We’re delighted to announce the creative team for our Royal Court Theatre co-production Inside Bitch. Conceived by Stacey Gregg and Deborah Pearson, the production is devised by Clean Break Members Lucy Edkins, Jennifer Joseph, TerriAnn Oudjar and Jade Small. Design is by Camilla Clarke (winner of the 2015 Linbury Prize for Stage Design), with lighting design by Natasha Chivers (recipient of an Olivier Award for Sunday in the Park with George), sound design by Ella Wahlström (DV8’s John), and choreography by Yassmin V Foster (Queens of Sheba). Milli Bhatia (Trainee Director at the Royal Court, with credits including Shine) is Assistant Director.
Created by women who aren’t guessing, Inside Bitch is a devised ensemble performance from Clean Break’s Members, a playful subversion of the representation of women in prison and how things aren’t quite as seen on TV.
"We’ve got the real shit, and trust me, it’s dark as fuck, and it will knock your socks off!”
2018 has been a brilliant and incredibly busy year for Clean Break. As Christmas draws closer we’ve taken a moment to celebrate all the company has achieved this year and reflect on the changes that have happened across the organisation.
This year we have moved into delivering our new business model, producing new work and launching a new Members’ programme which puts them at the heart of the company and all our theatre making, creating even more opportunities for women with experience of the criminal justice system.
At the beginning of the year, we were humbled to receive a Tonic Award for our dedication to changing women’s lives through theatre and our commitment to new writing. Clean Break was recognised for forty years of work on the theme of women and the criminal justice system, giving opportunities to generation after generation of female creatives, and giving voice to women whose experiences are all too often silenced by society.
In the summer we were chosen as one of 50 women’s organisations who were asked to create a banner and take part in PROCESSIONS a celebratory mass participation artwork commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary and produced by Artichoke. Our Members worked tirelessly with Miriam Nabarro to create a banner to celebrate one hundred years since the first UK women got the right to vote. Clean Break chanted, danced and sang through the streets of London and the day was hands down one of the most memorable in Clean Break history.
It was a sad moment in July when we said goodbye to the phenomenal Lucy Perman MBE who led Clean Break over a phenomenal 21 years. Earlier this year Lucy was presented with the Criminal Justice Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding contribution to the sector.
2018 also marked our return to the stage after a two-year hiatus with a firecracker of a co-production with Theatr Clwyd, Thick As Thieves written by award-winning playwright Katherine Chandler. The production also marked our first tour in four years, as our cast and crew took the production to audiences in Mold, Salisbury and Hull.
We've also welcomed a plethora of new women into the company. In October three new Trustees joined our board; actor and writer Ellie Kendrick and award-winning playwright Winsome Pinnock (both of whom have strong connections to the company) and management consultant Sara Forbes. In November we announced four new Patrons playwright Lucy Kirkwood and actors Zawe Ashton, Sharon Duncan-Brewster and Tanya Moodie and this month we welcomed Mimi Findlay to the team as our new Producer.
Most importantly for us, 2018 has allowed us to work with so many talented women across the arts sector and we are delighted and incredibly proud of the work we've produced and the changes we've made alongside them.
We’re now looking forward to 2019, our 40th Anniversary year which is gearing up to be an amazing year of celebration and is set to see some amazing artistic work. From the release of our monologue book to a new co-production with the Royal Court, 2019 is set to be one of Clean Break’s best years yet.
But until then, from everyone at Clean Break we wish you a restful Christmas and a happy and healthy new year. We’ll see you in a couple of weeks for some more exciting announcements and the start of our 40th birthday celebrations!
We have appointed Mimi Findlay as Producer, ahead of our 40th anniversary season in 2019. She takes up the position from January.
Mimi joins us with a background in producing and theatre administration. She has worked for companies including Fuel, Talawa, National Theatre, Actors Touring Company and Paines Plough as producer and project manager, theatre administrator and assistant to the directors/general PA. She is also currently on the panel for the Alfred Fagon Award.
