment. Her combination of leadership experience, her membership of the Parole Board, and her strong values and feminist beliefs, have been a perfect match. Kim has championed diversity and inclusion throughout her time, and her personal commitment to this helped drive our Board in increasing its representation, importantly resulting in appointing Clean Break Members to be at the table and share power. She encouraged us take up space, be brave and ambitious, and it is testament to her leadership that we have achieved significant growth, profile and reach over recent years. We wish her all the best in her next pursuit and know that this is by no means a goodbye as she will continue to be a friend to, and champion of, the company as we move forward with resilience, confidence and strong values as her legacy.’
- Erin Gavaghan, Róisín McBrinn, Anna Herrmann
This week we are taking a moment to celebrate her considerable contribution to the company by sharing a short video featuring excerpts from her interview with former Chair, Rachel Wyndham Wincott recorded earlier this year at our studios. The full interview was originally recorded as part of our 40th anniversary heritage project and will be available as part of Clean Break’s archive at Bishopsgate Institute in London from Autumn 2020.
Video by Chloë Plumb
Earlier this year, Clean Break and It’s Not Your Birthday But… joined together to launch Write 2 Connect, a letter writing project connecting women through the prison walls with women in the community.
At the end of the project, Artist and Filmmaker Chuck Lowry worked with our Members to create a film to celebrate Write 2 Connect and the words of comfort, hope and inspiration shared from women to women. The film was originally created for Agenda and MIND's #womensidebyside conference.
There are currently 3,424 women in prison (as of 24 April 2020), many of whom are locked in their cells for 23 hours a day and whose visits, which can be a vital lifeline, have been suspended to stem the spread of the virus. This project has been devised in response to Covid19, and our desire to reach out to some of the most vulnerable in our society at this time.
For two weeks in May 2020, women from every corner of the UK and from all walks of life sent letters with words of inspiration, hope and solidarity to women in prison. The letters were about finding comfort in words and nature, things that inspired them and words of connection and solidarity. They all shared something personal and offered hope--a gift which everyone can afford, and which can remind us in difficult moments like the one we currently face, that we are connected, we are part of a wider community and we are valued.
Over 200 letters were delivered to HMP Downview. The women in HMP Downview then wrote their own letters in response which were passed on to women accessing services at women's centres.If you would like read some more of the letters from the project please click on this link
The Children's Society - Protecting children from being exploited by criminal groups
Inside This Box is a powerful production highlighting the harsh reality of life of young people who are coerced into criminal exploitation. It shows their vulnerability and the trauma they experience trying to deal with terrifying situations, often on their own.
Young people define child criminal exploitation as ‘when someone you trusted makes you commit crimes for their benefit’. This is the definition we use at The Children’s Society. It conveys well the key components of exploitation – a trusted person taking advantage of children’s vulnerability to deceive, control, coerce or manipulate them into criminal activity. This can include work in cannabis factories, moving drugs across the country, shoplifting, pickpocketing, or threatening violence against others.
Recently, child criminal exploitation has become strongly associated with one specific model known as ‘county lines’. This involves organised criminal networks exploiting young people and vulnerable groups to distribute drugs and money across the country through dedicated mobile phone lines, often from cities to smaller towns and coastal communities. ‘County lines’ is no longer a fringe issue, but a systemic problem reported in almost every police force in the country.
Children are being cynically exploited with the promise of money, drugs, status and affection. They’re being controlled through threats, violence and sexual abuse, leaving them traumatised and living in fear. For criminal groups, exploited children are a commodity they are prepared to sacrifice to avoid themselves being arrested by the police.
There are many signs that a child may be groomed for exploitation or is being exploited – from changes in behaviour to going missing, coming home with unexplained expensive gifts or looking anxious every time the phone beeps.
Sadly, our research report Counting Lives found that signs are too often missed or ignored and that many children remain under the radar of professionals who can help them until they are trapped in the cycle of exploitation. They might only come to the attention of services when they are arrested for possession of drugs, or excluded from school for their behaviour. Even then, questions are not always asked about why they are in this situation and they are treated as criminals and not offered help.
For girls who are criminally exploited, it may be even easier to fall through the gaps. There is not enough awareness among parents, professionals and in the community that girls may be exploited by criminal groups through county lines operations.
Any child can become a victim of exploitation, though Counting Lives shows that a combination of factors can put children at higher risk:
• Their vulnerability as a child, which can be exacerbated if they have additional needs like learning difficulties.
• Vulnerability created by society - for example poverty, experiences of discrimination, lack of opportunities, or the inability to access education.
• The lack of protective factors in a child’s life, including a lack of support from their family or the local community.
• The proximity or access a perpetrator has to a child.
COVID-19 can exacerbate many of these factors in the lives of children increasing the risk of them being targeted by criminals.
