Clean Break celebrates four decades of creating ground-breaking theatre on women’s experience of the criminal justice system with its retrospective exhibition ‘I am a theatre’: 40 years of Clean Break Theatre Company.
Jacqueline Holborough and Jennifer Hicks, Co-Founders of Clean Break: “We were dreaming big in 1979, but in our wildest dreams and furthest travels we could not have envisaged the brilliant organisation that Clean Break has become thanks to the talent, love and sheer determination of so many magnificent women.”
The live exhibition takes place at Swiss Cottage Gallery from 24 June - 31 July 2021, with Covid-secure measures in line with the latest government guidelines. It features:
Alison Frater, Chair of Clean Break: "Since the beginning, Clean Break's advocacy through theatre and Member support has highlighted the policy perversity of imprisoning women - influencing a consensus by successive governments to reduce the rate of incarceration. The announcement of 500 new prison places for women, taking money from much needed community services and the failure to introduce measures to reduce violence against women and girls (yet removing the right to protest) in the draconian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, demonstrates that its work is still very much needed."
The exhibition has been curated by Claire Stone, Heritage Project Manager at Clean Break, and is co-designed by Miriam Nabarro and Liz Whitbread. Miriam Nabarro is a visual artist and scenographer with 25 years’ experience in socially engaged and participatory settings, both locally and internationally. Liz Whitbread is a Member of Clean Break who joined in 2012 and graduated in 2019 from Wimbledon UAL in Theatre Design. Their previous collaboration on a mobile exhibition inspired by the archive toured the UK alongside 2019’s Sweatbox, set inside a prison van, and has been re-imagined as an installation for this exhibition.
This exhibition is made possible by support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts and Humanities Research Council. This funding was received to celebrate Clean Break's 40th anniversary year, to document our heritage by: establishing a publicly accessible archive of our work at the Bishopsgate Institute; conducting oral history interviews; creating a digital timeline and exhibitions to share its story.
What made Sonya special as a writer?
So much of what made Sonya the extraordinary writer that she was, was about who she is, which I know might be an obvious thing to say, but it's not always the case that you can make that direct connection between how you meet someone and then how you meet their writing. But her energy, her fun, her dedication to poetry and to words was also how she presented her own self, which was always just a glorious thing. I'm not alone in saying that her loss is hugely about the artist that died, but it's equally about the most extraordinary human being who just touched so many lives with real joy, kindness and boldness. All of those things are definitely reflected in what we have of her as an artist also.
Can you tell us a little about her evolution as an artist and how, when and why she was offered a full commission?
So, a lot of what I know is second hand, because I wasn't at Clean Break at the time. As the story goes, from the outset Sonya was someone who blew people away in both her acting and writing courses she was taking at Clean Break. Lucy Morrison, who was looking after the artistic programme at the time, took Sonya on for a full commission. She wrote a short play for Clean Break in 2013 called Hours to Midnight about a woman who had just left prison and the very immediate pressures, particularly on someone struggling with addiction problems, and performed in Meal Ticket at Latitude Festival in 2014.
Was it unusual at a time for a Member to be commissioned in that way?
It definitely was unusual. It's very much central to what we're trying to do at Clean Break at the moment, in terms of ensuring that our Members voices are at the heart of everything that we do. But at the time, she was the only Member on commission to the company.
How did Sonya's past influence her as a writer?
I mean, it's a bit obvious to say thematically…it's all there in the play, two girls living on the streets and it's about dependency on substances and about sex work. But it is something deeper than the themes. It's a more unedited approach than you might get from someone who has experienced it more intellectually or in a second-hand way. There's just no apology in Sonya's truth and the fact is that when we talk about unheard stories, I think it's become a kind of a byword in the industry, but through her lens, it's every nuance of it that is unheard. The whole thing is so fresh, and, you know, that was who she was. It's hard to think that she would have brought that freshness without what she lived as well.
Can you hear Sonya’s voice when you listen to the play?
I had this really spooky experience when we were recording the play at the National Theatre (who gifted us time and space right in the middle of the lockdown to support Sonya). We knew that Sonya had left the hospital for the last time and there was a lot of emotion around the whole process. I felt almost stupid that I hadn't felt it before, but I think it was something about Ria and her interpretation. In the character of Cherry, there's so much of Sonya that's just completely vivid. Ria, with her accent was the perfect embodiment, and they both hold a kind of playfulness that's really big.
Blis-ta was originally commissioned a number of years ago. How has the play evolved over time?
Well, it was one of those commissions that just took a very long time. And there were loads of reasons for that. Sonya was at a very early stage of her development as an artist when it was commissioned, and she was also doing lots of other creative work, but she was also battling with her health throughout that period. But it took what it took, and I know she loved it in the end.
We performed it live as a staged reading at The Bunker in 2019 as part of our 40th anniversary celebrations. It might have been that that was its life span, and it was what it was, but after that it continued to evolve in parallel with her growth and who she was and where she was going and what that meant and how her mind changed along the way.
The other thing about Sonya is that she had so much to say, her lyricism and her connection to poetry was unbelievable and the flow would sometimes just come at this mad rate. In the introduction to Blis-ta, Lucy Kirkwood mentions that Sonya once sent her a version of the play that was something like eight hours long and I had a 10 hour play at one point and I just loved the fact that she just couldn't stop which was a brilliant thing, we're so lucky that we got some of that flow.
Was Sonya involved in the decision for Blis-ta to be an audio drama?
