The artwork for Blis-ta. A collage of two young women holding each other and smiling, the background is a collage of a city scape and a camper van is in the top right hand corner.
05.01.22

Blis-ta Shortlisted for BBC Audio Drama Awards

We would like to say a big thank you to the BBC Audio Drama Awards for including Blis-ta in their shortlist for Best Podcast or Online Audio Drama.

Blis-ta is a visceral, bold and startling audio drama about hidden homelessness and the lengths women go to for survival. A wild celebration of resilience, it will spin you through a mesh of joy, chaos and beauty.  The play was written by the late Sonya Hale, who was a Clean Break Member and an incredible writer, and produced by Mimi Findlay.

'We are so delighted to have been shortlisted. I have been in touch with Sonya's family and they share our pride to be included with such great nominees. We made Blis-ta in the height of lockdown and when Sonya was very near the end of her life. It feels incredibly hopeful that it has been so well received and that we can continue to celebrate Sonya.'  
- Róisín McBrinn, Director of Blis-ta and Clean Break's Joint Artistic Director.

You can listen to Blis-ta for free below, or on Apple Podcasts and Spotify

a photo from our production of Through This Mist. In the Clean Break garden, audience members are standing around and talking, wearing masks, standing around a circle of white make shift trees
22.12.21

Season's Greetings: 2021 Round-up

Looking back at what we've achieved this year, and thank you to everyone who has been part of our journey.

It has been an eventful year here at Clean Break. Whilst the challenge of living through the pandemic is still very much with us, and 2021 has not been the period of recovery we had hoped for, we are incredibly proud of our achievements this year, and the continued resilience and perseverance of our team. Our commitment to care and safer spaces has sharpened this year, not just in how we work with Members and artists, but how we move forward as an organisation with the values of compassion and collaboration leading our decisions and actions at every turn.

2021 has seen a fresh demand for our programme as we have welcomed new Clean Break Members both online and onsite into our building, enabling artistic growth alongside providing holistic support. We have pursued our commitment to employing artists from within our Membership as actors, theatre makers and panellists, and were delighted this year to celebrate an increasing number of Members breaking into the wider industry, proudly making their mark in films and on national stages.

a photo of three memebers standing in a row, they are smiling and laughing

Photo credit: Tracey Anderson

2021 was also about making space for joy. We celebrated a return to live performance with our outdoor co-created works Through This Mist, performed in the summer months in the Clean Break garden to our friends and local community. The culmination of our heritage project saw us showcase our rich 40 year history at Swiss Cottage Gallery, with our beautifully curated exhibition and programme of live and digital events. And we were thrilled to enter the autumn period with our electric production of Typical Girls at the Crucible in Sheffield. A punk-fuelled play by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Typical Girls was created with the unique alchemy of leading women artists and our Member artists. Not forgetting the genius of The Slits!

While we cherished being back together in person, we continued our digital adventures and enjoyed reaching audiences in new ways. We released Sonya Hale’s visceral play Blis-ta as an audio drama; produced our Voices from Prison e-book; and released Chloë Moss’s Sweatbox as a short film. Typical Girls also became part of our digital programme, during the run we held a live stream performance which reached people across the UK. Bringing live performances into prisons has still not been possible for us since the start of the pandemic, but we were able to share Typical Girls in prison digitally, thanks to WayOut TV. Although this in no way replicates the vital connection of working directly inside prisons, it felt positive to have shared the joy and rebellion of Typical Girls with women inside.

A photo of the cast of Typical Girls on stage performing as a band

Typical Girls at Sheffield Theatres // Photo credit: Helen Murray

This year we embarked on a journey with anti-racism consultants darvaja, working towards developing anti-racist practices across Clean Break. We have interrogated our practice, acknowledging where racism shows up in our structures and co-creating across the organisation - envisioning what anti-racism looks like at Clean Break. We would like to thank darvaja for their guidance, supporting us in our commitment to change, for their tough questions and generosity. We would also like to thank the Clean Break team, trustees, artists and Members for bringing themselves to this work fully, and for working through challenges with heart.

Clean Break is a collective endeavour, we would like to thank everyone who has been part of Clean Break, engaged with our work or stepped through our doors (in person or virtually) over the past year.

This includes our wonderful partners, who have collaborated with us to realise so many of the year’s achievements.

Our Patrons for championing the company wherever they are. We were deeply sad to have lost Barbara Hosking this year, who was a trailblazer in every way and our heartfelt sympathies go to her partner Margaret Hyde and family and friends.

Our community of supporters, who have continued to ensure our future. Thank you to Arts Council England & DCMS for the transformative support of the Culture Recovery Fund; and to all the Trusts, Foundations, statutory partners, corporate partners & individual donors who have supported us and made our work possible.

And finally, a heartfelt special thank you to all the individuals who make up our team, trustees, artists, volunteers, and our Members who commit themselves to a shared vision of a world where women reach their full potential, free from criminalisation. The pursuit of which continues to propel us with energy and determination.

Looking forward, we’re excited for what 2022 has in store! Watch this space for a new co-production, digital projects, work in prisons, and more opportunities for collaboration.

Wishing everyone some joy, rest and rejuvenation as the year ends.

Anna, Erin and Róisín and the Clean Break team

tags : Blog
20.12.21

Recruitment: Creative Associate

 As part of our commitments to anti-racism and to deepening the involvement of our Members in our artistic output, Clean Break has created this role to diversify the range of voices and perspectives shaping our artistic output, and to increase the writing pathways and further develop the playwriting skills of our Members.

The Creative Associate will be a dedicated theatre practitioner with a commitment to ground-breaking artistic output, who believes that theatre can change lives. You’ll probably describe yourself as a dramaturg, a director or a writer, or a combination of these.

We are looking for a friendly, positive, and self-motivated practitioner who really understands the unique importance of Clean Break’s work, and is bold in their commitment to inclusivity in the theatre sector.

You’ll be an organised and strategic thinker, and skilled at working with writers, particularly emerging voices, to develop their work and practice. Current artists on commission to Clean Break are: Natasha Marshall, Ambreen Razia, Yasmin Joseph, Sonia Jalaly, Deborah Bruce, Kirsty Housley, Theresa Ikoko. You’ll have a strong network of artists and venues who you have worked with that you’ll bring to Clean Break. And you’ll be energised by considering and generating new ways of working with artists and emerging writers.

Please read the Recruitment Pack before applying for this role.

Recruitment pack
Recruitment pack plain text version
Application form
Criminal Records disclosure information
Equality & Diversity Policy information

The deadline to apply for this role is 10am Monday 31 January

We are holding an online information session about this role at 10:30am on Tuesday 11 January. If you would like to attend, please sign up here.

Because our work is about highlighting women’s experiences and providing gender-specific services to women, all of our positions are open to women only (exempt under Equality Act 2010 Schedule 9, part 1).

tags : Hires
20.12.21

Recruitment: Producer

 We’re looking for a friendly, positive and self-motivated producer, who really understands the unique importance of Clean Break’s work and is bold in their commitment to inclusivity in the theatre sector.   Working alongside a second Producer of equal status, the Producers are responsible for ensuring the smooth delivery of Clean Break’s artistic and leadership work.

This will include mainstage theatre productions and co-productions, work in prisons, small-scale touring and productions for young artists and Members*, events and one-off projects, digital artistic output (podcasts, audio plays, filming) and Clean Break’s Leadership activities (our training offer). Overseen by our Joint Artistic Directors, the Producers will be assigned to lead on different projects to ensure that we have appropriate staff resources dedicated to each.

You’ll be an organised and strategic thinker with an eye for detail, have proven experience producing theatre and events and you’ll have strong administrative and budget management skills. You’ll enjoy supporting artists and teams to achieve their best work.  This role works closely with all members of staff and in particular with the Joint Artistic Directors, so a strongly collaborative approach is vital.

We’re looking for your creative ideas too - we want our Producers to bring new ideas and artists to Clean Break which extend and develop our artistic programme.

As Clean Break works in partnership on many of its projects and productions, it is key for this role to be able to communicate and negotiate effectively and manage complex relationships and competing priorities. A passion for theatre and a good understanding of the theatre landscape is essential.

The salary for this role is £30,000 a year.

Please read the Recruitment Pack before applying for this role.