Exploitation never stops. Even during the current pandemic, when children and families have been forced to spend more time in their homes, there are concerns that exploitation has continued. Many vulnerable children have been at even more risk. Being away from school and spending more time at home has meant they have been ‘invisible’ to professionals who might have helped them, such as teachers in schools or youth workers. There are also concerns that more are being groomed for exploitation through online platforms as children are relying more on technology to stay in touch with friends and family, and to learn.
That’s why it is so important, now more than ever, that children are supported and protected. We all have a role to play in keeping children safe. As criminals are targeting, and trapping children in exploitative situations, it is the responsibility of professionals and everyone in children’s lives, as well as wider communities, to do everything they can to prevent and disrupt exploitation and protect children.
At The Children’s Society we work with children and families affected to help children stay safe. We also raise awareness among professionals and decision-makers of signs of exploitation and steps that need to be taken to disrupt it.
To help prevent criminal exploitation from happening, we need changes to the law to make coercion and control of children for the purpose of exploitation a criminal offence. We need to change systems that make children vulnerable, address poverty and provide the support they need.
Yet, the first step to making things better is something that does not require any policy changes. It is about showing young people that we care, that they can trust us and that we are there to support them to stay safe. Each of us needs to be more like the train conductor who our heroine meets in this play - kind, non-judgemental, caring and able to act on signs that a child is at risk.
For resources on how to identify the signs of criminal exploitation and what to do if you are worried a child may be being exploited, please visit www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-we-do/our-work/tackling-criminal-exploitation-and-county-lines/county-lines-resources
For many of us, the Coronavirus pandemic has brought problems in our lives into sharp focus. For girls and young women already feeling cut off or overlooked, this period has magnified the challenges they face.
‘Social distancing’ has explicitly asked us to keep apart. To avoid one another, not to gather together, form large groups or go to the kind of places that provide us with social support and contact.
For many of the girls and young women Agenda hears from, the challenges they have faced growing up – domestic abuse, mental health problems, poverty - can already leave them feeling isolated, abandoned, and not knowing where to turn for the help they need.
Early experiences of being hurt or let down by family, excluded from school or repeatedly moved between care placements, can be deeply unsettling. Sometimes, when help or interventions do come, these can lead to them feeling further disconnected from the lives they knew. Even when the environment they were living in before was tough, being torn out of it can be even harder, as Sheena told us:
"All my friends are in [my city]… like as much as like I didn’t get along with my family and whatever else, all my friends, everything I knew - I know every street in [my city], I know how to get [every]where."
Children facing greater disadvantage and poverty report feeling lonelier than others; 27.5% of children aged 10 to 15 who received free school meals said they were “often” lonely, compared with 5.5% of those who did not. And as they get older, girls report loneliness at higher rates than boys. Only a third of young women aged 16 to 24 say that they “hardly ever or never” felt lonely, compared with nearly half of young men.
Feelings of loneliness are likely to be exacerbated for young women with other marginalised identities, including LGBTQ girls or Black, Asian and ethnic minority young women, for whom loneliness may also be associated with experiences of discrimination. In the context of events such as the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Belly Mujinga, and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, it is likely that reminders of the grave inequalities some groups of minoritised young women face could leave them feeling particularly isolated.
There can be stigma or embarrassment associated with admitting to feeling lonely. For young women already facing social stigma – perhaps relating to being a young mum, being in trouble with the police or experiencing problems at home – the shame they might feel may stop them from describing how they really feel.
Being hurt or having their trust betrayed by those meant to love them - like family or intimate partners - can leave young women traumatised and have a profound impact on their ability to trust others. Which is why – when young women need help - being able to develop positive trusting relationships with adults and peers is critical. And why having had limited access to that kind of support during lockdown has been even harder for some.
Rebecca, who was exploited as a teenager by people she thought of as her friends, told us about the importance of being able to get support from a specialist young women’s service, and how vital this was to combating her isolation.
"I’m 26 now but I still need support. I’ve got no family support and no friends really, so the support workers here are the only support I’ve got."
The government recognises loneliness as a condition that should and can be challenged. This acknowledges some of the ways in which women might be affected – as carers, if they face language barriers, or if they’re in prison and separated from family. But this doesn’t go far enough to understand the specific challenges younger women might face.
Too little attention is given to the reality of young women’s lives, particularly for girls who are most marginalised and too quickly overlooked. Which is why Agenda has launched Girls Speak to hear more from young women and the services supporting them, to help develop a better understanding of the challenges girls face and find solutions to improve their lives.
We know that young women themselves hold many of the solutions to the problems they face – like getting the support they need to combat the loneliness they can face - and we look forward to continuing to hear from young women like Sheena and Rebecca as we do so.
Jess Southgate is Interim CEO of Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk. We exist to ensure that women and girls at risk of abuse, poverty, poor mental health, addiction, homelessness and contact with the criminal justice system get the support and protection they need.
In Spring 2020 Clean Break's Young Artist Development Programme worked with Eastside Film Crew (a programme to develop young filmmakers aged 18-25) to document Inside This Box, a play by Yasmin Joseph, directed by Stef O’Driscoll.
