'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:
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.
The deadline for submitting applications for this role is Monday 2 August, 10am.
At the launch of the Clean Break Archive, a unique collection of 40 years of playscripts, news reel, film clips, stories, songs, poems and letters, I talked with Jacqui Holborough and Jenny Hicks about how and why they started this life saving theatre company. The answer took me to the heart of Clean Break’s role and mission and to a story still being told.
Picking up from the point Jenny and Jacqui met in HMP Durham, a high security jail designed for men who had committed violent crimes including the great train robbers of the 1960s, the theme was survival and the cruel disregard for women in prison. By 1971, HMP Durham had closed its doors to rioting men who wouldn’t tolerate its jail within a jail confinement. But in 1974, it was suddenly deemed acceptable to re-open for women. This was a place Professor of Sociology, Laurie Taylor described as psychologically the worse he had ever seen and by the Mountbatten report (1966) as "conditions in small, confined units that no civilised country should tolerate."
As Jenny and Jacqui said: "there weren’t enough, if any women, that met the criteria (3 out of 35 were category A). We were put there to make up the numbers."
Women trying to put on plays as a means of coping with intolerable conditions proved too much for the HMP Durham wing governor who condemned them “having fun in the yard”. She rejected the prospect of rehearsing songs from Jesus Christ Superstar as a “security risk”.
It wasn’t till they re-connected on transfer to HMP Askham Grange prior to release that they were able to build a platform that was to become a creative centre and a source of support and advocacy for thousands of women. As Jenny said: "We moved from the highest to the lowest level of security. We could have just walked out of there. Yet, we still needed a form of expression that was meaningful, not just distraction."
The launch was to celebrate 40 years of the work of Clean Break but the injustice of the coronavirus pandemic hung over our conversation. Still locked away behind official myth and judicial hypocrisy were thousands of women in 14 jails banged up for 23 hours a day with no visits, no work, no education.
Despite places with little ventilation and poor hygiene being ideal conditions for viral transmission; despite women being incarcerated for minor crimes, often for a first offence, often with serious mental health issues; and despite the devastating impact on their health and well-being, future life chances and the lives of children and families who need them, only 15 out of many women promised were actually released.
"You have to keep going back to the principles, the spirit of Clean Break," Jenny said, "to understand why it survived. It’s because the voices of these women trapped by the impact of the coronavirus and all women incarcerated have got be heard."
After their transfer to HMP Askham Grange, Jenny and Jacqui’s ambition to write and perform plays foregrounding women’s experience having "grown tired of always playing men’s parts" was fostered by the governor, Susan McCormick. Their two-hour show Efemera was performed to a full house at York Arts Centre. Appearing as ‘Ask ‘em out’, this was the first time a group of prisoners had performed to a general audience outside prison, and they were well received by local critics.
Efemera programme, Arts Centre York 1978
Susan McCormick saw through the dominant narrative about women who commit crimes. She celebrated the quality and value of writing and performance. She provided opportunities for women to grow and recover. Her empathy drove round bureaucracy overcoming the climate of opprobrium that drags women’s progress. She provided space to workshop, stages for plays and support beyond release. Susan’s letters of recommendation for Jenny and Jacqui and the emergent Clean Break (displayed in the archive) are probably the only Home Office memos on record that combine official business with a ‘PS’ reporting that a promised costume has been found. The nun's outfit was for A Question of Habit, a play written by Jacqui and performed to an amazing response at the Edinburgh Festival, building on the success of winning a Koestler Award at the Royal Court Theatre - the first of many awards won by Clean Break.
Jacqui’s postcard back to Susan from Edinburgh identifies the essence of survival. Her few words reveal the joy in a relationship drawn from shared understanding of creativity that transcends prejudice and transforms lives.
"Susan was a friend," Jacqui said, "until her dying day."
Susan helped them construct the possibility of life beyond prison, award winning plays presented at home and internationally, onstage and on television. Jenny and Jacqui built a theatre company that succeeds in its mission of “changing lives and changing minds”. They sparked a network of much needed support organisations for women: Women in Prison, Hibiscus, Women in Secure Hospitals (WISH) and the Creative and Supportive Trust for women (CAST). Susan’s empathy and Jenny and Jacqui’s creativity kicked off a company that started from life inside and reaches hearts and minds on the out.
Not so much a history, the archive is alive to injustice still present, isolation and vulnerability still felt, change still needed.
Dr Alison Frater (March 2021)
The I am theatre exhibition celebrates Clean Break's 40-year history as a radical theatre company, documenting our heritage through previously unseen archival material and specially commissioned interviews and installations.