Recruitment pack
Recruitment pack plain text version
Application form
Criminal Records disclosure information
Equality & Diversity Policy information

The deadline to apply for this role is 10am Monday 31 January

We are holding an online information session about this role at 11am Monday 10 January. If you would like to attend, please sign up here.

Because our work is about highlighting women’s experiences and providing gender-specific services to women, all of our positions are open to women only (exempt under Equality Act 2010 Schedule 9, part 1).

tags : Hires
a head and shoulders photo of Samantha McNeil smiling
17.12.21

Alfred Fagon Awards 2021

Samantha McNeil, Clean Break's Volunteer Manager, named as one one 25 Black Champions of Theatre

On Friday 3 December the Clean Break team were lucky to attend the annual Alfred Fagon Awards at the National Theatre, celebrating Black excellence in the British theatre industry.

As this was the 25th anniversary of the awards, 25 Black theatre practitioners who don't often take centre stage were recognised for their 'talent, dedication, drive and collaborative spirit.' Samantha McNeil, Clean Break’s Volunteer Manager was nominated by our Joint Artistic Director, Anna Herrmann for bringing so much dedication and passion to her work at Clean Break for over 20 years. To our delight, Samantha was selected by the board.

“Samantha established and now manages a vibrant programme of volunteering both for our Members and for women in the community. This has grown under her tenure to a rich and diverse programme of volunteering across the year and in all areas of company activity.

Each volunteer is welcomed into Clean Break and supported by Sammy to contribute and to benefit from their time here. She builds rapport and celebrates when former volunteers succeed in finding paid work in the industry, which many do” - Anna Herrmann, Joint Artistic Director of Clean Break.

The Alfred Fagon Award ceremony was a wonderful celebration, and the Clean Break team were excited to attend in the iconic Lyttelton Theatre. To acknowledge the achievements of the 25 Black Champions of Theatre, the audience gave a huge round of applause – of course we cheered especially loudly for Samantha!

During the ceremony, it was wonderful to see three extremely talented Black playwrights be awarded for their work. Diana Nneka Atuona was the recipient of the Roland Rees Bursary, and Chakira Alin was the inaugural winner of the Mustapha Matura Award and Mentoring Programme. The 2021 Alfred Fagon Award was won by the incredible Mojisola Adebayo with her play Family Tree, which there was a reading of after the ceremony.

“It was a very magical day at the National Theatre, one that I will not forget for a lifetime. To be honoured in such a way is a privilege, I am so deeply moved and grateful for the recognition for my services to volunteering, theatre and the arts, and especially to my fellow Black Champions of Theatre 2021. To be amongst amazing individuals, meeting some of you on the day was so moving, empowering and delightful, and not forgetting the love and respect shared all round, it truly was jubilant and joyful day.

Thank you to the organisers for putting together a memorable event.”  - Samantha McNeil

A photo of Mojisola Adebayo and Samantha McNeil at the Alfred Fagon Awards

Left to right: Mojisola Adebayo and Samantha McNeil at the Alfred Fagon Awards.

Recognising Samantha’s work in developing our volunteer programme at Clean Break is significant. Because of Samantha, volunteering at Clean Break is a very special experience. We see the beauty and power in volunteering, and how mutually beneficial the relationships we have with our volunteers are.

We are so lucky to have incredible volunteers offering their time and skills across the organisation, from running workshops with our Members, to gardening and cooking tasty, nutritious lunches.

None of this would be possible without Samantha, who over time has built strong and meaningful links with our local communities, leading to truly enriching volunteering experiences.

“1998 was the turning point for me, I finally found my volunteering home at Clean Break. Looking back on my first day I was extremely nervous but equally excited to be assisting with the student support team in an admin role.

Over 20 years later, I still and always will have a huge commitment and passion for volunteering, I simply just love volunteering!” - Samantha McNeil

Photo credit for main image: Myah Jeffers/Alfred Fagon Award.

snowflakes on a blue background
16.12.21

Support over the festive period

Where to access support while Clean Break is closed over Christmas

Clean Break services will be closed over the festive period, from 4pm on Monday 20 December 2021 until 10am on Monday 10 January 2022.

We know that this can be a very difficult time of year, so we've made a list of services which will still be open, where you can access the support you need.

NHS Direct 111 - Lines open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Confidential advice if you have a medical issue that is not life threatening or an immediate emergency.

Samaritans 116 123 - Lines open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
You can get in touch about anything that’s troubling you. They’re here to listen.

Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247 - Lines open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Trained women helpline workers and volunteers will answer your call in confidence.

National Rape Crisis Helpline 0808 802 9999 - Lines open between 12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm.
Confidential support if you have survived any form of sexual violence, no matter how long ago.

Shelter Housing Advice Line 0808 800 4444 - Lines open 8am–8pm weekdays & 9am–5pm weekends.
Housing experts will advise you, no matter what your housing situation.

Find a local NHS urgent mental health helpline

If you are in serious danger always call 999

If you would like some ideas for things to do in London over the festive period, as well as helpful information like food bank or library locations, you can download this support pack which was created by one of our amazing volunteers.

We wish everyone a peaceful time over the next few weeks, and look forward to welcoming our Members back in January.

tags : Blog
The cast of Typical Girls on stage at the Sheffield Crucible Theatre performing the song "Shoplifting"
07.12.21

Clean Break are looking for a New Trustee and Chair of the Finance Committee

Each year we recruit for our Board as some trustees retire and we need new voices. This year we are specifically looking for a trustee who will also act as Chair of the Finance Committee (also known as treasurer).

“Being a trustee of Clean Break is enormously rewarding, both professionally and personally. Clean Break’s governance and leadership approach is innovative, dynamic and often courageous, based around a deep commitment to placing Members at the heart of the organisation. The work Clean Break undertakes and the outcomes it achieves are important and are meaningful, to individual women and to our society as a whole”.
Alison Jefferis, Trustee

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. You do not need experience as a trustee to apply and lived experience is as valuable to us as education or work experience. To ensure we have a range of experience, perspective, and skills within our Board, we are focusing this recruitment on candidates with experience in Finance with the desire to become the Head of our Finance Committee.

The deadline for applications is 10am on Monday 31 January with interviews on the week commencing 21 February. 

Click here to download the recruitment pack

Click here to download the recruitment pack (pain text)

Click here to download the Application Pack

Click to to access the Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form

tags : Opportunities
A photo of clean break Members smiling with a pink filter over the top, white text reads: £30000 Thank you! With the big give logo at the top
06.12.21

A BIG Thank You from our Members

THANK YOU to everyone who donated, shared and supported our Big Give campaign.

 Clean Break’s Big Give Christmas Challenge 2021 has been a great success, all thanks to the generosity of our amazing family of supporters – old and new.

In just one week, we raised an incredible £30,506 to help us to reach and support women with lived experience of the criminal justice system, or those at risk of entering it, on their journey from surviving to thriving.

Throughout the campaign, we introduced you to the women at the heart of Clean Break, our Members. Before we say goodbye to the Big Give Christmas Challenge 2021, we are pleased to share a final word of thanks from Donna, Ellen, Inka, Jasmine, Oriana, Tina.

To these amazing women, we would like to say a very special thank you. Thank you for lending your voices to this campaign and for generously sharing what Clean Break means to you.

“Your support will change, if not one, every woman who walks through this door, it will change their life” Oriana

Thank you once again for following this journey and for standing by Clean Break so vulnerable women can experience transformation through theatre, whilst feeling supported to rebuild their lives.

tags : Blog
a photo of Jasmine sitting down smiling at the camera, in the Clean Break green room. The Big Give logo is in the top right corner.
03.12.21

Meet Jasmine

We sat down with Jasmine, a new Member of Clean Break who has been accessing our theatre programme and support services online, to hear how she found Clean Break and what it means to her.

Donate today and double your donation

I was put in touch with Clean Break through the probation service to take me out of a bad environment.

I found Clean Break in lockdown, so I started on Zoom by joining groups of drama, singing, poetry. Whatever they had, I said ‘I’ll give it a go’. Since joining Clean Break, I’m enjoying meeting new people. All people with different needs who have been through different things. I enjoy hearing from others in the group and maybe you don’t know them, but you get used to seeing them and being with them on Zoom.