Eastside Film Crew (EFC) is an initiative which aims to create professional film and editing opportunities for young people aged 18-25 years old. The crew of up to 10 young people, have the chance to work on professional briefs, trying different roles from camera operators to editors, learning valuable skills and a portfolio of work on the way over the course of a year. On this project they got the chance to film and edit a live theatre show for the first time.
Both Clean Break's and Eastside's team were women only and the young women from both organisations had the chance to meet and speak with each other, connecting on the themes involved and why they both wanted to get this work seen by a bigger audience.
Young artists from Clean Break and Eastside have written blogs about the project. You can read more about the experience of one of the Eastside Film Crew, Sade Briggs, here and Clean Break Young Artist, Chloё Florence's interview below.
Tell us about your connection to Clean Break
I’m on the Young Artist Development Programme.
Tell us about Inside This Box
It’s a Play that follows Alex, a young vulnerable homeless girl, as she navigates around a city that never seems to be on her side. She finds hope and home in her little sister and follows a path to try and change her fortune for good.
How did you find the experience of collaborating with other artists, creatives and filmmakers on this project?
Amazing - I felt so supported. It was really nice to work with other young people and not feel so isolated and alone in making art. It was hard work but enjoyable, I had so much fun, a very rewarding process.
What do you think Inside This Box says about the pressures facing young women?
That there are so many pressures put on young women specifically and lack of support when they need it. That it’s hard for young people to know who to trust, when they are betrayed constantly by people who are supposed to be helping. That they therefore hold a lot of pressure and responsibility on themselves.
How has the world changed for young people since you first performed Inside This Box?
The Pandemic. For young people like Alex, the pandemic is literally a death sentence. More people are facing having to stay in abusive situations or/and be forced onto the streets. People who don’t have a ‘home’, can’t stay ‘home’.
There are now fewer opportunities and less hope for young people to get out of negative situations because the world has literally stopped.
When we performed Inside This Box, London was a city that never slept. Now, it sleeps. If you have nowhere to go, there are fewer survival options than there were before. Services that help people like Alex are being stretched even further. The hope has been taken away for many young people. It feels like a different world now.
Are the themes still relevant?
The themes are 100% still relevant. They just exist in a city that has changed which offers up a different set of problems for someone like Alex.
What do you see as the biggest pressures on young women in risky situations?
From my experience, I feel one of the biggest pressures on young women in risky situations is they feel like it’s their fault. Their problem to fix; they blame themselves and there’s lack of access to support which leads to isolation. This in turn negatively impacts their self-worth and mental health. Which then can lead to exploitation, abuse, and all sorts of other pressures from dangerous people in order to help them fix their problem. These pressuring situations then become the only place they can find belonging, hope, worth and purpose.
How do you think projects like Inside This Box help to address youth loneliness and to find a sense of belonging?
I think they help by bringing young people together to help find their power, voice and feel part of something collaborative where they are not alone. It’s important for young people to know they are not alone. They might feel like they are the only person suffering in their world but there are thousands of people going through the same thing. It’s not their fault. Projects like this address those issues and bring audiences closer to those people in those isolated situations and show young people that they aren’t alone.
If you could imagine another way, what could the world look like for the character in Inside This Box?
In an ideal world... Support there for Alex without her having to ask for it. The Council gives her a council flat near her family as soon as she needs it. With money / grants to fund it until she is fully financially able to pay for it herself. Support Groups - for her mental health and career. Friends that care for her. A world where she can breathe, that is there for her without chasing it. A world that feels like everyone is on Alex’s side, not against her. A world where she can just be at home with her sister.
Maxine Peake will be presenting our Charity Appeal on BBC Radio 4.
Tune in on Sunday 21st June at 07:54 and 21:25 then again on Thursday 25th June at 15:27. Click here to listen.
In this current crisis the demand for Clean Break’s services has increased. This appeal will help us to raise vital funds to support our Members during this particularly difficult time; providing a support line, care packages and broadband devices to help women meet their essential financial, medical and social needs. They can also access the therapy and theatre courses which are now available online.
Our Presenter Maxine Peake
Maxine Peake is a stage, radio, film and television actress with many of her roles exploring the different facets of the criminal justice system. Here she shares why she supports Clean Break and believes in our work.
The appeal will be aired on Sunday 21st June at 07:54 and 21:25 then again on Thursday 25th June at 15:27. Click here to listen.
The appeal is now closed, but if you would still like to make a donation to support our work, please click here.
Clean Break is part of a sector-wide initiative to set up a Freelance Task Force, as outlined in the Open Letter to Theatre and Performance Makers.
The aim of the Freelance Task Force is to strengthen the influence of the self-employed theatre and performance community. It will create ongoing points of connection between freelancers, organisations, funders, and government and amplify the voice of the self-employed in the conversations to come about how we manage the response to and recovery from the Covid-19 crisis in the performing arts sector.
We are delighted to be working in partnership with Theatre Rites to support two freelance practitioners, on a part time basis, to be involved in the Freelance Task Force.