Yes, she was. It wasn't the first choice; we didn't leave The Bunker saying it’s not a stage play let's make it into an audio one. We were talking to the Arcola about putting it on there and there were various different conversations. But then Sonya got in touch late last August and said I haven't got long to live so hurry up and do something! It was a tough challenge not least because we were in a pandemic, but we came up with two versions of how we could do it in that timeframe with the restrictions that were in place and we offered her those two. One was to be that we would rehearse the play and stage it and then film the staging and the second was to edit it and make it into an audio play. When I handed her the two options, she pounced on the radio version! She could hear it, I guess, and we were lucky that it didn’t take much to make it right for audio and that was largely because of her lyricism and because her words were so evocative.
To be responsible for that voice, how did you go about casting Ria and Ambreen?
Ambreen was attached to the project for a long time. Amongst the ways Sonya liked to work was to hear it, so we facilitated that on many occasions. Ambreen and Sonya had loads in common, Ambreen is a writer too, they respected each other as artists and they developed a gorgeous friendship so, in a way, we were never going to do it without Ambreen. Ria had also been involved in it from the early stages and I remember calling Sonya, who was in hospital by that time, and I suggested Ria and she said “yes, yes, yes” so it was a done deal! The pair of them are so brilliant, we were very lucky to have them.
Did you have to change the way that you approached your preparation and planning for directing the piece?
I've never directed a radio play before, so I got some help and advice from a brilliant radio director called Jessica Dromgoole and a brilliant woman called Abigail Gonda, who kindly gave me loads of Audible recordings to have a listen to, to get a clear idea about what I liked.
It wasn't until I was making it in the booth, that I realised - yes there's some technical things that are different that are easily resolved but in fact there isn't that big a difference between the processes it's about working with those actors to embody the text and to get the truth from it. And we just had a great laugh. It was one of those mad things where we knew how important it was, we knew where Sonya was through those days and just how real that was, but we were kind of with her in those ways because of the words and we really laughed for the whole of the recording in a way I hope celebrated her through that time as well.
What could you achieve with an audio drama that you might not have been able to achieve with a live theatre piece?
We are really excited about this venture for all of the obvious reasons, for how much we love the play, how much we love Sonya, how important we believe this story is, but it's also another digital venture for us. One of the big things that’s happened to us in the past 18 months is that we've sped up our digital ambitions in a major way. We have ensured that all of our Members have MiFi and tablets and the possibility to access what is our online engagement programme and we have made a film which is also going to be released very soon. We have developed some major relationships with partners to create really dynamic events and this is significant as well in that journey where we are hoping to continue to create work in the audio sphere.
Do you think this allowed you to consider accessibility and reaching new audiences?
Whilst we've really missed live performance and being with our audiences in theatres and sharing our work, one of the exciting things about lockdown is that we have developed and created and extended a new audience through our work with our academic partners, legal partners, and women sector partners. The exciting thing about that is, of course we are always interested in making new friends, but also that some of that has been international and the potential of that reach is really exciting and emboldening for us and you know it's all about access and that is one of the big wins of this. Someone from Spain can see your work in London but also hopefully someone who couldn't have afforded it can access work and there were also elements around physical and visual disability that we hope will make this piece an extension of our work and reach more people.
What are your aspirations for this piece, for Sonya’s legacy and the audio drama in Clean Break’s repertoire?
We want as many people as possible to hear this and that's massively connected to everything we do. Sonya was a Member of Clean Break and she in so many ways summed up the best of that, she was an incredible friend to so many of her peer Members, she was a shining light for all of us in the amount and the quality of the work she achieved, and she was just a woman that we should hold high for everything that she did in her life and the transformation that she realised in herself and the generosity that she dug into to share it with us. So, the more people that hear this the better.
We want to shout loud and proud about Sonya as an artist. We are working with Synergy and Outside Edge to create a moment where we have a live event in the autumn to celebrate her life as an artist. All of that leans into her phenomenal legacy.
In terms of digital…watch this space! Clean Break is going to continue with podcasts, with more creative audio outputs. I'm a convert, so I would love to be back in the booth!
Listen to Blis-ta, with an introduction from Lucy Kirkwood on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher and Soundcloud or wherever you get your podcasts from 18 May 2021.
Book now for Women's homelessness: the issues, the solutions and the art, a panel event on 19 May which will focus on the experience of women and hidden homelessness.
We’re looking for a friendly, positive and self-motivated communications professional, who really understands the unique importance of Clean Break’s work and has a passion and drive to share this with our audiences.
You’ll be a creative and strategic thinker, with an eye for detail and design, an understanding of the digital landscape, enjoy working as part of a close-knit team, and be confident about creating and delivering imaginative campaigns to support the diverse breadth of Clean Break’s work on stage, in the community and in prison.
This role works closely with all members of staff - in particular the Development and Artistic teams – and reports to the Head of Development & Communications. As Clean Break works in partnership on many of its projects and productions, it is key for this role to be able to communicate effectively and manage complex relationships and competing priorities.
The deadline for this role is 5pm on Tuesday 1 June 2021.
We are now joining Women in Prison's campaign #StopThe500 to take a stand against the places.
The government plans fly in the face of their own strategy which says that most women in prison do not need to be there.
We know that there is another way, one that the Government knows works. We can invest in community-based services that support women to tackle the issues that sweep them into crime in the first place, like domestic abuse and poverty.
Together, we can #StopThe500 and ensure the Government does what's right for women, their children and our communities.
You too can add your voice to #StopThe500 new prison places for women.