I’m also enjoying the opportunity to learn new skills. I’m learning things which before, I might have found a struggle. With this, I feel my confidence getting better, I feel more comfortable speaking.

I’m honest with the Clean Break team and I say I have learning difficulties and that I might struggle, but they are always there to support you. I want to thank them for helping me to come into the group. Clean Break gives you an opportunity to join in, it’s helped me to get away from trouble and given me the support I need to get my confidence back.

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Please stand with Clean Break to help us reach and support more women like Jasmine on their journey from surviving to thriving. Every £1 donated through the Big Give Christmas Challenge from 30 November to 7 December will be doubled. That means one donation, twice the impact.

Donate now

tags : Blog
Photo of Ellen smiling at the camera
01.12.21

Meet Ellen

We spoke with Ellen, who has been a Member for three years, to hear what impact Clean Break has had on her and why she thinks you should support Clean Break’s Big Give Christmas Challenge.

Donate today and your donation will be doubled

Clean Break has provided a safe space for me. Not only has it helped me to develop my skills as a performer and as a writer, but I have also received support with my housing situation, alongside a lot of emotional support from the Members Team.

Clean Break is...

Opportunity
Community
Inspiration
Hope
Energy
A doorway to prosperity
Life-giving

- Ellen, 2021

What did Clean Break mean to you during the pandemic?

It was a lifeline. As a women-only space, it has been invaluable. There are not many women only spaces, and that has made a really big difference on how I would be in workshops and sessions. For example, in theatre I would be much shyer around men than I am around women.

Tell us about the support you receive at Clean Break

It comes in a variety of ways. I’m offered the opportunity to participate in a range of different courses with tutors who have amazing skills to work with this demographic of women. These tutors offer 1 to 1’s outside of the session to help develop the work I create. I am also supported through art therapy sessions and being given mobile internet so I can access the programme remotely.

What is different about you since joining Clean Break?

I have more confidence in myself as a performer and a writer. I’m a poet, but a lot of the writing I have done whilst at Clean Break is script writing, which I used to find challenging. But since receiving positive feedback on my work in this area, this has helped me to develop, and it has given me confidence.

After a workshop or masterclass, or during it even, I feel inspired, energised and come to life. It wakes something up within me.

How does it feel to be part of the Clean Break community?

I feel proud to be part of this organisation because it does a lot to really help women change their lives.

Why do you think someone should support Clean Break in the Big Give Christmas Challenge?

Clean Break is a unique and innovative organisation, it supports women who would otherwise have been put on the scrap heap. Women that go to prison, the majority of which, go for short sentences and they lose everything during that time. When they come out of prison, they then have to totally rebuild their lives.

Clean Break offers an amazing opportunity for women to do just that through the creative arts. Women can start with their creativity here and some go on to university and become professional actors, writers, playwrights. There is no other organisation doing this work, it’s women-only and it’s so important to support women to develop and grow.

The support given through the Big Give will make a massive difference to many people’s lives. It will help support an incredible organisation with staff who are very well-experienced and well-trained to do what they do in supporting the women here. We have the best theatre and writing, and other creative practitioners come and lead courses and workshops. Clean Break is not able to do this without funding, so please give whatever you can.

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Please stand with Clean Break to help us reach and support more women like Ellen on their journey from surviving to thriving. Every £1 donated through the Big Give Christmas Challenge from 30 November to 7 December will be doubled. That means one donation, twice the impact.

Donate now

tags : Blog
Photo of Tina smiling at the camera
30.11.21

The Big Give Christmas Challenge 2021

From 12pm on Tuesday 30 November until 12pm on Tuesday 7 December all donations will be doubled!

Donate now

We are delighted to be taking part in the 2021 Big Give Christmas Challenge! The Big Give is the UK’s biggest online match funding campaign. The proposition is simple, every donation that is made to Clean Break during the week of the campaign (30 November - 7 December) will be matched. That means one donation, twice the impact.

We need support to protect the future of our Members Programme of theatre activities & support services for women caught up in the criminal justice system or at risk of entering it. With our trauma-informed practice, we seek to transform lives by empowering women to reach their potential & thrive.

Hear from the women at the heart of Clean Break, our Members, about why this campaign is so important:

 Donate now

Thank you for your support!

tags : Blog
two head and shoulders photos, of Nola Sterling and Alex Rowse
01.11.21

Clean Break Announces Two New Trustees

Alex Rowse and Nola Sterling join Clean Break's Board of Trustees.

We are excited to announce two new appointments to our board of trustees. Alex Rowse, a creative producer and Nola Sterling, a social commentator and advocate against racial inequalities within the criminal justice system. Both women bring with them valuable expertise and experience, and will be brilliant additions to our already exceptional board of trustees.

Alex is a creative producer specialising in immersive and multi-disciplinary experiences for young audiences, communities and public audiences. She is currently Senior Producer for Collective Act, a new company formed to deliver a large-scale public engagement project for Festival UK 2022. She worked with Punchdrunk and Punchdrunk Enrichment for over six years as Producer and then Senior Producer, overseeing the development and delivery of projects for young audiences and leading key research & development into immersive technologies. Prior to this she was General Manager and Learning Producer with Coney.

"It is an honour to become a Trustee of Clean Break, who I admire for its radical origins, brilliant team, and commitment to creativity as an essential right for its Members. I am pleased to bring my expertise as a producer to the company, during a time of change and opportunity in our sector." - Alex Rowse

Nola is currently completing a Sociology and Politics BA at Goldsmiths University. Her research focuses on social justice, critical race theory, global governance and its impact on trade inequalities in the global south. She produces and presents a podcast as a social commentator, highlighting the issues affecting the African Diaspora to give a voice to topics often negated by mainstream media. Nola has over 10 years of management experience in the voluntary sector, she is also a staunch advocate against racial inequalities within the criminal justice system and seeks policy reforms in rehabilitation, specifically surrounding women who have been imprisoned.

"Clean Break is a safe haven for women to express themselves on their personal journeys without being judged, whilst being treated with great dignity. I love how Clean Break uses theatre in a holistic way that is dynamic and transformative.

It is a wonderful privilege to be a trustee at Clean Break, ensuring women can continually benefit from these opportunities. My biggest motivation is for Clean Break to continue to grow and develop in a way that reflects the nuances women face in an evolving society." - Nola Sterling

We're sending a very warm welcome to Alex and Nola!

tags : Blog
bold white text says BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 on a black background, with a colourful block pattern boarder
27.10.21

Black History Month 2021: Interview with Suzette Llewelyn

An interview with actor and author, Suzette Llewelyn and Esme Allman, our Participation Associate.

As part of our Black History Month celebrations, we invited actor Suzette Llewelyn to speak with Esme Allman, Clean Break's Participation Associate.

The result was a wonderful conversation, covering topics from Suzette's performance in our founder Jackie Holborough's play Garden Girls, to finding community with other Black creatives and Suzette's new book: Still Breathing: 100 Black Voices on Racism--100 Ways to Change the Narrative.

Watch the full interview here: 

 You can buy your copy of Still Breathing from Afrori Books.

tags : Blog
a close up photo of a butterfly, slightly out of focus
20.10.21

Black History Month 2021: Interview with Tracey Anderson

An interview with Tracey Anderson, Clean Break's Members Support Manager and Esme Allman, our Participation Associate.

Tracey Anderson has been part of Clean Break since 2006, bringing her wealth of experience, passion and joy to our Participation team. To celebrate this Black History Month, she sat down with Esme Allman to speak about her journey, her practice and what makes her proud to be Black.

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Hello Tracey! First I’d like to ask you, what was your journey to Clean Break?

My journey to Clean Break was as a performer. I was at Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama and I did the Community Theatre course. At the time I wasn't allowed to do the Acting course, that was for the sylphlike white group, and the Community course was the diverse group. I found it interesting but I can't say I learned everything there. I think I mainly learned my craft after I left but it was good, and I met good people including Cheryl Fergison, she was on EastEnders. We were all in the same college, sticking together, working together.

Then I joined the Black Mime Theatre Company with Denise Wong, she was absolutely my greatest teacher. She taught us what performing was really about, because when you’re doing mime you have to create that world, you have to create the emotions. We worked a lot with emotions as a universal language, and we brought who we were. We created, we worked hard, Denise really was brilliant. I was there for a good couple of years, in the women’s troupe first. The first show we did was called Drowning, which was about women and alcohol. It was just beautiful, beautiful work.