We wanted to make a clear statement about why we have not done an open call for applications.
At the time the scheme was announced, neither organisation felt we had enough funds to support a freelancer for the full 13-day commitment required by the Taskforce. However, at a late stage it transpired that a job share was an option and we joined forces with Theatre Rites who were in a similar position to us. We wanted to work with an artist who has worked with Clean Break before so she could speak to our Members as part of her network of engagement for the Taskforce. A very tight time frame, coupled with a majority-furloughed team meant that we were not able to share an open call with our artist pool, but instead decided to identify clear gaps in terms of freelancer roles within the existing Taskforce.
We are delighted to be involved in the scheme and hope to learn about how we can improve our working practice with freelancers in the future.
This week has seen a global protest against the unlawful killing of George Floyd by the police in Minnesota, USA. We have seen widespread anger and hurt and a demand for action and change from people all around the world. Individuals and organisations across the UK have acknowledged the need to fight for justice and to ensure anti-racism lies at the heart of their work moving forward. At Clean Break we have pledged our own commitment to anti-racism and will strive to continue to shine a light on the presence of racism and discrimination within the criminal justice system and the need for change.
We asked some of our Members to respond to this moment through the lens of their experiences of discrimination in and around the UK’s criminal justice system. Ann, Beverly, Fatima and Sandrine shared their stories in a very personal way.
Please note that these stories contain potentially distressing material for the reader.
I knew George Floyd
Back in the eighties, we were close friends. Full of life, love and laughter. We had a beautiful naïve hope. Content to be in a world we thought was promising us endless possibilities. The harsh reality of how our life would almost inevitably unfold, hadn’t quite hit us yet. The phrase “systemic/institutional racism” hadn’t even been coined. But make no mistake, it was/ is real.
I knew George Floyd
She died in police custody. Not even out of her teenage years. I saw her on the day she was to die. She was planning to spend the afternoon with her young son. Excited at the prospect, she decided to go to town, and shoplift some goods to sell. She was planning to take him out and buy him some gifts. She lived a life, that maybe you would not understand. A product of her environment, some would say. A teenage mum, in and out of prison for petty offenses. Brought up on a notorious predominately black council estate. In foster homes for most of her short life. Crime was the only way she knew how to escape the poverty that surrounded her.
I knew George Floyd
A social scientist would have a field day studying her life. Her young son already in care like his mother before him. Would they have known she had a heart of gold? A zest for life? No amount of trauma she had endured, ever dampened her spirit. This beautiful young black female, may have been a petty thief, known to the police and the justice system. Yet she was also a human being, with dreams and aspirations like all of us. She was happy in the only world she knew.
I knew George Floyd
The “justice” system, which (still) comprises mainly middle-class white men/women, coming from an opposite perspective, a different world view, never actually saw her. She was treated in death the same way she was treated in life. Killed in police custody. During the “investigation” I was told she had hung herself. Told by the very same police who diligently removed, on a daily basis, all potential possessions that could harm anyone. Belts, ties and coat cords were routinely taken away, and given back when released. A police officer who interviewed me during the inquiry, stated her death would be called suicide. In a cell, that he agreed, had no possible means in which to hang yourself.
I knew George Floyd
In the coroner’s report the boot-prints that were found on her face and clothes, were never explained. Bills have been passed, laws have changed, but the heart of man has not. There have been many George Floyds before my friends murder, and tragically, probably many more after. The justice system is broken in this world. My hope is in a God who will judge what man will not. Jesus take the wheel.
Listening to the radio presenter and guest gush over the 'timeless image' of the current Monarch on a horse. I see another 'timeless image' l am not able to let go of - the still at the beginning of the video detailing the murder of George Floyd through extreme aggressive state representation. One member of our human race ending the life of another human being. I'm not going to watch the video, and perhaps (as well as the need to shield @home) that's why l'm not amongst others outside the US Embassy demanding justice that leads to peace.
In the days since the British Transport Police (more human beings) closed the terse investigation into the assault on Belly Mujinga leading to her Covid-19 related death. I'm not getting a sense of justice and the peace lacking in my heart and mind is manifest in protestors worldwide.
These days of systemic discrimination within our institutions that are here for our protection; is that right? Have l misunderstood? These days of relentless unconscious bias are a culmination of centuries of one set of humans with greed, status, and easy living in mind (in my opinion) stating with absolute authority that the people with different skin colour sitting on natural resources that hold, potential prestige for you and yours back home are not just different they are a different race. A lesser species therefore... 2020.
It takes real desire to change, to actually see another person as another person equal to you. Not above or beneath, you, equal to you. I am using the pronoun 'you' intentionally, the second by second, hour by hour, day in day out, work you need to willingly engage in (reflecting on outcomes regularly) to effect the changes that have justice leading to peace as the consistent natural outcome for you and all of us. This is what l want to see; what about you?