JOIN THE CAMPAIGN
After a year of online engagement, we are thrilled to announce a season of live and digital events celebrating and reconnecting our community of Members, artists and audiences. From May, you'll have the opportunity to experience our plays through audio and film, an exhibition and digital timeline sharing our legacy, and live theatre in person
Blis-ta by Sonya Hale
Audio drama available from 18 May, on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher and Soundcloud.
Kat and Cherry meet on the streets. Kat is wily, funny, and fierce; Cherry is a lost dreamer. Blis-ta is the story of their adventures to survive as homeless girls and the transformative power of friendship.
Written by the late Sonya Hale, a Clean Break Member, this audio drama is a wild tale of resilience, hidden homelessness, the lengths women go to for survival. Blis-ta is directed by Róisín McBrinn, Joint Artistic Director for Clean Break, performed by Ambreen Razia and Ria Zmitrowicz, sound design by Helen Skiera and dramaturgy by Gillian Greer, with an introduction by Clean Break Patron, Lucy Kirkwood.
Book now for our panel event Women's homelessness: the issues, the solutions and the art
Find out more.
Sweatbox by Chloë Moss
Film streaming for free on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram from 8 June.
Three women sit in a prison van outside HMP Bronzefield, each caught up in their own worlds as they anticipate what’s next. Sweatbox offers a glimpse into the experience of women as they are pulled away from their lives and transported to prison.
Chloë Moss’s highly original Clean Break play has toured the UK in a prison van since its premiere at the Latitude Festival in 2015. It is transformed into an electric adaptation for the screen, performed by Clean Break Members Funke Adeleke, Jade Small and Posy Sterling with Sarah Jane Dent as the Prison Officer.
Book now for our online screening and panel discussion.
Find out more.
I am a theatre
at Swiss Cottage Gallery, 24 June – 31 July.
This exhibition celebrates Clean Break's 40-year history as a radical theatre company, documenting its heritage through previously unseen archival material and specially commissioned interviews and installations.
The 40-year retrospective will be co-designed by Miriam Nabarro and Liz Whitbread, a designer and Member of Clean Break. It will take place at Swiss Cottage Gallery in Camden—Clean Break’s home borough since the 1980s.
Alongside the exhibition, we will be launching a digital timeline on our website and an events programme of digital and live activity including a screening of the 1984 Channel 4 production of Clean Break co-founder Jacqueline Holborough’s play, Killers.
Booking will open on Wednesday 12 May.
Find out more.
Through This Mist
at Clean Break, limited run from 15 – 17 July.
As the world was in the grip of loss and loneliness last summer, Clean Break commissioned a group of leading female artists and Clean Break Members through its 2 Metres Apart project, bringing them together to take solace in collaboration and creativity. Through This Mist shares some of the outcomes of those unions and the beginning of a return to live performance.
Performed outside in Clean Break’s garden, this live performance features work created collaboratively by: Ayesha Antoine and Yvonne Wickham, Katherine Chandler and Nicole Hall, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and TerriAnn Oudjar, and Chloë Moss and Sarah-Jane Dent. It also features a song by Eddy Emenike and a short film by Deborah Bruce and Sarah Cowan, screened inside as part of this event.
Spaces are limited for the performance.
Voices from Prison
Across women's prisons.
Over the last year women in prison have become more invisible than ever. During lockdown women in prison have been locked in cells for up to 23 hours a day with visitation and education programmes suspended.
Voices from Prison is a creative writing project inviting women from all 12 women’s prisons to create work in this moment, amplify their words and let their experiences be heard.
Inspired by a project of the same name from 1987 uncovered in our archive, a panel will be selecting pieces to be published and performed by a cast of actors and Member artists at an online event and on all our channels.
In May, we will be launching the second year of the Helen Pringle Award, an annual award in memory of our dearest friend and colleague, Helen Pringle, who died four years ago, after living with cancer for a number of years. Each year the award offers a £1,000 bursary to support a Member in her Further /Higher Education studies and a mentorship by one of Clean Break’s artistic community.
Find out more.
Members Programme and Women’s Centres
Our Members Programme will continue online over the summer. Our artists will be providing a foundation of learning and skills in theatre performance, creativity and wellbeing as well as one-off masterclasses and events.
We will also be working with our partners at Advance Minerva and Women in Prison to provide workshops to women accessing Women’s Centres over London.
Barbara was an extraordinary woman whose legacy will live on in the organisations she championed, such as Clean Break and the International Women’s Forum which she co-founded, and in the women she mentored and inspired throughout her life. I was lucky enough to be one of these women and it is a great pleasure to share something of Barbara’s life history and why Clean Break was so close to her heart.
Barbara grew up in Cornwall in a farming family. By her own account, she didn’t have an easy childhood although her mother kindled her early interest in music, which became a lifelong passion. Her promising education was cut short at 16 in order to support her family as a typist when the family farm went bankrupt. She clearly had a strong sense of adventure and self-belief because at 21 she left Cornwall for London, working briefly on a magazine and then taking a women’s adult education course at Hillcroft College, where Clean Break used to work in partnership. Following three years in Tanganyika working for a copper mine – the first of many all-male environments where she found herself – Barbara returned to London to pursue a career in politics and the media. She became an Islington Councillor but decided against standing as an MP when she realised that she would have to compromise on her own principles – in this case, her support for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Instead she joined the Civil Service as a press officer and went on to work with Labour PM Harold Wilson, unusually staying on to serve under Ted Heath when the Conservative Party came into power, drafting speeches and accompanying him on major political visits. Later in her career she was controller of information services at the Independent Broadcasting Authority, helped to set up breakfast television and was a non-executive director at Westcountry Television.