The exhibition is at Swiss Cottage Gallery and is open until 31 July.
Monday to Thursday: 11am-6pm
Friday and Saturday: 11am-3.30pm
For further information and to book your free tickets click here.
A new punk musical play set in a mental health unit inside a prison, a group of women discover the music of punk rock band The Slits and form their own group. An outlet for their frustration, they find remedy in revolution. But in a system that suffocates, can rebellion ever be allowed?
Part-gig, part-play, Typical Girls is funny, fierce and furious.
Beginning the new season in the Crucible, Typical Girls runs from Friday 24 September – Saturday 16 October 2021.
Robert Hastie, Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres said:
‘’We kick off with the world premiere of a new play by one of the UK’s most remarkable writers. For Typical Girls, by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, we’re thrilled to be working with the fantastic company Clean Break. Part gig, part-play this riotous new show sees a group of women light up through their journey into punk rock."
Morgan Lloyd Malcolm is the writer behind The Globe hit Emilia which transferred to the West End in 2019. She has written a number of plays for Hampstead Theatre, The Old Vic, Lyric Hammersmith, Firehouse Productions and Clean Break.
Her new play Mum will premiere at Soho Theatre this autumn. Current screen work includes an original treatment for Gaumont, an untitled book adaptation for Gaumont/Moonage and two episodes of a comedy drama for Merman Films. She is also under commission to adapt both Emilia and The Wasp as feature films.
This production was originally co-commissioned by Clean Break with the Royal Shakespeare Company who also contributed to its early development.
Tickets are on sale from 17 July 2021.
To find out more information on our current productions click here.
In Britain and many other places, June signals celebrations of pride for LGBTQ+ people. ‘Pride Month’ is an important time to recognise and acknowledge the struggles and achievements of LGBTQ+ communities. The origins of contemporary Pride Month can be traced to June 1969 when queer, trans and gender non-conforming people fought back against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. The Stonewall uprising is just one of many instances where LGBTQ+ people, especially people of colour, have powerfully resisted police brutality and imprisonment.
It is important to remember these origin stories in our continued struggle for queer and trans liberation – as too often prisoners and other criminalised members of our community are forgotten in present-day celebrations of pride. But as the Outside Project reminds us, homeless people – and we would add criminalised people – started our revolution!
Many people assume that because most laws criminalising same-sex activity have been overturned in Britain, LGBTQ+ people no longer face prison as a consequence of being queer or trans. However, many LGBTQ+ people still end up in prison because of discriminatory criminal justice practices and as a result of wider forms of inequality and discrimination that funnel people into prison. For example, we know of cases where young people get kicked out of their home for being queer, and once on the street turn to criminalised economies like drug trade or sex work for survival, and then get arrested.
Once in prison, LGBTQ+ people are often subject to increased isolation, harassment and violence. This is why the Bent Bars Project was formed in 2009 - to specifically support LGBTQ+ prisoners and to build stronger community connections across prison walls.
The Bent Bars Project is a letter-writing, penpal project for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming, intersex, and queer (LGBTQ+) prisoners in Britain. We also support prisoners who are questioning or exploring their gender or sexual identities (e.g. if someone thinks they might be LGBTQ+ but aren’t sure).
We match LGBTQ+ people inside prison with LGBTQ+ penpals outside of prison in order to provide mutual support and friendship. We also produce a newsletter written for and by LGBTQ+ prisoners, which contains letters, artwork, stories and poems written by prisoners. Over the 12 years that the project has been running, we’ve been in contact with more than 800 LGBTQ+ prisoners, who have shared their stories and experiences and been part of the penpal scheme.
We know that life inside prison for LGBTQ+ people can pose specific difficulties and hardships that are related to gender identity and sexuality. Whether it is questions around ‘coming out’, finding one’s way through intimate or sexual relationships, denial of healthcare or facing harassment and bullying, it can be hard to know how to deal with these things. We also know that LGBTQ+ concerns still often remain hidden or overlooked and support can be limited (both inside and outside prison).
To address some of these issues, we recently teamed up with the Prisoners’ Advice Service to produce two “Know your Rights Toolkits” for LGBTQ+ prisoners.
A Prisoner’s Guide to Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Rights
A Prisoner’s Guide to Trans Rights
These toolkits were designed especially to help LGBT+ prisoners in England & Wales better understand their legal and human rights when in prison. They also provide general information and advice around how to deal with some common issues that LGBTQ+ prisoners face.