With the protests that are alive now, l am feeling real hope (thank goodness cos Minister Hancock understanding #BlackLivesMatter, numbed me) that, more of us are willing to do the work of transforming systems in society that are not working justly for all of us. My biggest complaint is that l don't feel people, other humans enough of us are willing to do this transformative work, that begins with looking within yourself to assess how have l contributed to the situation, am l ok with my efforts to date, and what can l do in this moment to create value for myself, and others, with aim being justice that leads to peace?
People protesting at this time all over the world, tells me, compassion and empathy are ALIVE, and that humans can get it - they don't have to have the lived experience of being handcuffed lying on your front arms pinned behind your back, whilst another human being (empowered by the state which is paid for by you) pushes his full body weight on to your neck as you lie unable to protect yourself and are murdered as a consequence of.
I can't look at these recent present moments of state/government representatives killing - through decisions based on hidden discriminatory values- with impunity without referring to our 400+ years past. And so yes l see l am going round in agonising circles in my heart and mind-the micro, and l see the same in society-the macro.
I'm back to where l began, one of these timeless images is soothing and pacifying, the other, helps, l hope, break the cycle of incomplete humanitarian revolution within our criminal justice system within our institutions that need to develop total respect for the dignity of all lives, yet, for at least the next 100 years emphasise the #BlackLivesMatter, cos we all need - supported by law - to find ways to make these words our reality.
“Stop. I can’t breathe! “-George Floyd, dying words of latest police murder victim in USA, 2020 Ignorance allied with power, is the enemy of justice. (James Baldwin)
Dreams and memories: police abuses of power
Whilst studying at Tottenham college, I dreamt our college disco was raided by police, with all jumping through windows to avoid police arrest of youths dancing, enjoying themselves. I recall waking in terror, sweating, unable to breathe!
This was nothing compared to my feeling, hearing that my dream had come true; my best friend jumped through a window fleeing police arrest and brutality she witnessed. The US police murder of unarmed black man, George Floyd with hands up saying, Don’t Shoot, reminds me of police slaying of Mark Duggan in North London culminating in ‘The Hard Stop’, documented in film by George Amponsah (2016). Armed police were witnessed shooting unarmed black man Mark, contrary to Metropolitan Police allegations of him dumping a gun. UK inner city uprisings: socio-economic, legal and political inequalities Urban 1980’s uprisings in Brixton, Toxteth and Manchester were documented in films:
Blood Ah Go Run (Dir: Menelik Shabazz), examining the inequalities in socio-economic conditions: housing, wages, inequalities before the Law and the CJS. Time and Judgment (Dir: Imruh Bakari) records injustices meted out to the Afrikan-Caribbean community systematically criminalising Black youth.
Comparing experiences globally, I found evidence of sustained police brutality, terrorisation and complicity in Black deaths in police custody and police house searches. What of police legacy: killing innocent unarmed women, whilst supposedly searching houses for Black men: Cynthia Jarett in North London, and Cherry Groce in Brixton, one killed, one maimed? Police investigating police has on balance proved ineffective: examining the New Cross Fire investigation: where 13 Black teenagers died in a mystery fire whilst celebrating Yvonne’s birthday, yet nothing was said. Peaceful marches protested what the Black community perceived as a ‘racist attack’ in a known National Front racist area, New Cross, South-East London. Having agreed the route of the march, police then tried sabotaging the outcome, Attacking peaceful unarmed marchers hoping to provoke violence, but marchers chanted:
‘Thirteen Dead. Nothing said! What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!
Conclusion: Film and music documenting inequalities in CJS, US & UK Activist, Spike Lee’s enduring film message, Do the Right Thing, seeking an end to police brutality could have been filmed in 2020, instead of cataloguing African-American deaths at the hands of racist police officers. Oprah highlighted on her TV show, a video recording of Rodney King brutalized by police saw no appropriate action brought against officer(s) concerned. Junior Mervin’s song, Police and Thieves still rings true now. ‘Until the philosophy that holds one race superior, and another, inferior, is toppled…abandoned, everywhere is War! (Bob Marley song, War). LOVE conquers hate, fear and ignorance, bringing healing and transformation. I envision ‘justice flowing down like a river’, Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
First of all my deepest, deepest condolence for the GEORGE FLOYD family
I am going to speak emotionally and from my heart
It is fucking inhumane the way we treat black bodies
I am so fucking sick and tired of trying to convince people (white people specifically) that racism is fucking alive and well.
you know what
fucking good for you for not being able to see colour
well done for not noticing a security guard following me around shops and supermarkets.
well done for not noticing young black men being stopped and frisked constantly just because of how they are dressed.
I am honestly so sick and so tired,
God I am really tired.
I can’t master the sound
to expressing what I feel
Every time I open my mouth all that comes out is an animal sound
I am howling!
a hyena sounds
I am the hynena
I fear for my
For my brother, for my sister who have yet to be grown
How do I protect them
how do I make it better?
how do I hide them from the system that is determined to claim them before they have grown?