Throughout Barbara’s life she championed women’s rights: creating networks of women across national and sectarian divides, playing a leading role in the 300 group to secure the election of more female MPs, and pursuing equal pay for women. These activities and her evident self-belief meant she fast became a powerful and compelling role model for other women. This continued right through to her final decade when she came out as a lesbian and wrote and published her memoirs Exceeding My Brief: Memoirs of a Disobedient Civil Servant.
Around this time, Barbara joined us in the Clean Break building to celebrate her 90th birthday. In typical Clean Break style, we had tea and cakes with company Members and staff. She regaled us all with stories of her life and offered advice and encouragement on how we, too, could seize opportunities and live life to the full. It was a joyful occasion peppered with jokes and anecdotes. We all absorbed some of Barbara’s wisdom that day and were inspired by her infectious sense of self-belief and can do attitude.
This is what I loved about Barbara - she made you feel like anything is possible and that no barrier is too big to overcome. I first met her when I joined Clean Break in the late 1990s when we were about to start renovating our new home in Patshull Road, Kentish Town. She had joined the company in the early 1990s as one of a stellar group of Patrons, whom then Director Alex Ford had brought on board to help fundraise for and find our new base. Instrumental in the evolution of Patshull Road, I suspect she was also key to growing the company’s ambition and stretching our horizons way beyond the wildest dreams of the company’s founders Jacqueline Holborough and Jenny Hicks.
The company’s development gave Barbara enormous pleasure; she sent me an email in 2016, “When I remember my first days with Clean Break – a rehearsal space not much bigger than a cupboard I marvel at how far we have come.” But although the building came to embody much of the company’s ambitions, it was the women we worked with and their journeys that connected Clean Break to Barbara.
I last saw Barbara, pre-pandemic, at the Reform Club together with her longstanding partner Margaret Hyde – another good friend and supporter of Clean Break. As usual, she introduced me to many people over lunch – she was always a great connector – and we then had a tour of this venerable old institution. It was founded with radical beginnings and, in 1981, became the first of the traditional gentleman’s clubs to allow women to become members on equal terms. Barbara took us up to the top of the building and into a small art gallery. Here she proudly shared some of her own paintings displayed amongst the artworks – new pieces from weekly art classes that she had taken up in recent years. This was typical Barbara – telling us that you are never too old to learn something new and to share your creativity with friends.
It goes without saying that Barbara will be much missed by us all. Her spirit and love of life and ambition for women will be an enduring legacy.
Lucy Perman, Former Chief Executive Clean Break
More than £300 million has been awarded to thousands of cultural organisations across the country including Clean Break in the latest round of support from the Culture Recovery Fund, the Culture Secretary announced today.
This funding will predominantly be spent on our core activity, helping us to continue engaging with and supporting our Members (women who have experienced the criminal justice system or are at risk of entering it.) It will also ensure the retention of our valued staff and is, crucially, a significant investment in our future plans of returning to our building (and ensuring it is Covid secure), continuing our mission of making ground-breaking work for our audiences and working with our partners to change hearts and minds through theatre.
Over £800 million in grants and loans has already been awarded to support almost 3,800 cinemas, performance venues, museums, heritage sites and other cultural organisations dealing with the immediate challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
The second round of awards made today will help organisations to look ahead to the spring and summer and plan for reopening and recovery. After months of closures and cancellations to contain the virus and save lives, this funding will be a much-needed helping hand for organisations transitioning back to normal in the months ahead.
Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said:
“Our record breaking Culture Recovery Fund has already helped thousands of culture and heritage organisations across the country survive the biggest crisis they've ever faced.
Now we’re staying by their side as they prepare to welcome the public back through their doors - helping our cultural gems plan for reopening and thrive in the better times ahead."
Róisín McBrinn, Joint Artistic Director, said:
"We are hugely grateful to the government and the Arts Council for this award. It is coming at a time of major insecurity for the sector and at a moment of huge need for our Members. The award means we can face these next few months, and the new financial year, with far greater security and optimism for our long term sustainability as we invest in our reopening and recovery and continuing to make meaningful change within the theatre industry for our Members, our audiences and women in prisons."
Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, said:
“Investing in a thriving cultural sector at the heart of communities is a vital part of helping the whole country to recover from the pandemic. These grants will help to re-open theatres, concert halls, and museums and will give artists and companies the opportunity to begin making new work.
We are grateful to the Government for this support and for recognising the paramount importance of culture to our sense of belonging and identity as individuals and as a society.”
The funding awarded today is from a £400 million pot which was held back last year to ensure the Culture Recovery Fund could continue to help organisations in need as the public health picture changed. The funding has been awarded by Arts Council England, as well as Historic England and National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.
Clean Break is looking to appoint an experienced service-user involvement consultant (individual or organisation) to help fully realise our ambitions of Members (women with experience of the criminal justice system and women at risk of entering it) playing a meaningful and active part in the life of the Company.
Clean Break is committed to scaling up the involvement of our Members across company activity to ensure they contribute in a meaningful way to plans and decisions made about the company’s future. The way this happens at present is through regular feedback, and through our Members Forum and Members Advisory Group and at trustee level. However, progress with our Advisory Group has been slower than originally anticipated, due to lack of staff capacity to invest in this piece of work and more latterly the pandemic.
Outside of engagement in the artistic programme (as participants, volunteers and artists), our aim is for Members to be able to contribute to and to understand the work of staff and trustees who they may not come across in their everyday use of our services. There is a genuine appetite to accelerate and amplify Members' involvement to achieve our vision of ‘Members at the heart’ of Clean Break.