Róisín McBrinn, Joint Artistic Director, commented;
‘Anna, Erin and I are delighted to welcome Mimi to our team. She brings a wealth of experience a progressive, insightful attitude to who gets to make and see theatre and is joining the company at an important time when we are producing more and reaching out to more audiences. We look forward to creating exceptional theatre together.’
‘I am proud to join Clean Break at such a pivotal moment in its history and look forward to getting stuck into our 2019 anniversary season and beyond. It is important to me that theatre sustains careers from all corners of the industry and harnesses artists’ voices to enhance British culture for everyone and Clean Break is a vital part of this endeavour.’
The Producer role is central to Clean Break’s commitment to create extraordinary theatre that fuses the work of leading women writers and artists with the work and experiences of the company’s Members (women with experience of or on the fringes of the criminal justice system). Working closely with Clean Break’s three-women leadership team, she will take Clean Break shows and projects, at various stages of development, into production and support the team with the development of new ideas, collaborations and partnerships.
Clean Break is thrilled to announce that playwright Lucy Kirkwood and actors Zawe Ashton, Sharon Duncan-Brewster and Tanya Moodie join the company as Patrons with immediate effect.
The four women have all worked with Clean Break in the past. Lucy Kirkwood’s work with the company has included her play it felt empty when the heart went at first but it’s alright now at the Arcola Theatre. Zawe Ashton was writer in residence with Clean Break for two years and has also starred in the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize award winning This Wide Night at Soho Theatre. Sharon Duncan-Brewster was in the cast of Rebecca Prichard’s Yard Gal at Royal Court Theatre and Linda Brogan’s Black Crows at Arcola Theatre. Tanya Moodie starred in the one-woman, multi-authored Joanne at Soho Theatre and Latitude.
Anna Herrmann and Róisín McBrinn, Clean Break Co-Artistic Directors: ‘We are delighted to welcome Lucy, Zawe, Sharon and Tanya as Clean Break Patrons. As we approach a 40th anniversary year full of incredible plays and activity, our Patrons are vital in supporting the company to make exciting new connections, place Clean Break at the heart of the theatre industry and ensure that the hidden stories of women are heard.’
Lucy Kirkwood: “It has been an honour and a pleasure to serve as a Trustee to Clean Break and I am delighted and grateful to be able to continue my relationship with this brilliant, vital, inspiring company as a Patron.”
Zawe Ashton: “Working with Clean Break for two years as artist in residence as a writer and performing in their incredible work on stage as an actor 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, whether in prison, as a prison leaver or someone at risk - 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. Deep thanks to the women I’ve worked with over the years who have overcome adversity and changed my life. Welcome, to the women we are yet to meet.”
Sharon Duncan-Brewster: “Having worked with Clean Break and witnessing the positive influences that the company makes on women within the various realms of the criminal justice system, I am delighted to be continuing my near 20-year strong relationship by becoming a Clean Break Patron.”
Tanya Moodie: “We have families that we are born into, and families that we are fortunate enough to find through profound friendships and shared visions. Clean Break is that family to me. We first come into contact via audition workshops. I jumped at coming back on my degree placement. Then I was honoured to work with them in a performance capacity. Clean Break’s staff and Members have taught me that no one’s potential is ‘other’ than mine. I treasure them, and I am committed to championing Clean Break’s essential work on behalf of women whose lives have been affected by the criminal justice system.
This year we’re looking to raise £30,000 to bring Sweatbox on a UK tour to celebrate our 40th Anniversary in 2019. Thanks to the Big Give and our incredibly generous match-funders, this week every pound you donate to us through the Big Give website will be DOUBLED.
That means a donation of £10 will be worth £20, if you give £100 it will be an amazing £200 and if you give £500 it will be worth a phenomenal £1000!
Sweatbox is a performance which draws stark attention to the genuine experience that women face when navigating the criminal justice system. In cramped, dark surroundings this piece brings the reality of prison transport to audiences. Using the intrigue of a displaced prison van, Sweatbox tells the stories of women in the criminal justice system, by not only inviting audiences into the van for performances but also through open discussion and debate.