We also recently produced some information sheets to raise awareness about the issues trans people face in prison. At Bent Bars, we have been increasingly concerned about misrepresentations of trans prisoners in the media, which we feel have been reinforcing harmful stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes towards trans prisoners specifically, but also trans and gender non-conforming people in general.
So we created three resource sheets to provide information and context, to help people better understand the experiences of trans, gender non-conforming and non-binary people in prison.
· Trans Prisoners Info Sheet 1: Key Issues faced by trans and gender non-conforming people in prison
· Trans Prisoners Info Sheet 2: Frequently Asked Questions
· Trans Prisoners Info Sheet 3: Solidarity / Things you can Do
As many of us join in Pride Month activities and celebrations this year, we hope that this will be an opportunity to pay greater attention to all those in our community whose freedom has not yet been won. This means turning attention to the struggles of LGBTQ+ people behind bars, as well as all those who face connected forms of oppression, whether that be poverty, addiction, mental health crisis, homelessness, racism, immigration status or disability discrimination.
For us Pride is not just about who we are, but also what kind of communities we build. We seek to build communities that turn walls into bridges, separation into connection and abandonment into love and solidarity.
If you would like to learn more about the Bent Bars Project or would like to get involved, please visit our website.
We have adopted the Anti Racism Rider as an important statement of intent and will work with colleagues from across the industry to implement this. As a working company, we have made a commitment over the next 2 years to meet the baseline actions of the rider.
This commitment is in addition to our current Anti-Racism Consultancy as we move towards being an anti-racist organisation.
Working on an all-female production is such an exciting and rewarding journey, yet it comes with its challenges too.
When I was approached by Clean Break to produce Sweatbox from a theatre production to short film I was truly honoured: I’ve been a fan of their work for some time and love what they do with women through the criminal justice system. They told me about their policy of only working with women, so I set about bringing together a crew that would be very different from the ones I was used to.
Although I had worked with predominantly female crews before, there are always obstacles you face when crewing up all-female. Especially roles such as Gaffers and Electricians, which are unfortunately looked upon within our industry to be “male roles”.
It’s not because women are not able to do the job or don’t have the skill set, in fact it’s far from it! There are a lot of very skilled and talented women that can fill any role. However, we tend to either work within our comfort zone of those we’ve worked with before or go on recommendations, especially when it comes to commercials. This makes it very difficult to break into the industry. This, added with the prejudice people have over male and female roles in crews means that it is especially hard for women.
The number of women working in the film industry reached a historic high in 2019, but men still outnumber women four to one in key roles.
In the UK we have some of the best creative women across all roles in the film industry yet time after time we lose out on jobs to men.
In my career as a producer in the advertising industry I’ve seen it happen time after time where a female director will be put forward to pitch on a job against two others who are male, and you can almost bet your life it won’t go in her favour. Even brands that are targeted specifically at women where it would benefit from a female director and her insight get awarded to male directors. It’s ludicrous and doesn’t make sense or feel fair.
As a woman, you have to work twice as hard in this industry if you really want to break through, and it’s even harder for a woman of colour.
You still unfortunately have your old school ‘boys club’ mentality within lots of departments. As a rule on every production I work on, I ask all the Heads of Department to make their team as gender equal as possible. As you can imagine it’s always an uncomfortable conversation with those departments that are predominantly male and time after time, I hear the same ‘excuses’. The latest one is “we’re all in the same bubble, so we can’t really let anyone else join us or change the crew”.
With the freedom of working on a short film and with the push from Clean Break, I was able to bring together an exceptional, diverse all-female crew.
The crew was a mixture of women I’ve worked with previously, recommendations and those that responded from shout outs on social media groups. It wasn’t plain sailing as most women for many roles were already pencilled on jobs (which is fantastic). I had to dig a bit deeper, but we got there and I’m glad we did and pushed for a team with diverse experience and from all corners of the industry.
The shoot went so well, the atmosphere on set was so much calmer than previous jobs of mixed crews and nothing seemed to be a problem. Every woman just got on with her job and that’s how it should be across the board. Problems had solutions and everyone just mucked in.
Film shorts bring that as everyone is there because they care about the project and that’s when you get to make magic. We all especially cared about Sweatbox, the stories it was telling and the people who were telling it. It was such a privilege to work with Clean Break on this film and make a beautiful piece that we hope you all enjoy.
Image: Clancie Brennan on the shoot for Sweatbox. Photographer: Olivia Chancellor
Content warning: strong language, sexual violence and rape.