We believe that a new approach is needed, and are excited to invest some additional resource and capacity to review, improve and firmly establish the Members Advisory Group and Members Forum at Clean Break and ensure an accessible and fit for purpose model of involvement for the future.
Because our work is about highlighting women’s experiences and providing services for women with experience of the criminal justice system and at risk of entering it, all of our positions are open to women only, (exempt under the Equality Act 2010, Schedule 9, part 1). If you are an organisation the key people should be women.
The closing date for receipt of proposals is 10am on Friday 16 April 2021.
We are searching for up to four women to serve as trustees.
“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 particularly interested in hearing from candidates with experience in Finance/Fundraising, Theatre Producing/Arts Management, and the Criminal Justice/Legal system.
The deadline for applications is 5pm, Monday 12 April 2021, with interviews to be led by a panel of trustees.
This year International Women’s Day we are asking you to join us and #ChooseToChallenge Maternal Imprisonment. At a time when the Government has just announced plans to build 500 new prison places for women and as the pandemic continues to impact on prisoners’ mental health and wellbeing, we're teamed up with Birth Companions to challenge the sentencing of pregnant women and mothers of young children.
Between International Women's Day on Monday 8 March and Mother's Day on Sunday 14 March we have a series of actions you can take. You can documentment your progress and encourage others to take up th challenge on social media. Use the hastages #ChooseToChallenge and #MaternalImprisonment
This plan flies in the face of all the evidence built up over years (including official Government data) about how to address the root causes of women's offending that so often include experiences of trauma, mental ill health, substance misuse and domestic abuse. These have been exacerbated as the consequences of the pandemic take their toll on the health and safety of the most disadvantaged women in our communities through increases in poverty and abuse.
In 2018 the Government published its strategy to invest in community-based support with the goal of reducing both the women's prison population and reoffending rates. This strategy is supported by the police, prison governors, probation officers, local authorities, health services and charities, including those providing specialist services for women, like women’s centres.
Building new prison places will make the collective efforts of these organisations all the more difficult, and undo progress with the strategy, including delivery of the Government’s newly published Concordat and all the commitments within it.
Building these prison places will harm women, their children, families and communities. The most recent Safety in Custody statistics show self-harm across the women’s estate is at the highest levels on record. These figures point to the urgent need to rethink these plans before the impact of prison expansion results in a steeper trajectory of this devastating upwards trend. We call on the Government to do the right thing to halt these plans, and return to focusing on the strategy that so many are committed to.
Kate Paradine, CEO, Women in Prison
Lisa Dando, CEO, Brighton Women’s Centre
Rokaiya Khan, CEO, Together Women
Joy Doal, CEO, Anawim
Niki Gould, Head of Women’s Community Services, Nelson Trust
Naomi Delap, Director, Birth Companions
Marchu Girma, CEO, Hibiscus
Helen Voce, CEO, Nottingham Women’s Centre
Hannah Shead, CEO, Trevi
Angela Everson, CEO, WomenCentre
Caroline Baker, Project Manager, Women's Work (Derbyshire)
Gemma Fox, Managing Director, North Wales Women’s Centre
Stef Martinsen-Barker, CEO, Cambridge Women's Resource Centre
Angela Murphy, Chief Executive Officer, Tomorrow’s Women Wirral
Anna Herrmann, Joint Artistic Director, Clean Break
Jackie May, Chief Executive, Women’s Centre Cornwall
Niki Scordi, CEO, Advance
Sara Swire, CEO, New Dawn, New Day
Jan Fishwick, CEO, Alana House, Parents and Children Together (PACT)
Nikki Guy, CEO, Stockport Women’s Centre
Natasha Finlayson, CEO, Working Chance
Sofia Buncy, National Coordinator, Muslim Women in Prison Project
Susanah Stennett, Women’s Services Manager, Willowdene Farm
Lisa Boyack, Area Manager for Criminal Justice Services, Changing Lives
Amanda Greenwood, CEO, Lancashire Women
Suzi Heybourne, CEO, The Magdalene Group
Clean Break is delighted to announce recruitment for a Participation Associate as part of the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries. This Fellowship is supported by the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries 2020-22.
We’re looking for an early career artist strongly aligned with our values, passions and beliefs to design, facilitate and coordinate impactful participatory theatre work across Clean Break’s artistic programme. You’ll have a proven commitment to excellent participatory practice in the performing arts, and to amplifying diverse and marginalised voices in theatre.
As our Participation Associate, you’ll get to work with our team on a wide range of projects involving our Members (women with lived experience of the criminal justice system and women at risk of entering it) and involving women currently serving sentences in prison or attending women’s centres. The role will be focused on designing and facilitating theatre-based workshops, developing ideas for and implementing our digital engagement with women, as well as coordinating some project activity.
Working within the Participation team, you’ll report to the Participation Manager and collaborate closely with other team members. For some projects you’ll also work directly with one or both of our Joint Artistic Directors.
The deadline for submitting applications has passed.
We’re looking for a friendly and diligent candidate, who really understands the unique importance of Clean Break’s work and has a passion and drive to share this with our current and prospective supporters. You’ll have an eye for detail, enjoy working as part of a close-knit team, and be confident about making a case for support; this means telling people about what we do, why it’s important, and clearly demonstrating the life-changing impact of our work. You’ll have great communication skills both written and verbal, combining your desk-based work with meetings and events that help to bring Clean Break’s work to life.