Must take arms
in this war
The anger must be eaten and suffocate deep into my bones rest I burn the world down
I must numb
Must numb all this anger and pain in fear of suffocating myself
This what black people must do every time one of us is shot, put in a cage or humiliated for the fun of it by the system.
what I am told I must do as an individual by society
1) It must be my responsibility to get justice
2) I must be obedient
3) I must wait for nothing to be done by “the judicial criminal justice system”
4) I must be thankful that this time there was video that showed the truth
5) I must
6) I always must
I will rage until I am heard
I will be motherfucking seen
I will provoke until we start getting somewhere
until I am treated the same as my white friends
I will begin burning the world down one corner at the time until something new grows on scorched ground
Something must give and it will not be black people that give
We have given you enough of our sons and daughters
We are the new generations and we are not afraid to take hostages in this war
Seeing as you choose violence as your weapon of choice
Dear our ancestors
Dear our foremothers
We call on you
We call on you our foremothers
We on your children
We call on our continent
Lead us into this battle and may we succeed, Amen
With our thanks to Ann, Beverly, Fatima and Sandrine.
#BlackLivesMatter #BetheChange #ImagineAnotherWay
Led by our commitment to the alchemy between Artists and our Members, we are pleased to launch a new project, 2 Metres Apart, the joint commissioning of twelve writers from our artist community and twelve of our Member artists.
The twelve artistic collaborators are:
Over the next 8 weeks our twelve pairs will meet digitally to work creatively, share ideas, and see what arises from the process. They could choose to co-write together, to each respond to a selected stimulus, for one artist to write for their partner to perform. Working on the understanding that both Artists’ skills and lived experience are equally valued, the pairs will work as collaborators on equal footing to explore what creative partnership could look like. The project is focused on practise rather than product, providing our collaborators the space to explore and experiment. We have chosen not to focus on outcomes but to bring people together and maintain our commitment to nurture, employ and extend artists and our Members.
Click here to read the full press release.
Clean Break is proud to announce the inaugural Helen Pringle Award, an annual award in memory of our dearest friend and colleague, Helen Pringle, who died three years ago on May 14 at the age of 50, after living with cancer for a number of years.
Helen worked for Clean Break as Head of Finance and Senior Producer, from September 2001 until three weeks before her death in 2017. Helen’s own values, her commitment to social justice and to women’s empowerment and her love of theatre were strongly aligned with Clean Break’s company values. Her contribution to the organisation over the decade and a half she worked here helped lay the foundation for our new business model and is ever present as we weather the current storm of COVID19, particularly her pragmatism, optimism and belief in working together which live with us day to day. We have long since intended to honour her life, commitment and passion with an award, and are now delighted to do so, to keep her legacy alive.
As well as being a massive theatre lover, Helen believed profoundly in the need for change in the industry – to ensure that women with a criminal record, women facing discrimination, women living in poverty, and women with mental health needs or in recovery from addiction had opportunities to become part of the industry themselves. It is with this in mind that the Helen Pringle Award will be open to Clean Break Members past and present on an annual basis offering a £1,000 bursary to support a woman in her Further /Higher Education studies in a related field, and a mentorship by one of Clean Break’s artistic community.
Since Clean Break had to close our doors, we have changed the way we support and engage with our Members. We have widened our networks and increased our reach, helping as many women as we can through this difficult time.
Clean Break is delighted to be taking part in the #TwoPointSixChallenge which has been launched this week to Save The UK’s Charities and we'd love to see all our incredible supporters, friends and family signing up to support us.
We’re asking you to take part in an activity of your choice based around the numbers 2.6 or 26 and fundraise or donate to support Clean Break via twopointsixchallenge.co.uk.
Think of an idea/challenge, set up a challenge donation page, ask friends and family to support you, and once you completed your challenge photograph yourself so Clean Break can celebrate with you!
1. Dream up your 2.6 challenge – there are ideas on the twopointsixchallenge.co.uk website
2. Head to twopointsixchallenge.co.uk to donate £26 – or whatever you can afford – to Clean Break or to set up a fundraising page
3. Ask all your friends and family to sponsor you and challenge them to do their own 2.6 Challenge
4. Complete your challenge
* The only requirement is that you must follow Government guidelines on exercise and social distancing. Most people are taking part from Sunday 26 April but you can do your activity whenever is most convenient for you.
If you have any questions or want to tell us you have signed up please contact Stephanie Cartwright on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07469 660855.
Closing our building in Kentish Town last week was a very difficult thing to do. It is a creative space for many women theatre artists, our team’s base and, most importantly, a vital community for our Members, (women with experience of the criminal justice system and women living on its fringes). A lot of our Members face harsh challenges in their daily lives, further compounded by COVID-19 and we know that Clean Break offers a safe, productive, non-judgemental space where women can grow and manifest the change they want to see in their lives.