I then did an MA in Theatre Development. I went to Tanzania for three months working with street children, and again I used theatre as a communication tool. Being dyslexic, I didn't even know I was at the time, but being creative and practical, that was my way forward.

After my MA I started to work with the police in Community and Race Relations. That was eye opening and fascinating work. Each time I did something I found a different layer of myself unfolding. It was just amazing work, looking at racism and exploring what race is. I was looking at the ways police were miscommunicating what people do. We would talk about the ‘gaze’ and ‘defence’. I don't know if it’s the same for all Black people, but I know when I was younger if I was talking to anybody in authority, I wouldn’t look at them in the eye. I’d avert my eyes as a mark of respect, because if I looked at my mum in the eye she’d say “you think you're big like me that you can look me in the eye?” But a lot of the police officers, who were white, would think “if you don't look me in the eye, then what are you hiding?” So of course, when they stopped Black people who didn’t look them in the eye, they were looking at them and thinking “You’re looking shifty.” But the Black person would think “I'm looking down, I’m giving you respect, even if I don’t want to that’s what I’m doing.” So you can see these mismatches and miscommunications, because of different cultural experiences.

I was working with the police for about 10 years on and off, and with the Crime Academy on hate crime, I loved it. Working with the police paid for me to train and become a Craniosacral Therapist, which is another way of understanding how the body works and how we process trauma, our lives, racism, it’s very holistic.

Then in 2006 I came to Clean Break, which is about drama, it’s working with women, with trauma. But I won't lie to you the job I came to do at Clean Break, I didn't get, so I thought “I’ll go and work at the post office”, but I didn't get that job either! But Clean Break then called me back and asked if I would teach on the Access Course. I was ready to say no, but then Imogen Ashby twisted me around her little finger, and I said yes. I was having to first teach myself what I was going to teach them, about History of Theatre. But because I had to learn it first, I taught it in such an accessible way, because I had to translate how I was learning it to the Members.

From there I applied to be the Education Manager. I loved that job, we did short courses at the time, lots of courses, different aspects of theatre. One of them we did was make-up for theatre. We always used to do it in the darker months, because you’d be working with colour it was a really uplifting thing. It was also very scary though because Members would have to come in without makeup, so you’d have to be stripped bare. You’d also have to touch, which for some people is a very delicate thing. To work close up looking into each other's eyes, we had to lay the foundation and let Members know what the course was about. It wasn’t just make-up, it was a lot deeper, it was a very rich course.

Then I adopted my son so I had to take time out, and I came back under the tutelage (if you’ve seen Typical Girls, you know that word) of Jacqueline [Head of Participation], as the Members Support Manager.

I want to ask you more about your personal practise. You spoke about how theatre and performance are a useful tool for effective communication. How do your different creative mediums interact with each other, and what does that mean for your practise, especially your photography (- which is stunning and is displayed in the Clean Break building)?

My uncle was a photographer, and I don’t think I realised that I was picking it up from him, he had a darkroom in the garden. There are many Black families here who have black and white photos of their weddings, and they’ll have the stamp of my uncle on there. It's amazing, I didn't even realise.

I think it’s because of how I process things visually, I can't draw, but I can see you, I can feel you. That moment represented is through my eyes, so I'm showing you the world how I see you, through my eyes. In terms of Clean Break when I photograph Members, I want to show them how I see them, I want to show them the growth that I see. I want to show them that they’re participating. Even if you don't want to see your face, I can show you a representation that you were there, so that you know. Even if it’s just your hand, your tattoo, your elbow whatever, so you can know “I don’t have to show my face, but I was there.” It’s about showing you as who you are through my eyes, and I hope that’s done with care and with empathy and respect.

A black and white photo of two hands holding

Photography came up even more because of my son. He's adopted and I couldn’t show his face all the time when he was growing up, so I use different ways to explore that. What I want to do is share those moments that I see, and that's the beauty, that's what I want to be reflected back, the beauty of life to you or to myself.

That’s what photography is to me, and theatre, it’s the same thing! It's communication, it's how we share who we are, the good and the not so good. It's just out there and you're in the story, you can see it, or you can feel it, hear it. I’m obsessed with Typical Girls, and who would think that I would like punk music! But you know what, when you get the story and the song together, come on now!

I was the same way, I've had to be schooled on punk. It’s rebel music and a lot of Black people were punk pioneers, but unfortunately they don’t get represented. I was listening to our Member artists, Eddy Queens and Lucy Edkins play and sing and I felt really invigorated!

I’m singing the tunes in my head now! That song Instant Hit, wow the harmonies in there! You know whether it’s gospel music, whatever, once there’s a harmony in there I’ve gone, I've gone somewhere. That drum, once it beats, I've gone somewhere. Whether it’s tribal, it’s deep when I hear those sounds, I'm taken somewhere else. Yeah, music is very important as well. All the arts!

We jokingly say you’re our resident DJ but since I've been here, we've been online, and the music you serve has been such an important part of celebrating our work at the end of the Season. It shows how we work with care and with joy. That brings me on to what I want to ask you about next. What is the importance of having a trauma-informed approach when you're working creatively?

We all have lived experience of something at whatever level, and for me, my lived experience of trauma is how I can resonate with the Members and with staff. Because who knows what people are holding, the more we can support Clean Break to be safe, the more the job unfolds in a different way. You’re setting the foundation for how you progress through the organisation. Once you've established that trauma informed base, by checking and rechecking and growing and learning, moving on, reflecting then putting it back in, once you do that, the work just gets deeper and richer and it grows in a different way. I think that's what us becoming trauma informed is. Yeah, things can still escalate, but not in the same way because they've been held, you are being thought of, cared for and kept in mind.

For example I hadn’t heard from a Member, so yesterday I just sent her a postcard. I just thought, “I’m letting you know I'm thinking of you.” You’ve not answered my calls or texts, so I don't know what's going on for you, but if I send you something handwritten through the post, you know I've got you in mind. The team have got you in mind. That’s what I think trauma informed is, we've got you in mind. How can we empower you so that you can let that joy come in, because too much of our default setting is thinking “that could happen again, I’m not good enough, they’re better than me, they don’t like me” and that’s protection, don't get me wrong, we have to protect themselves, but there are other ways. Life is up and down sometimes but there’s always a way, and that’s the joy. Jacqueline has a joy that I just hold my hand up to, because some days I'm just like “woah today’s a tough day” but we just fire off each other and she dances, we dance we sing, she brings joy. She has the joy of the company. Hands up Jacqueline, that's my tutelage.

I'm talking about me, Jacqueline, but I have to tell you, Giovanna [Support Worker & Members Assistant] I'm telling you that woman is off the scale! The whole Members Support team we have right now is off the scale!

The theme of this Black History Month is ‘Proud To Be’, so I wanted to ask you what or who makes you proud to be Black.

I have to go back to family, I have to go to my parents. Because I can't envisage coming into a new country with just £5 in my pocket. Leaving all my friends and my family behind and leaving a really hot, lovely place to come to a place that's a bit grey, eating chips out of newspaper. No offence!

To start living in one room, to get rejected from jobs. My mum was telling me about how she went for this job and another woman said “nah they won’t take you, they didn’t take me.” But my mum said “I didn’t care. I didn’t walk this far!” So she went there, I don't know what charm she done but she got that job. But all the rejection, and they just kept going at it until they got their house.

They always wanted to live back in in the Caribbean, so they went back and lived there. That all takes a lot of courage, I'm indebted to my parents. I would not be here now without what they’ve done and the sacrifices and turning the other cheek for all the stuff you know, I won't even go into some of the stories they told me. To me, that’s who I am and I'm proud, and I hope I can make them proud because they've given me everything I need, to be who I am now.

I love that. My family have a similar story, so that really resonates. Indebted is such a powerful word, and I hope to make them proud too.

Family is what you make it, and family doesn't have to be blood. I have friends who are more family to me than some other people who are blood family. When I say family it's about some of them aunts, who we call aunts, but who aren’t really connected, but they’ve been around all along. Now my parents aren't here, some of them will still call, checking in. They just care, they just know. When I say family I'm talking about my immediate family, but I'm also talking about the bigger word ‘family’. You know my son, he’s my family.