You’ll work most closely with our Development Manager (your line manager) as the majority of your work will be based around our relationships with Trusts and Foundations. Working together, this will include writing and submitting funding applications, looking after relationships with new and prospective funders, and writing progress updates and reports. You don’t need experience in fundraising, or in an arts organisation, to do this; you might equally use the application to show you have the transferable skills to fulfil this role. This might include demonstrating things like; a love for talking to people about work that you’re passionate about; an enjoyment of writing persuasively in a variety of forms and styles; great organisational skills that help you to keep on top of research and systems.
The role is broad, and as such will be a great introduction or next step in a fundraising team. As well as working on our Trusts and Foundations portfolio, you’ll work with our Head of Development and Communications on developing our corporate relationships, with our Individual Giving Manager on events and communications, and with our Development & Members Assistant to ensure smooth administrative running of our funding partnerships.
The deadline for submitting applications has passed.
In November 2020 we celebrated the launch of our archive at the Bishopsgate Institute, London, with an online event called Efemera: The Origins and Survival of Clean Break Theatre Company.
Clean Break’s Chair, Alison Frater was joined by our Founders, Jacqueline Holborough and Jenny Hicks; theatre artist, Paula Varjack; Clean Break Member, Ann Whitely; Joint Artistic Director, Anna Herrmann; and researcher, Dr. Sarah Bartley to discuss the founding years of the company and how the archive is now being used to shape the present and future of Clean Break. The event included artistic and academic work inspired by the archive and offers real insight into the foundations of Clean Break as well as the lives of women with lived experience of the criminal justice system. We are thrilled to release the recording of the event as a rich resource for anyone interested in our story and the fields of arts and criminal justice, and to mark this next stage of our history.
The archive encapsulates 40 years of Clean Break’s work including playtexts, interviews, original art work, and letters, all paying tribute to the radical history of the company. It can be accessed at the Bishopsgate Institute in London and will be the subject of an exhibition at Swiss Cottage Gallery in Summer 2021.
Clean Break is looking to appoint an experienced anti-racism consultant or organisation to provide expertise and additional capacity to support us in designing and implementing our anti-racism commitments.
Clean Break is undertaking a thorough internal review of its anti-racism practices and policy framework. We are seeking the expertise of an external consultant to support us in our endeavour to improve understanding and rectify the systemic ways in which racism exists in our organisation and implement change that drives out inequality in our structures and processes. We want to build on our existing good practice and alter our future to the benefit of all women, enabling us to actively behave in an anti-racist way.
In this role you will work iteratively with the Joint Artistic Director and Head of Participation supporting them to lead this work effectively, offering guidance to help wise decision making and being accessible to address issues which may arise. You will also facilitate conversations with the whole staff team as well as the Chair and Trustees to ensure a company wide approach.
Because our work is about highlighting women’s experiences and providing services to women, all of our positions are open to women only (exempt under Equality Act 2020 Schedule 9, part 1). If you are an organisation the key personnel involved should be women.
Full details are in our pack and accompanying policies, linked below:
The deadline for submitting proposals is 10am on Monday 1 February.
Whatever way you spin it, 2020 has been a long year. At Clean Break, we’ve had our share of trying moments and we know from our cherished Members that most of them have found this year very challenging. However, we are proud that we have found a way through it, continued to deliver our programme to our Members and across women’s centres; to make groundbreaking art and remained true to our core values. None of this would have been possible without you, our wider community. Thank you for sticking with us while our building and theatres were closed and through your own undoubted pressures.
Our Members: We want to thank you for your resilience, the care that you have shown one another, your patience while we helped you to access our online programme, your courage to embrace that offer, your brilliant presence at our webinars and online events and for sharing your voices as artists through our project, 2 Metres Apart.
Our Funders: From the funders who know us, to those that are new to us this year; thank you. It is no exaggeration to say that without you we would not still be standing, and in a healthy position today. We would like to take this moment to say an additional thank you to the Cultural Recovery Fund, Julia and Hans Rausing Trust, National Lottery Community Fund, London Funders, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Arts Council England and Rank Foundation, who all provided transformative emergency support.
Our Staff Team: We are so proud and grateful to our team of exceptional women for their hard work, kindness and the immense skills they have shown in 2020. This year you helped to steer the organisation through furloughs, the epic achievement of reopening the building, a total reimagining of how we speak to audiences and engage with Members and triumphant diligence in achieving the financial sustainability of Clean Break. You’re amazing!
Our Artists: We’ve made two films, recorded an audio drama, made new commissions, developed our pipeline of plays, and worked with over 24 writers and artists to help us interpret this moment. You’ve delivered numerous sessions to our Members, adapted your practice in imaginative ways and continued to show your absolute dedication to our mission and vision. You are the backbone of the company. Thank you.
Our Partners: The strength of working together with partner organisations has been one of our greatest highlights this year. Alongside other women’s organisations in London, we have formed the London Women’s Services Alliance; with our academic partners, we have offered seminars, launched our archive and undertaken research; and with our arts partners, we have sent 200 messages of hope to women in prisons, created new digital work and provided much valued mutual support.
Our Volunteers and Patrons: Our volunteers always offer essential support, but this year that pool expanded to include more artists, Patrons and friends who gave their time by offering masterclasses, becoming creative buddies and mentors, speaking on panels and supporting our Development campaigns. Special thanks to Maxine Peake who was the voice of our BBC Radio 4 Campaign and Zawe Ashton who fronted our Big Give Campaign.
Our Trustees: Between multiple extra meetings, invaluable insights and steady support, our Board has been incredible this year. We thank our Trustees for their commitment, faith and kindness, particularly our outgoing Chair Kim Evans and our incoming Chair Alison Frater.