We are working hard to ensure that our community remains vital. Through regular telephone check-ins with our Members and increasing our hardship fund, as well as working more closely with our women’s centre partners in London and further afield across England, we are attempting to emulate something of the creative port in the storm for women who have been to prison or who are at risk of entering the criminal justice system. As such we have designed a new project for women in prisons many of whom are currently in their cells for 23 hours a day. Write 2 Connect, in partnership with Its Not Your Birthday But will see letters of hope and solidarity reaching many hundreds of women in prisons and we will be sharing ways of how you too can take part in making that connection possible.
Our other main focus at this time is the long-term sustainability of Clean Break so when we reopen our building, we are resilient enough to carry the load of the new, unpredictable, normal we find ourselves in. We thank our staff and Trustees for their support and shared commitment to this.
Our next season of engagement with Members begins on 20th April. We have reimagined this formerly studio-based offer and will now be offering courses three days a week online. This will be accessible to our entire Membership (circa 400 women) and to women accessing the network of women’s centres nationally (a benefit of the digital space) in acknowledgement that this is the time to reach out and try to combat the isolation women may be feeling. We are problem solving to help those Members who are not online or who depend on public spaces like libraries to use the internet, to lessen the barriers to engagement. We will also be creating a weekly interactive space for our Members to connect, try out ideas and laugh together, and our much-needed therapy sessions provided by Holloway United Therapies will also continue online or on the telephone.
We believe that there is a pressing need to create connections between us as we navigate the world we find ourselves in. Led by our commitment to the alchemy between artists and our Members, we are pleased to announce our new initiative, 2 Metres Apart, the joint commissioning of ten writers from our artist community and ten of our Member artists. We will pair these 20 artists and task them with exploring what collaboration looks like. They could choose to co-write together, to each respond to a selected stimulus, for one artist to write for their partner to perform. We have chosen not to focus on outcomes but to bring people together and maintain our commitment to nurture, employ and extend artists and our Members.
We’d like to express our solidarity with all our friends and partners in theatres across the country who have had to close their doors to audiences. We look forward to doors reopening and theatres once again being spaces of celebration, provocation and connectivity. The message from us is we are still here (especially for our Members) and we are leading with choices and commitments to return with open arms as soon as it is possible.
We hope you are all safe during this period and that there is some good that comes out of this time. We for one are striving to imagine and work towards a kinder fairer future where the women we work with are supported to fulfil their potential in a world free from criminalisation.
Erin, Anna and Róisín
In light of the latest Government advice on Covid-19, and to prioritise the wellbeing of all the women we work with, Clean Break has decided to temporarily suspend our programme of delivery and to close our building in Kentish Town. The length of closure is currently unknown and we will constantly review this in line with the latest Government advice.
Our staff team are working from home as of today and we are innovating ways in which to continue providing support to our Members whilst maintaining social distancing. We are talking to our partners, and our artists / freelancers, who are a significant part of our community, about how we can work together during this challenging time.
Please stay safe, look after yourself and each other, and keep an eye on our social media and newsletters for further updates.
We are searching for an exceptional woman to serve as Chair of our Board of Trustees, as current Chair Kim Evans OBE steps down at the end of her tenure later this year.
Róisín McBrinn, Joint Artistic Director commented:
“We wholeheartedly thank Kim Evans for being a phenomenal chair for the past seven years. Clean Break has gone through huge and exciting changes over the past few years and Kim has been exceptionally supportive, insightful and dedicated. We will miss her. We look forward to finding a pioneering woman leader as our new chair who holds our commitment to ground-breaking theatre and changing women’s lives close to her heart and work.”
Our board is currently made up of twelve women with varied professional and personal experience from across theatre and the arts, criminal justice, the women’s sector and private finance.
Tanya Tracey, current Trustee commented:
“Clean Break’s Board is such an empowering group. The best part is being able to share ideas, build relationships with the staff and Members, and see the work Clean Break makes knowing that you’ve been part of making it happen. I’d say the most important thing about being a Trustee is recognising the strengths we all have as women individually to steer the organisation whilst having different backgrounds and expertise.”
The deadline for applications is Monday 6 April, with interviews to be led by a panel of Trustees.
Set in a mental health unit inside a prison, a group of women discover the music of punk rock band The Slits and form their own group. An outlet for their frustration, they find remedy in revolution. But in a system that suffocates, can rebellion ever be allowed?
Part-gig, part-play, Typical Girls is funny, fierce and furious.
Typical Girls will premiere at Sheffield Theatres in November this year before moving to Soho Theatre in December.
Morgan Lloyd Malcolm is a playwright and screenwriter. Morgan was commissioned by The Globe to write Emilia which became a sell out in summer 2018 and transferred to the West End at the Vaudeville theatre in 2019. It has been optioned as a film and she is in development on this currently. She is also developing a book adaptation for film with Lucky Chap Films and adapting her play The Wasp into a screenplay for Paradise City Films. She is under commission for stage with Headlong, Lyric Hammersmith and Royal Court. For television, Morgan is currently working on a new series called Spitfire Sisters with Fremantle and Dog Rose Productions. She is also adapting a (as yet unannounced) book for Moonage and Gaumont Pictures. She is also developing a new comedy series with Merman.