My final question before we wrap up, is can you tell me a bit about the importance of joy in your work at Clean Break, in your practise and in your life?

We have a supervisor who we speak to, because sometimes it can be quite challenging, the lives of Members can be challenging, the lives that we live can be challenging. She gave this advice, she said to have hand cream. Have hand cream, because when you're rubbing it into your hands it helps you to get back in touch with who you are, it helps you to ground yourself back. To me, once you’re grounded you start see the world how it really is again, and there is joy. Even if it's raining, that sun is still shining somewhere in the world and it will come back here. Yeah, there is joy but sometimes, because we've got all these other things going on, we're not remembering, we’re not holding on. Right now I'm literally holding my hands like I’ve got hand cream on!

3 postcards which say the word 'hope' in neon lights, laid out of a green sheet

It's hard to remember or believe that good can happen when we've had lives that have been so sad. Clean Break is about making that clean break, it’s about saying “If I trust, if I've got the support around me, there is another way to experience life” and that is the joy, that is the other side of all the other stuff. That seed you plant is going to take time to come up, but it will flower and that's what I think about joy.

We say to Members have a shower, have a bath, let water touch you, experience the feeling, the sensations, it’s warm, it’s cosy. Get something you can smell, something you can taste, something you can feel, music you can hear. Get back to your senses and you're back in the joy. You know I've always got my nice oils and rescue pastels. We should have shares in Rescue Remedy Pastels! One of the hardest things with Covid is that we can't touch in the same way, but we can still touch with our souls. Our souls can meet, our elbows can meet.

My joy comes when I’m looking after myself. And that's what we're trying to do at Clean Break. We look after you a little bit, we give you food, we help you get in with your fares, so that you can start modelling how you can look after yourself. That’s what we’re encouraging. That's where joy comes from, because when you feel good the world is open to you.

Oh, and humour! You laugh till you cry, you cry till you laugh, it’s all a release. Maya Angelou says you should laugh as much as you cry. So if you're crying too much, know you can laugh a bit as well. It’s the same line.

Photo credit: Tracey Anderson

tags : Blog
15.10.21

Recruitment: Admin & Support Worker

We are looking for a compassionate, organised Admin & Support Worker to provide emotional and practical support to our Members, and administrative support to ensure the successful delivery and evaluation of our Members and Outreach Programmes.

Around 50-70 Members are actively engaged across Clean Break’s work at any time, with the majority participating in our core Members Programme. You’ll ensure they have the best possible access to our activities, be it online, in our building or in other venues, and work with them to understand any access or engagement issues.

Under the guidance of our Support Manager, you’ll also work with Members to support their mental health, drug/alcohol, financial, emotional, welfare and education/career needs. And you’ll provide this support in a combination of ways: through one-to-one support, assessment, action planning, partnership building / signposting and any other appropriate support measures.

You’ll bring recent experience of providing direct support for vulnerable women and young adults using a trauma-informed approach. You’ll know how to work across complex needs and be skilled at diffusing challenging situations when necessary. And you’ll have excellent admin skills, ensuring we have effective admin and communication systems and insightful, accurate data to evaluate the impact of our work.

The salary for this role is £25,000 a year.

You don’t need to have an arts qualification, or a university degree or college education, to work with us.

Please read the Recruitment Pack before applying for this role.

Recruitment pack
Recruitment pack plain text version
Application form
Criminal Records disclosure information
Equality & Diversity Policy information

The deadline for this role is 10am on Monday 8 November.

We are holding two online information sessions about this role on 21 October at 10am and 1 November at 2pm. For more information and to sign up for either of these sessions please visit our Eventbrite page.

Because our work is about highlighting women’s experiences and providing gender-specific services to women, all of our positions are open to women only (exempt under Equality Act 2010 Schedule 9, part 1).

tags : Hires
The Typical Girls cast on stage, Lara Grace Ilori is closest to the camera, she is sat on the floor with her legs crossed, looking at the floor.
13.10.21

Blog: What is a Prison PIPEs Unit?

Lucinda Bolger, the National Clinical Development Lead for PIPEs tells us what these specialised units are and how they work.

Our new play Typical Girls, a co-production with Sheffield Theatres, is set in a PIPEs unit of a women's prison. In the play, a group of women in the unit attend music workshops, led by a facilitator who introduces them to the music of The Slits.

The play asks if rebellion can ever be allowed within such a restricted regime, and highlights tensions with those in the outside world who do not want public money spent on more progressive practices, like music workshops. But as the character Jane says in the play, "it’s not just fun. Ok?"

So what is a PIPEs unit, and how are they different to the rest of the prison estate? Lucinda Bolger is a Clinical & Forensic Psychologist, and the National Clinical Development Lead for PIPEs. In this blog she tells us what these specialised units are and how they work.

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Women who are in prison often face complex circumstances and are some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged women in our society.

In terms of what the ‘data’ says:

  • Women are 2x more likely than men to have serious mental health problems
  • Almost 60% have experienced serious domestic violence
  • Women are more likely than men to have histories of being taken in to care, experienced abuse and witnessed violence as a child
  • Women are 5x more likely to self-harm than men; 2,366 self-harm incidents per 1000 women in prison, compared to 445 incidents per 1000 men.

Women are 20% more likely to be recalled to prison than men, despite being less likely to reoffend.

Guidance on Working with Women in Custody and the Community. HMPPS Dec 2018

PIPEs

What are PIPEs? PIPEs are Psychologically Informed Planned Environments, and are a key part of the ‘Offender Personality Disorder Strategy’, or OPD (NHS England & Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service). There are currently 29 PIPEs across England, with 20 in prisons (three which are in women’s prisons) and 9 in Approved Premises (two of which are for women).

PIPEs are designed to work to the four high level outcomes for the OPD pathway, which are;

(i) to reduce the risk of reoffending

(ii) to improve psychological wellbeing and prosocial behaviour

(iii) to improve the competence and confidence of staff and

(iv) to increase the efficiency and quality of services.

People who have been ‘assessed’ as suitable for the pathway are likely to have complex emotional needs, often linked to difficult and disruptive early lives.

What does a Psychologically Informed Planned Environment look like? This depends on where you experience it; a Preparation PIPE in a ‘high secure’ prison, is likely to feel very different to a PIPE in the community. What they all have in common however are the six core components, and their relational approach.

Some of these core components are designed to help the staff working in difficult circumstances, to do so in a thoughtful and ‘planned’ way, by which we mean when approaching another person on the unit, they are able to ‘hold in mind’ who that person is, and how/why they may be feeling/behaving the way they are. On-going staff Training and Supervision (both group and individual) are core components of the PIPE model.

Perhaps one of the more innovative components of the PIPE model are the Socially Creative sessions and linked to this their enrichment activities. It is important to understand that creativity and creative interaction have central roles in our upbringing, and that people whose childhoods were focussed on survival often missed out on these activities. There is much to be said for the significance this can have on development, and in PIPEs our emphasis is on prosocial relating – connecting, belonging, achieving, winning, losing, and joining.

Key working is also a core component. Everyone who lives on a PIPE is allocated a key worker; someone to discuss issues with both large and small. This can be a challenging but rewarding part of the PIPE, as allowing yourself to attach to another person when you have been badly let down in the past is often an unnerving thing to do.

Structured Sessions are small groups which bring together people who live on the PIPE. They usually have a ‘criminogenic’ focus, which means they help participants further explore issues which may have contributed to their offence. They will often have a psychoeducational emphasis, perhaps learning about attachment styles for example.

PIPEs operate a whole-environment approach, and that process is supported by engaging with the Enabling Environments quality processes offered by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. In Enabling Environments there is a focus on creating a positive and effective social environment where healthy relationships are key to success, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists provide a kite mark when that quality can be demonstrated.

Photo credit: Helen Murray

tags : Blog
Courtney Love at the art auction, wearing an orange dress
07.10.21

Courtney Love Art Auction

Courtney Love names Clean Break as a beneficiary of an exclusive art auction

 To mark the 30th anniversary of the release of Hole’s debut punk-rock album ‘Pretty on the Inside’, Courtney Love partnered with Parliament Tattoo in London to curate a charity exhibition of 30 pieces of original art, inspired by the influential record.