Our gratitude is abundant, and we will be channelling that into a new, hopeful year which we are approaching with optimism, emboldened by all you have done, big, small, immeasurable for Clean Break this year. Wishing you all a healthy and peaceful festive season and see you in 2021.
Anna, Erin and Róisín.
The Big Give Christmas Challenge 2020 has been an incredible success thanks to the support from our amazing Clean Break family and friends – new and old!
In just one week, you helped to raise a phenomenal £31,677 which will enable us to support vulnerable women to Respond, Rebuild and Recover from the devastating impacts of Covid-19.
This generosity is already making a difference. We have been able to deliver care packages to our Members in time for the festive break. These packages are focused on care and relaxation and include vital items such as; protective face masks, essential toiletries, diaries and food vouchers for the festive period.
“It makes me feel like I haven’t been forgotten. That somebody does care for me…it just makes me feel special.” Clean Break Member
Thank you to everyone who has made this possible!
Clean Break is participating in the Big Give Christmas Challenge 2020 and this year the funds raised are going to supporting our Members in the ever-changing crisis presented by COVID-19. Over the last year our support has ranged from one-on-one check ins, practical help and advice, care packages, Health & Wellbeing workshops, and an online creative programme. All of our programme, and other services, moved online making them inaccessible to many of our Members who don’t use computers or who relied on our building or libraries to access the digital world. One such Member was Rachel, who was unable to connect when the world went online.
Rachel came to Clean Break in 2018, following years of domestic abuse which had left her with severe depression, anxiety and a diagnosis of PTSD. As a result, Rachel was withdrawn, reclusive and spent the majority of her time isolated alone indoors, fearful about leaving the house for long periods of time. Yet Rachel was keen to reclaim control and make positive changes in her life. After an initial consultation with Members Support it was suggested that Rachel first join our Health & Wellbeing Group, where she would learn how to manage some of her complex mental health symptoms, rebuild her confidence using drama techniques and creativity, and integrate into company life in a safe low pressure environment.
After a year on the programme staff began to see a significant change in Rachel; she became more talkative, developed strong, supportive relationships with other Clean Break Members, and was eager to join our Writers Circle Group after discovering her love of poetry during the Health & Wellbeing Group; poetry gave Rachel the power to unpack some of the trauma she had experienced and the space to rewrite her own narrative and start again.
However, in March 2020 Covid-19 changed everything and Clean Break was forced to close its doors. Yet for many Members like Rachel, Clean Break was one of the few places they felt safe, supported and able to pursue a brighter future. With the building closed and the future now uncertain, Rachel was thrust back into isolation where many of her unhealthy behaviours began to return; she became reclusive, lacked motivation and no longer wrote poetry, her depression deepening as the weeks of lockdown continued. Like many other Members Rachel did not have a computer or internet access and was almost totally disconnected from her loved ones and the women she had built friendships with at Clean Break. The experience triggered increased anxiety and more prevalent symptoms of PTSD.
Rachel never felt she could learn how to use a computer; neither could she afford one, or seen it as a priority. Yet during Covid-19 Rachel was excluded from many services as they went online, including Universal Credit appointments, therapy sessions, and Clean Break’s Online Members Programme. However, thanks to dedicated emergency funding, Clean Break was able to buy Rachel a laptop and MiFi to get her online and connected at a time when internet access is fundamental.
Having a laptop changed Rachel’s experience of lockdown entirely; she was able to access Clean Break’s Online Members Programme and watch new sessions of Health & Wellbeing, Theatre Makers and Weekly Writers uploaded to Vimeo each week, giving her well needed structure and the sense of being part of an online community; she has joined various sessions on Zoom, including Yoga, Drama and Reflective Circles. The weekly newsletter sent by Clean Break gave her TV, film and theatre that she could watch online kept her uplifted and inspired creatively.
For the first time in months Rachel had a routine and access to the outside world. Rachel began to feel less isolated, more motivated, and started to write poetry again. With technical support from the Members Team Rachel’s confidence using the computer grew and she soon began pursuing more of her own interests online, including cooking and baking. As a recipient of food vouchers, Rachel never felt that she had much opportunity to be creative with her cooking. However, with the newfound freedom and independence provided through her access to the internet Rachel started researching low cost recipes online and trying out some of her own creations, something that she has found to be hugely beneficial to her mental health, now that she has the time to really experiment in the kitchen. Rachel is extremely thankful for being supported with a computer and internet access; something she never thought she could have.
Help us support more women like Rachel, whatever the future has in store for us by giving to our Big Give Christmas Challenge. Your donation will be doubled if you donate before Tuesday 8 December 2020.
We are looking for a warm, caring Interim Support Manager to identify and manage the varied support needs of the women at the heart of our programmes: our Members.
You’ll bring at least three years’ experience of working in social care, welfare or mental health services, and have a well-established trauma-informed approach.
Around 50-70 Members are actively engaged across Clean Break’s work at any time, with many also participating in our core, seasonal Members Programme. You’ll ensure they have the best possible access to our activities, either online or in the building, and work with them to understand any access or engagement issues.
You’ll also work with these women 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 work closely with the Participation Team – Head of Participation, Participation Manager and Members Assistant – and report to the Head of Participation.
Because our work is about highlighting women’s experiences and providing services to women, all of our positions are open to women only (exempt under Equality Act 2020 Schedule 9, part 1).
The deadline for submitting applications has passed.
We are looking for a friendly, practical and solutions-driven manager to oversee day to day facilities operation at our Kentish Town building for the next nine months.
You’ll ensure a warm, professional and safe working environment for our staff, beneficiaries, contractors and other visitors, and keep the building and our core systems running smoothly and sustainably.