In writing Blis-ta, Sonya Hale drew from her own experience of her life on the streets to create the story of Kat and Cherry, two young women on an adventure for survival.
This week’s blog comes from National Ugly Mugs. National Ugly Mugs is an organisation working UK-wide to prevent violence and offer victim support for people in adult industries. They offered us this blog as a response to our release of Blis-ta; to add to the conversation and the depiction of sex work in the play. At Clean Break we place a high value on lived experience and sharing the often marginalised stories of women. The writer, Grace in the the street and homeless sex worker lead at NUM. She is an Outreach Worker with lived experience and in the following blog has shared her experiences of street sex work and the need for women to tell their own stories.
Waking Up and Surviving Everyday: Reflections from a NUM Outreach Worker
I am told I am everything, but I am not. I am told I am vulnerable, a victim and that I am raped. I am told I am a sex worker, a prostitute, a working girl and a whore. Nobody thinks to ask, what do I think? How do I feel? As I stood cold waiting for a client, I didn’t think of the political sphere I found myself in, nor did I know the ideological debates that were going on over my very existence. No, I was just trying to survive.
Sex workers are spoken over, spoken for, and told we are the voiceless. We are not voiceless, we are simply unheard and ignored. We shout in the streets, but renounced by our peers as our unpalatable language and experiences are uncomfortable to hear, because it is easier for society for us to be unseen; we are the women you joke about and the victims of the murders you read about on your daily commute.
We say nothing about us, without us, but when it comes to sex workers, we find it easier to see them as vulnerable victims who are simply caught up in the spirals of addiction, abuse, homelessness and need rescuing. Instead, I see incredibly strong and resilient women, who wake up and survive every day. I see women who can and do speak for themselves, but are knocked back by those around them. I see people and services exclude us, and privileged women speak over us.
We must recognise the marginalisation of sex workers and listen to their voices and experiences. This is exactly what I do at National Ugly Mugs. In my role, I work with homeless and street based sex workers to empower them to report violent clients directly to us and break down the barriers, as well as offering support, food vouchers and community. Instead of sitting around the table to ask what can be done to improve services for homeless sex workers, I ensure that we ask them directly.
The experts on sex work are sex workers themselves. Sex workers say that criminalisation of any form doesn’t work, we say that it puts us at greater risk, forces us to work in riskier areas to avoid the police and leaves us with clients willing to break the law. Violence against sex workers isn’t just driven by misogyny or violent clients, but by the state. We are oppressed, excluded and victims of police violence, excluded from housing and refused equal access to healthcare.
Homeless and street based sex workers are often facing multiple disadvantages but sadly, despite being the people who need higher concentration of resources, they are often refused or face high levels of discrimination and stigma. I listen to sex workers refused housing, barred from domestic violence services, and drug using sex workers denied mental health support. We are forced to survive within our own communities because society has forced us to.
Sex work is political, but whilst we remember the ideological debates that are going on, we must not forget the sex workers who are surviving every day. I did not care about criminalisation or feminism, I cared about getting through the day. We must not do unto them, but with them and for them. I hope to work with more organisations that have contact with sex workers to improve safety for all sex workers.
National Ugly Mugs (NUM) is a UK-wide violence prevention and victim support charity for people in adult industries. They run a national reporting and alerting system, host screening tools, provide direct support to sex workers through their case work team, comprised of Independent Sexual Violence Advisors and sex industry experts. They have mental health resources and continue to develop and deliver services and engage in advocacy by, with and for sex industry workers. They aim to end all forms of violence against sex workers and eliminate the conditions that lead to survival sex.
For more about NUM and how to support them please visit www.uglymugs.org
The experience of working on Sweatbox was one that I will forever be grateful for.
Going back to the audition stage in 2019, when it was for a tour which would span over a period of a year. I could never have foreseen that we would get to a point where it would be shot into a film and made permanent for people to see.
When I read the script for the audition, I was immediately impressed with the way it was written by Chloë Moss and the fact that it would be performed in a prison van, hence the name Sweatbox. I was mostly struck with empathy for the characters, especially Nina, whom I play. I felt I wanted to tell her story and that I would bring her to life in a way where the audience would be able to see her through the same eyes as myself.
She is strong yet vulnerable, fractured and has been through a system that does not forgive women or give women many chances.
As a team, we were very thorough with our research of the prison system and I was grateful for the insight gained through this research.
As a theatre piece the show runs for 15 minutes, or just under, and the audience come into the prison van to see the show with all the characters in their individual cells. It can be claustrophobic for both cast and audience members, but this makes the experience more intense.