Click here to view the exhibition online

As a friend and supporter of Clean Break, Courtney selected us to be a beneficiary of this exclusive art auction, which was held on 2-3 October and is now available online, along with fellow women’s charity, Treasures Foundation.

The exhibition showcased 30 original pieces of art from Cherry Lazar, Bella Kidman-Cruise, Emma Black and a host of other talented artists who all found inspiration in Hole’s iconic album.

artwork on a white wall at the exhibition, the colours are mainly pink and red

The weekend of celebrations included live acoustic performances and DJ sets, while some guests showed their love for the band by getting Hole inspired tattoos from resident Parliament Tattoo artists.

There is still time to bid on these unique, original pieces of art, as the auction continues online until Monday 25 October. You can take a virtual tour around the event space through a 3D render of the exhibition.

Take a virtual tour of the exhibition

3 photos from the exhibition, one of a customised pink denim jacket, one of a woman getting a tattoo, and one of a white gallery wall with various artworks on it including a tapestry

Courtney Love recently attended Through This Mist, a Clean Break production performed in the intimate setting of our courtyard in Summer 2021, and thought the production was ‘marvellous’.

''Clean Break gives [women] theatre and music, gives them words. Gives them wings. Voices. Gives you: culture.'' - Courtney Love

 
 
 
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A post shared by Courtney Love Cobain (@courtneylove)

 Courtney Love (right) with Eddy Queens (left), Actor and Clean Break Member at a performance of Through This Mist

We are so excited to be recognised in this way and to be involved in celebrating such an influential album. This charity art auction comes at the perfect time for Clean Break, as we are celebrating feminist rebellion and immersing ourselves in punk with our bold new play, Typical Girls by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and featuring music by The Slits.

Hole’s music, like The Slits, embodies the ferocious and unapologetic attitude of punk which continues to inspire artists today. At Clean Break, we can’t stop listening to the iconic tracks that shape this genre, so we created a playlist. Listen along with us here.

Photo credits: Derek Bremner

tags : Blog
A photo of Jennifer Joseph against a blue wall
16.09.21

Interview with Jennifer Joseph

We spoke with Jennifer Joseph about her role in Paradise at the Olivier, and what Clean Break means to her.

Tell us about Paradise?

Paradise, even to say the name is paradise! Everything about it: the way that Rae Smith (set & costume designer) has done the set especially, as soon as we went on there, we felt the paradise that we've all been talking about in the rehearsal room.

It is so different because it's a Greek myth but it's very urban. For me it’s the language and the rhyming, and to know that for Kae Tempest (writer) their natural sense is rapping and spoken word. So, it is a glory, it is paradise to be part of something that really feels like paradise!

What were rehearsals like?

I'm not gonna lie, when you first walk into rehearsals and you really get a load of the script you think to yourself, how am I gonna fit into this? But it was just absolutely glorious to see during the rehearsal period how we all could bounce off each other.

One of the most amazing things was when maybe we weren't saying our lines quite right, because we’re still learning and you’ve got to be quick in order to hear the rhythm that’s underneath it all, and then Kae would jump up, say the lines or the section that we're reading and it just it blew us away. It's like “right everyone, fix up! Right that's it, say it again!” So, we kept on it, so that we got that same rhythm as if we were one person saying it. The word “chorus,” you hear it, and you think movement and stylising but really it's one voice. If you're a true chorus, you become that one person. That was an absolute treat.

 Jennifer Joseph in rehearsals for the Donmar Trilogy. She is laughing and has her hand over her mouth. She is wear a black top and has black and bright green decorative nails.

Photo credit: Helen Maybanks

Do you think that was the most challenging part of rehearsals?

Yeah absolutely, because you want to hear the same rhythm that it's written in. You want to do honours and justice to the way that Kae has taken time out to marry those words and make them make sense, so you want to give that back. So, for me was quite challenging.

It sounds like a really nice company.

Yeah it really is. I mean obviously I was a bit shell-shocked when I got the part, and now I'm the one that runs around going “oh can I have your autograph!” I know that it doesn't look cool doing it when you're part of the company. So, I'm just going around asking them to sign my programme, as my own memento.

And when you recognise actors like Leslie Sharp and you think, wow am I worthy of being here? Can I sustain this stage that you've opened up for us? Do you know what I mean? So you know it's a beautiful challenge.

How did you feel when you first stepped on to the stage?

I felt like my soul had left my body and it wasn't actually me on the stage. I was actually looking down and looking at this person which was actually me on this stage. So that was one thing to get over. I've never been on the stage like the Olivier, let's face it, and the first time we went on Jeanette our voice coach asked each of us to deliver a line. So, everyone did theirs and I delivered mine and it caused the sense of “stop what the hell!” You know what I mean? It was overwhelming to be there.

I tried to explain to people that stage isn't the hard part for me, to project and all that, because I've been trained to talk to that man up on that roof as opposed to that person just there. I can't help that, but I do find that in TV they say Jen that's really great but could you just bring it down somewhat and now that's more of a challenge.

And you know at Clean Break we're not good at bringing it down, we like bigger!

And that's what I love! That's what I'm saying! My training comes from things like Clean Break because that's my first taste for theatre. It's because of Clean Break that I was able to then get taught by Phyllida Lloyd and Harriet Walter and know that I have to give the same as they do on stage even though they’re seasoned to it.

So, let's talk about Clean Break for a little bit …do you want to explain your relationship with Clean Break?

Now at this point in my life, I consider Clean Break my absolute haven of hearts. It picked me up as a broken person, put me back together, and put me back out in the world even better than I was the first time. That in itself is testimony.

I was able to study there—I mean even now you get a little bit of shaming because you didn't attend drama school—but actually I attended Clean Break so call it what you like but I had the creme de la creme of teaching. I had names that are so big out there that I couldn't have got better at drama school. Being at Clean Break also meant that I got more intimate teaching.

I remember Yolanda who taught me to speak Shakespeare for the first time. I was playing the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet with a Jamaican accent, don't play! Yolanda put a panel together for our exams and one of the panellists was a casting director for the Donmar at the time, but I don't think she ever imagined that she would be employing me so soon after something like that! She said to me that in the 30 odd years she'd been doing Shakespeare that's the best she'd ever heard the Nurse.

That’s the thing about Clean Break we all care about each other and there's like real heart in everything.

Real heart, absolutely. In my first interview and remember this is on the back of one: just coming out of jail, and two: feeling like a child again. That even though I'd spent all this life and I've got kids and I've got a home, but I just couldn't find myself. When I found Clean Break, it was a complete safe haven. That first day when I walked in, I spoke with the two Jackies and I told them my story and I cried, and they reassured me and that was a turning point in my life. I never looked back after that. After feeling that I was allowed to be damaged, it was just about the joy now of rebuild.

A photo of Jennifer Joseph in Inside Bitch. She is standing up wearing a turquoise jumpsuit which says 'bored' on the leg.

Photo credit: Ali Wright

Now I can't even remember me not being a performer, it’s part of who I am.

I think the sad thing for me I wish I'd heard about Clean Break sooner, when I was in prison and maybe I would have been more involved sooner. But as they say time’s the master, nothing before the time yada yada. But prisons need to know about Clean Break because there's not a lot of girls that are going to come out from that sort of situation and have the time, the care, or the worry to be finding out about it. It was actually a friend of mine that introduced me.

You mentioned the Donmar, should we talk a little about the Donmar’s Shakespeare Trilogy? When did that happen and how did that come about?

Phyllida Lloyd (director) decided she was going to do her first Shakespearean trilogy and because Shakespeare is so biased against women, her challenge was to make it an all-female cast and have women playing the roles we’ve been told we can’t play. I don’t know what she'd watched that day or year but then she wanted to place it inside prison. Which was a joy for me because Harriet, the Dame, is a Patron of Clean Break, so when Phyllida said she wanted all women but she wanted some authenticity towards it, Harriet introduced her to Clean Break and they set up a workshop with about eight or ten of us. I didn't really honestly have a clue what I was doing, I just saw it as a great experience no matter what happens at the end of it. So when Anna (Herrmann) or Lucy (Perman), said “Jen, the Donmar have been on and they want you.” For a minute, you know, it doesn't register, you're looking at it like, Who? What? When it started to resonate, I felt my legs sort of give way, I felt sort of dizzy and like confused but joyous. That made me one of the original members from 2012 right through to 2016.