You’ll work closely with our Operations Team - Receptionist & Admin Assistant, Cleaners, Volunteer Coordinator, Volunteers and Front of House staff – and report to our Head of Finance & Operations.
Over the nine months, you’ll also help us to work out longer term management needs for our building and the facilities on site, in a post-Covid world.
Because our work is about highlighting women’s experiences and providing services to women, all of our positions are open to women only (exempt under Equality Act 2020 Schedule 9, part 1).
Full details are in our Recruitment Pack and accompanying policies, linked below:
The deadline for submitting applications for this role is 10am on Monday 14 December 2020.
This year Clean Break is taking part in the Big Give Christmas Challenge, raising vital funds to address the inequalities that Covid-19 has exacerbated for our Members.
The pandemic is presenting us with a new, unknown and frightening world to navigate. There is an increased risk that vulnerable women will suffer from isolation, domestic violence, poor nutrition, a deterioration in mental and physical health, and relapse into drug and alcohol abuse. There is often a knock-on effect on the children and families of these women. Without the necessary support mechanisms in place, women and their families will struggle to rebuild their lives and recover.
With you help we will be able to deliver tailored, creative support to our Members including; one to one support, care packages focusing on self and family care, creativity and nutrition; health and wellbeing workshops and technical support for those struggling with digital world. All designed to provide our Members with the skills to develop self-confidence, resilience, minimise anxiety and create long term positive, health habits.
Please help us support more women to stay safe during lockdown and rebuild and recover from the impact of this ever-changing world.
With many thanks to our Champion Funder, Monday Charitable Trust, our Pledge Donors and our Patron Zawe Ashton.
“Working with Clean Break … has been one of the most life changing professional and personal experiences of my life. To see first-hand the positive changes in women’s lives… is astonishing. Art therapy and drama therapy is real. The change they make is REAL. Society would benefit from a lot more Clean Breaks. They deserve support, they deserve visibility and the utmost respect.”
When Covid-19 struck earlier this year, Zawe reached out to Clean Break to see what she could do to support our Members, who are some of the most vulnerable women in society impacted by the inequalities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Our online Members programme has been specially designed to provide creative and positive stimulus, to combat isolation and mental distress and foster creativity whilst living through the current challenges. As part of this offer, Zawe has delivered a series of Master Classes about 'Conscious Storytelling' and provided ongoing mentoring support to those on our Young Artists Development programme supporting them creatively, nurturing their talent, and staying connected.
Posy Sterling has been a Clean Break Member since 2015 and is a graduate from Italia Conti. Most recently, she performed in Clean Break’s national tour of Sweatbox by Chloë Moss and in the 2020 film adaptation of the play (currently in post production). With Clean Break she also performed in Belong at the Arcola Theatre and Lyric Hammersmith.
Join us on Wednesday 2 December from 6-7pm to hear Zawe and Posy exploring the impact of creativity on mental health and talk about their experience of working together over the last few months: what they produced, the impact of creativity on mental health, and the challenges and triumphs on their journey. This will be followed by a discussion about what draws them to the arts, their relationship with Clean Break and the opportunity for you to ask questions.
This event is part of Clean Break’s Big Give Christmas Challenge 2020, a fundraising campaign to help more women stay safe and well during lockdown. Tickets are free but every donation given to us between 12pm Tuesday 1st December – 12pm Tuesday 8th December will be DOUBLED!
Sonya joined Clean Break as a Member in 2011. She wrote a short play for the company in 2013, HOURS TIL MIDNIGHT, and was given a full length commission the same year. She performed in MEAL TICKET for Clean Break at Latitude Festival in 2014 and her play, BLIS-TA, is currently being made into an audio drama.
Sonya was such an inspiration to all of us at Clean Break. Beyond her brilliance as a writer, Sonya’s kindness, good humour and compassion touched many of us and she became a vital part of the Clean Break family – for staff, Members, Board and artists. We know that the friendships she formed in those early days of joining the company, walking alongside other women in recovery, sustained her and many of her peers over the past decade. She showed us all how to heal and affirmed the power of theatre and our imaginations in this process.
Even throughout her illness, Sonya had a resolute compassion for others – she wrote prolifically about women in prison during lockdown, wanting their stories to be heard and seen. To this end she was an amazing advocate for widening representation in theatre – and ensuring that stories from the margins are propelled centre stage. We will continue this work with Sonya in our hearts.
She will be hugely missed.
Our thoughts are with all those closest to her, especially with her son Fred, at this painful time.
Rest in Peace Sonya
We are recruiting for an Individual Giving Manager to join our development team who will be responsible for maintaining and increasing support from individual donors, working strategically to nurture relationships, identifying new prospects and creating imaginative fundraising campaigns and events.
We’re looking for an excellent communicator with a strong understanding of what inspires individuals to support a charity like Clean Break, and great ideas for keeping our donors engaged. The ideal candidate is someone who loves crafting new initiatives and campaigns but who also understands the importance of excellent database management and well-informed research.
This is a permanent position and is normally office based in Kentish Town North London with occasional London-wide and national travel; however, due to Covid-19, it is likely to be home based initially.
We strongly believe that your lived experience enhances what you bring to a professional setting. We want women from a broad range of diverse backgrounds with a cross section of skills, experiences and narratives to extend and develop how we work.
We are particularly interested in hearing from;
These women are underrepresented in the UK’s cultural workforce, including in our charity, and we know that many face barriers when looking to join it. We want to change this.
The deadline for applications is 6pm on Monday 23 November.