The capacity for audience members was 12 each at a time, so we performed the show six times a day with breaks in between each one to allow people to see it.
On tour we went to Universities, prisons, festivals, and theatres which provided for a mix of audiences.
It was mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting at the end of performance days to go through six shows. But it was also very gratifying to know we were raising awareness for an issue that most of society had no idea about.
The feedback from audience members was always the same, which ranged from shock, to sympathy for the characters and raised questions as to whether this was really the way the prison system is run in the UK.
Fast forward to March 2020, when the pandemic hit and it was announced that the UK should go into lockdown, which in turn put a stop to our tour and brought everything to a standstill. As we hugged one another (Producer Dezh, cast members Posy, Jade, Fran and myself) at Liverpool Street station and said our good byes, I think we all tried to stay positive for the future but we were definitely in shock about what this meant. "Will we be able to do this show again and if so, when?" were some of the questions on our minds. However, for now it was time to say good bye to Sweatbox the theatre piece and head into an unknown future.
Around July 2020, there was some hope in the future about a possibility of shooting Sweatbox and making it into a film to reach an even wider audience. Just imagine where this can be seen. It was going to be BIG!
I was delighted that Clean Break worked hard to make this happen and was even more in awe that they could secure an all-female film crew, working with Quiet Storm Productions. The film was shot on location at the Clean Break building in Kentish Town.
The set was built into the studio with the last scene taking place inside the van. This was very interesting as it was entirely different to the theatre experience. The filming took place over two very long days.
The shooting of the film was different to the theatre in the fact that the scenes were shot in different orders, so my character Nina’s scenes were shot first with me inside my make shift cell on set, while the other two actors read their lines from outside the set to provide for real reaction from my character, vice versa for the other actors as well.
This meant that we had to be careful about things like continuation to make sure that if we took breaks for any reason, we had to be sure that the make-up was the same as it was before the break. All in all, the experience of both the film and theatre production of Sweatbox is one that I will always cherish and be grateful for as it provided an opportunity to raise awareness of an issue that is very important for women who are in the judicial system.
The due care given by the production team of Sweatbox and Clean Break is another thing that I feel so fortunate for. There was space provided for the actors to share anything that we might be having difficulties with regarding the production at all stages of the theatre piece as well as the film production.
The Member support team at Clean Break was always on hand to provide emotional and mental support. This meant that we never felt alone in our day-to-day challenges during the shows while on tour and at home as well as during the film production.
Being a Clean Break Member and the experience of working on Sweatbox has helped me with my work in the theatre industry. I am currently in rehearsals for a play at the Bread and Roses theatre which runs from the 25th of May to the 5th of June. This is a new play by Irish writer Darren Donohue, I and the Village, which explores the consequences of long term in confinement in a system designed to be flawed. A story of longing, survival and hope.
I am playing the lead as Keicha, a 38-year-old from Nigeria who has been living in the Direct Provision System in Ireland for 8 years.
This is no mean feat but one that I am most honoured to play as the character is complex in that she has many layers which you see unravel in the play.
It is exciting to be back in a theatre space in a time when audiences have been denied theatre due to the pandemic and as an actor, it is gratifying to be in employment doing what I love. My hope is that this will continue to be a bright future for theatre and that the industry wakes up from a long forced slumber to recover with exciting productions for audiences who have been missing it.
As we start to reopen I am glad that we can experience live theatre and continue to make work online, like Sweatbox. I hope you all enjoy watching it.
We’re looking for a friendly, patient Operations Assistant to create a warm, professional welcome for our Members, staff and freelance artists as they return to our building, and to provide administrative and practical support for the Operations team. Our Members are women with lived experience of the criminal justice system or are at risk of entering it due to drug, alcohol or mental health issues.
This is a temporary 3-5 day a week role to support us while we run elements of our summer season from our building (3 June – 17 July, 6 weeks + training).
You’ll be excellent at communicating with and supporting a wide range of people. Our working practice is trauma-informed, so we’re looking for someone with previous responsibilities in work or community spaces with vulnerable adults. 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.
Based in our reception office but sometimes working around the building helping with health & safety protocols including sanitising surfaces, handling deliveries, sorting out signage and room set-up, you’ll be a natural multi-tasker, confident dealing with 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.
The deadline for this role is 23:59 on Sunday 23 May 2021.
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 delighted to be sharing Blis-ta with you for free. If you enjoy our work, please consider becoming a Friend of Clean Break.
With your support, we can help women build confidence, resilience and wellbeing through workshops and projects at our studios in London, in prisons and in the community.
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.