A photo of Jennifer Joseph in rehearsals for Donmar Shakespeare Trilogy, with Harriet Walters.

Photo credit: Helen Maybanks

Do you have any great memories you can share?

I really do, and I’ll tell you why the memories are even more great because at the end of each run, the Julius Caesar, the Henry and The Tempest, I didn't get to go to America with the transfer. So, it was bittersweet but I couldn't afford to let the joy of being part of something so humongous and so great then be dragged down with the fact of disappointment caused by biased, small minded people.

One of my favourite things you’ve done was Inside Bitch at the Royal Court

Inside Bitch wow what a journey that was. That was a different experience all together. We didn't know who we were, what we were doing, where we were going. What this is about? What's it for? Why do you want me to do this? We didn't have a clue we just went in there and we trusted. I think this is what’s important as well, we trusted Clean Break, you know what I mean?

Two writers, Stacy Gregg and Deborah Pearson, wanted to do a written piece and get some stories from people of lived experience. So, Terri Ann, Jade, Lucy and I went in, and we were just sitting around, and it became so comfortable that we were just having conversations, just talking about our experiences because we'd all been there. So, they went off about a year and a half later we were called back. They had given us these scripts and they just wanted us to say them, but we became frustrated because I was saying “nobody talks like this! Where'd you get this writing from?” and they explained, “well it's actually yourselves, all we did was put them into transcript.”

And we were like “oh nobody talks like… oh no… I talk like that! I feel like a twit now! Because I'm the one who actually talks like!”

So… we took it on the chin, and then we started to embrace it. Then when you read it feels real because it's actually our own personal stories told in a way that is was a far cry different from how TV and places like that portray that kind of situation.

Then we're getting into it, and we're doing it. Deborah and Stacy wanted me to go into this box to tell this hella intimate story that I thought we were just having a conversation about. So, I became a little bit frustrated because I didn't understand. When I got the understanding and the realisation of what this meant when you put it all together, it made for such a different feel.

A photo of Jennifer Joseph speaking into a microphone standing in a perspex box

Photo credit: Ali Wright

It was such a powerful piece because everyone wanted to be your mate when you were watching it, and it was so fun and funny, and then suddenly it was like bang, it really caught you off guard.

Yeah, it was so powerful and that's good. It was powerful being in it too because, well, I’m not saying going to prison is a forgettable thing, but my kids came to see it and it wasn't until I come out the box and the realisation of that whole situation hit me. My 21-year-old son was sitting in the front row in the audience crying because they'd not thought about it for all these years. Then all of a sudden there it was: my mum was talking about it, very loudly in black and white. Not because they're ashamed, it's just that they've not thought about it. My daughter who's older than him, you could see a makeup stream down her face. In that moment, luckily Deborah and Stacy are so good they allowed us to be who we needed to be in that play, so when I came out the box there's no way I could have just carried on without approaching my kids. Everybody noticed, but then it was a bit of a talker because everyone wanted to know whether it was part of the play or not, so they felt like they got the best treat of a play to see the embrace of me and my children after that moment of me coming out that box telling that story.

I mean that's as real life as theatre gets, and as you say, you’re not forgetting about it, but your life is so transformed in that moment, from what you are talking about to you being an actor standing on the stage of the Royal Court, to now standing on the stage of the Olivier.

Yeah exactly and like the journey that we've just spoken about, I thought Donmar was as big as it got and it just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. I can only give eternal everlasting thanks to Clean Break because they were the start of loving me, wanting me, helping me, fixing me, and allowing me to be me.

Well I think that's quite a good place to end, but before we do now that you're nearly finished your run, apart from having a very well earned rest, what are you going to do? What's next for Jen Jo?

I don't even know if a rest will come! I've got the best agent in the world, and she is on it. So, I appreciate a rest, but if a rest don't come I'm still not going to complain.

I went through an audition this morning and I've got one tomorrow. I can only hope and pray to get them because that, for me, would be a nice next step.

tags : Blog
A photograph of a woman playing drums.
14.09.21

Blog: Music in Prison

In Clean Break's new production Typical Girls a group of women discover the music of punk rock band The Slits and form their own group. In this guest blog Sara Lee, Artistic Director of the Irene Taylor Trust, talks about the transformative work of music in prisons and best practise for delivery. 

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Miss, are you mad, it’s never gonna happen”.

This is usually the response when we mention we’re going to write four or five new songs and then perform them to an audience at the end of the week. It’s a key moment, the whole project can fall apart at this point if the reassurance doesn’t come quicky, along with a guarantee that we are going to guide them through it and be there to the end. We know we can get a group of non-musicians through a creative process with people doing things they never thought possible, but at this point, the women don’t.

Miss, none of us have ever done this before.”

That’s what every group says, and every time so far it’s worked.”

But we might be the first group where it doesn’t work…” followed by lots of laughter.

At this point, some commit and others teeter on the edge needing more reassurance. Only very occasionally is it a bridge too far or too big a risk for someone to take at that time. Trust needs to be gained very early on and if the group sees you’re professional and authentic then you’ve got yourself the best start.

Making a project work in a prison is a series of negotiations with everyone and everything you encounter. If we’ve been to a place before, staff are confident because they know us, they know what happens, and they know the women will end the project with new skills, a new outlook and a huge sense of wellbeing. If it’s a new prison, then the negotiations are the same you’d have with your group, and involve listening, understanding and reassuring. Getting a van load of musical equipment into a workspace requires trust and communication, and right from the start, your actions need to show that you are working alongside staff to achieve the same ends for the women, albeit in a different way than might happen on the wings.

Supporting the women to have the best experience takes patience and understanding. We want to celebrate their achievements in a space where they probably never thought they could achieve anything at all. Staff are huge allies at this point, as we are rarely aware of anyone’s back story and how, potentially, writing a song about something precious which they may have lost could affect them. Staff are with them every day and can keep an eye out, to support where necessary or maybe celebrate an important step in the healing process. The kind of engagement we get in a creative space is often different than it is on the wing so it’s important to work WITH staff rather than be there to disrupt. Saying that, the arts SHOULD disrupt and make people think, but in a sensitively balanced and regime-driven environment, the disruption needs to be ‘safer’, more of a shakeup than incendiary. You achieve this by bringing people along for the ride and involving them in what’s happening.

It takes skill to achieve a high quality, artistic outcome within a restricted regime. Time is often against you, women don’t show or get transferred, the space you’re working in is booked or they have visits or other appointments they can’t miss. And we often have to navigate the subject of lyrical content. We discuss who may hear the tracks and how the recording is how each of them will be remembered by those who listen. If you broach the subject fairly and openly, the response will invariably be positive.

Balancing personalities, regimes and everything else in order to produce the best outcome means you can’t take your eye off any of the balls in the air. Artists need to be at the top of their game with their artform and the logistics, whilst at the same time guiding a group of women through a new process where there’s every chance they may remember the past, fear failure and quit. They’ve placed all their trust in us to make it work at this point and this is one of the challenges for the artist. Projects don’t work effectively if you alienate anyone and working together has longer term benefits. At the end of the project, staff and women have something in common, they’ve both fully engaged to make it work and because of that, the outcome is ultimately thrilling. You hear the words, “Miss, you were right, we did it”, and then you watch them leave the space, high fiving their mates and hearing staff tell them they were brilliant. There’s not much to match that feeling of joy for any of us.

There is nothing negative about the arts. Everyone benefits, even if it’s to express why they prefer something else. They have engaged with it, thought about it and expressed an opinion which is just as valid as the next persons. Those who have created it have dug deep to convey something important to them, and then been brave enough to offer it to others. This is so valuable in prisons where individuality can be lost. Music and the arts brings prisons to life, whether it be a mural on a wall or the sound of a band rehearsing in the chapel. Prisons are undoubtedly better places to live and work when arts subjects are embedded in the regime and recognised and celebrated for what they are and the impact we all know they have.

Find out more about the Irene Taylor Trust and their work in prisons and the community.

 

tags : Blog
25.08.21

Blog: Running and Rehearsals in Sheffield

Our Assistant Producer is fitting in training for the London Marathon around our rehearsals for Typical Girls.