This production was originally co-commissioned by Clean Break with the Royal Shakespeare Company who also contributed to its early development.
Watch this space for further announcements on Typical Girls - tickets will go on sale shortly.
To find out more information on our current productions click here.
Clean Break aims to use theatre to keep the issues women face in the criminal justice system on the cultural radar. In our four decades on the ground, we know that theatre intervention work that puts women’s lived experience at the centre is important, empowering, and conversation starting. We also know that the real experts on this topic are those with experience of the justice system.
In the lead up to our Young Artists Development Programme cohort performing Inside This Box at Omnibus Theatre and The Arcola we caught up with them to ask - why is making work about women in the criminal justice system important?
These voices / stories are important and valid and necessary to tell. People affected by the criminal justice system are arguably the most marginalised people in the country and their voices are often never heard and misrepresented. In this strange aggressive political era, it’s more important than ever to tell these stories, give them a stage and challenge people’s perspectives in order to promote positive political change. People often die at the hands of the criminal justice system. The more people are heard, the less people suffer at the hands of their aggressors. These stories need to exist outside of incarceration in order to make change & challenge how society treats these people. - Chloë Florence
The theatre industry is very nepotistic and crowded with the voices of people with limited experience, most of whom have never had to do laundry in their life. It's vital that work is produced by people with diverse experiences. – Lu Dennis
Everyone wants a role model right? Like someone that has walked his or her path; someone to empathise with. We have people like Martin Luther King and Obama; Black Panther breaking box office records to prove our skin colour is not going to stop us achieving our goals in this day and age. Women in the CJS also need that kind of confidence in themselves. Someone to show them that sure they have records, priors and maybe mental health that has held them back on their journey. But that’s not all they are and that is very important. Women in these situations need to know they are strong, resilient and loved no matter what label has been pinned on them. – Tia Thompson
Woman in the criminal justice system are amongst the most marginalised and forgotten groups in our society. Making work about them gives them a voice and allows their stories to be told. It shines a light on the difficulties they and their families face as they find their way through a system where everything feels stacked against them. It is important to produce work on the subject to show that the whole system reinforces the continued inequality and sexism of our society. – Lisa Marie Ashworth
There are still so many prejudices/ injustices against people who have been through the criminal justice system. People rarely seem to think how the person themselves might off been affected by that experience. I hope bringing real stories to life, we can bring a sense of understanding and compassion for women who have been effected/ gone through the criminal justice system. Breaking down systematic stereotypes, that have been placed there merely to oppress, I hope when audiences understand more, they themselves will want to help with the change. – Phoebe Douglas
Real change has to come from within. Making work about the criminal justice system by people affected by the criminal justice system, flips the perspective in mainstream culture and challenges status quo. Making work about any marginalised or silenced group by that group means that’s its informed and true to their own experiences and is informed by what they need rather than other peoples assumptions. It puts people at the heart and allows things to change from the inside out. Telling difficult and uncomfortable stories, with and about complex women. - Athena Maria
To get a real look into how important this kind of work is, come and see Clean Break Young Artists perform in Yasmin Joseph ‘s Inside This Box, showing at the Arcola and Omnibus theatres 26 – 29 February, click here to book your tickets.
After a standout 2019, we are back with a brilliant new season in 2020!
We have a range of exciting new work coming to you this season, putting Clean Break Members centre stage and exploring the challenging issues facing women in the criminal justice system.
First off, we have Yasmin Joseph’s Inside This Box, inspired by stories of coercion and the choices young women face directed by Stef O’Driscoll and staring the Clean Break Young Artists. Catch it at the Arcola and Omnibus theatres 26 – 29 February.
Written by Clean Break Member Daisy King, Not Pretty Like The Rainbow challenges the ineffectiveness and damage caused by short sentencing. Directed by Anna Herrmann and performed by Clean Break Members, this play is touring criminal justice and academic settings until 31 March 2020.
Staged in a prison van, Sweatbox, Chloë Moss’ intimate play, shines a light on women’s experiences travelling between prisons and courts. Currently touring, it will be at Essex Book Festival on 14 March and Clean Break 28 April.
We also have brilliant training opportunities for those of you working in theatre and criminal justice settings:
Unlocking Potential (19 March) invites participants to learn from Clean Break’s four decades of experience working with women affected by the criminal justice system, sharing expertise on creating safe and transformative women-only spaces.
Over three days, The Lab (30 March – 1 April) provides unique insight into Clean Break’s practice and philosophy, led by Joint Artistic Directors Anna Herrmann and Róisín McBrinn. Working collaboratively with Clean Break Members, it is a unique experience to learn in depth about Clean Break’s specialised approach to theatre and criminal justice.
We are so excited for this season at Clean Break, and we know you won’t want to miss out!
Click here to book tickets to our shows and training days.
Click here to read the full press release.