I am thrilled to be running the London Marathon on behalf of Clean Break. As one of the greatest sporting events in the capital it is a huge honour to have been chosen to represent the company and fundraise in support of its incredible work. I am aiming to raise £2,000 by race day on Sunday 3 October and you can support my efforts here.

Pictures of me mid-run on the seven hills of Sheffield.

The training process has been very exciting because it is bookended with two shows – the first in-person production we’ve hosted for audiences since March 2020, Through This Mist, a live outdoor performance at Clean Break in July, and our first main house show since November 2019, Typical Girls which opens at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield on 23 September, just 10 days before the marathon. This means I have been scheduling my practice runs in between rehearsals, production weeks and opening nights.

In fact, over the coming weeks I will be taking on hilly Sheffield for my short mid-week runs, as I am joining the company for rehearsals there. The first day of rehearsals was highly emotional, as the company was embraced by the warmest welcome from the team at Sheffield Theatres, before a table read of the script which instantly brought the story to life.

First day of rehearsals for Typical Girls.

I loved going for a morning 5k run on day two, the perfect time to reflect on the experiences of the day before, which also offered a distraction from some of the steepest streets in the UK. Running in a new city is a fascinating way to explore it and I was enjoying the adventure of turning onto new streets and seeing where they take me. This is a breath of fresh air, compared to my usual highly regimented approach to running, which requires precise routes, distances, paces and duration. As someone who doesn’t enjoy running in circles, I need to plan my London runs carefully, so I cover a necessary distance without needing to do loops, and it’s been very invigorating to run somewhere new, ditch the planning and just go for it!

Knowing that after my run I get to go to the Crucible and get a glimpse of the magic happening in the rehearsal room is always super exciting and definitely helps me power through the occasional surprise hill, which this city has plenty of. As the weeks progress and the rehearsal process intensifies, bringing together the acting, the live music and the captivating story of the play, so will my running, offering me new challenges to keep me sharp and get me marathon ready.

This year’s marathon is extra special because it marks 4 years since I started at Clean Break! I couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate this occasion, than to premiere an incredible new play and do my bit to raise funds for the company.

Support Dezh's marathon efforts

tags : Blog
17.08.21

Recruitment: Operations Assistants

We are putting together a team of friendly, patient and practical part-time Operations Assistants to form the backbone of three essential aspects of our work:

  • creating a warm, professional welcome to our building for our staff, hirers, visitors and our Members (participating in our programmes for women with lived experience of the criminal justice system or at risk of entering it due to drug, alcohol or mental health issues)
  • providing administrative and practical support for room hires
  • supporting the Operations Manager and Head of Finance & Operations to ensure the smooth running of our building, systems and procedures

This is a fixed term, minimum hours contract for an initial period of one year while we trial this new approach for Clean Break. Contracts will be for a commitment to some regular weekday daytime hours each week, with additional hours during evenings and weekends offered when available on a casual basis.

You’ll be brilliant at communicating with and supporting a wide range of people. Being able to deal with a range of customer behaviours and remaining calm in difficult situations is essential, you’ll be able to demonstrate a strong understanding of how to provide a safe and welcoming space for vulnerable women. Our practice is trauma-informed, and we provide staff with training to support this environment. You’ll also be comfortable in your own company, as there will be periods of time when you are by yourself in the reception area, and the last to leave the building and lock up.

Based generally in our reception area, Operations Assistants will regularly work around the building introducing new and potential hirers to our spaces, setting up rooms for staff and hirers, keeping us safe by handling first aid and basic building safety, and sorting out signage. Some shifts will naturally be more desk based, focused on welcoming visitors and dealing with general enquiries and admin, others more practical. You’ll be a natural multi-tasker, confident having a go at a range of admin and practical tasks, and able to organise your own time and priorities effectively.

You don’t need previous experience working in an arts organisation to do this role.

Application Pack
Application Pack (plain text/colour free)
Application Form
Equality & Diversity Policy
Criminal Records Disclosure information for applicants

The deadline for this role is 10am, Tuesday 31 August

tags : Opportunities
13.08.21

Clean Break and Sheffield Theatres announce casting for Typical Girls

We are thrilled to announce the cast for Typical Girls by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, at the Crucible Theatre.

Directed by Clean Break’s Joint Artistic Director Róisín McBrinn (Afterplay, Sheffield Theatres) full casting includes Helen Cripps (Women Beware Women, Shakespeare’s Globe), Lucy Edkins ([BLANK], Donmar Warehouse), Lucy Ellinson (Run Sister Run, Sheffield Theatres), Eddy Queens (Through This Mist, Clean Break), Alison Fitzjohn (Take That’s – The Band Musical, UK Tour), Lara Grace Ilori (Living Newspaper Edition 6, Royal Court) and Carrie Rock (Julius Caesar, Donmar Warehouse/St Ann's Warehouse, New York).

“This is punk. This is rebellion. This is how we make change. This is what we need to do.”

From writer Morgan Lloyd Malcolm (Emilia) and featuring the music of influential all-female punk band, The Slits, Typical Girls is part gig, part play and is funny, fierce and furious.

In a specialised 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?

Róisín McBrinn, Joint Artistic Director of Clean Break: “We’re over the moon to be co-producing this raucous, explosive show! Morgan’s script is electric, and we have a stellar creative team and hugely exciting cast. Clean Break is so proud to be returning with this joyous, important play and to be exploding it onto the beautiful Crucible stage!”

Robert Hastie, Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres: “We couldn’t be more excited to be producing such a bold, riotous new play with a company as inspiring as Clean Break, and can’t wait to welcome this brilliant cast and creative team into the rehearsal room.”

Returning to the Crucible are Lucy Ellinson, following her starring role in Run Sister Run in 2020; and Róisín McBrinn, after directing the 2014 production Afterplay by Brian Friel.

Typical Girls will be at the Crucible Theatre from 24 September to 16 October with the performance on 6 October live-streamed and available to watch online. Tickets will be available from sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

Creative Team

Writer Morgan Lloyd Malcolm
Director Róisín McBrinn
Musical Director Rosie Bergonzi
Casting Director Nadine Rennie CDG
Assistant Director Aaliyah Mckay
Designer Kat Heath
Lighting Designer Katy Morrison
Associate Lighting Designer Rachel Cleary
Sound Designer Beth Duke
Movement Director Chi San Howard
Music Director Mentor Yshani Perinpanayagam
Line Producer 45 North
Featuring the music of The Slits

Read the full press release.

tags : Productions
28.07.21

I am a theatre: Exhibition Guide

'I am a theatre’ celebrates four decades of Clean Break creating groundbreaking theatre on women’s experience of the criminal justice system. Incorporating previously unseen archival material, it traces the origins of Clean Break from two women who met in HMP Durham’s high security ‘H-Wing’ in 1977, to setting up a drama workshop for women inside HMP Askham Grange, and establishing Clean Break after release in 1979 as a ‘women prisoners theatre’.

Since then, Clean Break has staged over 100 original plays that shine a light on the hidden lives of women caught up in the criminal justice system. With original scripts, artwork and photography, I am a theatre traces the remarkable story of a company whose story encompasses over 40 years of radical theatre, feminism and justice in the UK.

Watch the exhibition tour video documenting how it was made, and including interviews with the designers and Exhibition Guides here:

 

tags : Productions
Typical Girls Hero
15.07.21

Recruitment: Assistant Director for Typical Girls

We are looking for an Assistant Director for Typical Girls by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm.

Typical Girls is a co-production between Clean Break and Sheffield Theatres premiering at the Crucible Theatre. The production will be directed by Clean Break's Joint Artistic Director, Róisín McBrinn.

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?

Typical Girls is a funny, fierce and furious new play with the songs of 1970's all female punk band, The Slits at its heart. It will feature a cast of seven women including Members of Clean Break and both companies are hugely excited about returning to the stage with this provocative, joyful, rude celebration of rebellion and interrogation of the injustices that women in experience in British prisons.

Application Pack
Application Pack (plain text/colour free)
Equality & Diversity Policy
Criminal Records Disclosure information for applicants

The deadline for submitting applications for this role is Monday 2 August, 10am.

tags : Opportunities