The piece will be performed by Clean Break members and will tour the UK with an aim to educate and inspire debate around the issues that women in the criminal justice system face.
So if you think you can help us hit our £30,000 target, hop over to the Big Give website to DOUBLE your donation now.
Sweatbox, by Chlöe Moss is an immersive and critically acclaimed theatre experience. Using the intrigue of a displaced prison van, Sweatbox tells the stories of women in the criminal justice system, by not only inviting audiences into the van for performances of Sweatbox but also through open discussion and debate.
Sweatbox is a performance which draws stark attention to the genuine experience that women face when navigating the criminal justice system. In cramped, dark surroundings this piece brings the reality of prison transport to audiences.
For us, ensuring that this powerful production is part of our 40th Anniversary celebrations is vital in our goal to highlight the experience of women in the criminal justice system. In a time where reports state that sending to women to prison is “almost never justifiable from the perspective of public protection” we believe that Sweatbox is vital to bring the reality of the female experience of the criminal justice system to as wide an audience as possible.
What is the Big Give and how can I help?
Between midday 27 November – 4 December any donation you make to us through the Big Give website will be DOUBLED. Yes, you read that right, a donation of £10 will be worth £20, if you give £100 it will be an amazing £200 and if you give £500 it will be worth a phenomenal £1000!
So, if you want to help us hit our £30,000 target all you need to do now is pop a reminder in your diary, for #GivingTuesday 27 November.
If you want to ensure that you’ll receive reminders closer to the date, click the button below to sign up to our newsletter and you will receive an email reminder before the Big Give begins.
The year opens with our first season under our new Artistic Directors, Anna Herrmann and Róisín McBrinn - featuring bold new plays, performances and projects created by ground-breaking artists, high profile partners and collaborators, and Clean Break Members.
"Forty years ago, two incredible women in prison set up Clean Break, believing theatre could bring the hidden stories of women to a wider audience. Over the last four decades, the company has remained true to this vision, changing women’s lives by providing opportunities, provoking conversation, and creating theatre of the highest calibre with the leading women theatre artists of the day. We are immensely proud to lead the company into its next chapter with a programme to launch our tenure that celebrates our legacy and signals a bold new future, with invaluable new relationships being forged and our Members at the heart of everything we do."
Our 40th Anniversary Spring Season will include:
A unique co-production with the Royal Court subverting media images of women in prison. Conceived by innovative theatre-makers Stacey Gregg and Deborah Pearson, devised and performed by Clean Break Members Lucy Edkins, Jennifer Joseph, Terri Ann Oudjar and Jade Small.
Belong is a new play by Brazen, Clean Break Young Artists as part of Arcola Creative/Disruption Festival. Examining how loneliness impacts on young women, their wellbeing, behaviours and choices, Belong is ultimately filled with hope about the power of community and connections to overcome difference.
Partnership with Cardboard Citizens
Cardboard Citizens and Clean Break join forces for the first time to explore the intersection between women’s experience of homelessness and the criminal justice system. Performance and video artist Paula Varjack and women Members from both theatre companies present a multi-media provocation asking what needs to change to improve the lives of women today.
Clean Break’s Rebel Voices
Clean Break celebrates 40 years of producing groundbreaking women writers and writing by our Members with this anthology of 40 monologues from 40 Clean Break voices. Including monologues by Alice Birch, Theresa Ikoko, Lucy Kirkwood, Bryonny Lavery and Winsome Pinnock this anthology, goes some way to embodying Clean Break's extraordinary canon and offers an exceptional resource for women actors of all ages.
Click here to find out more about Clean Break productions and events.
We sat down with Alyson Cummins, celebrated theatrical designer, to pick her brains about her work on Clean Break/Theatr Clwyd's currently touring production Thick As Thieves. Book your tickets to see the show at Theatr Clwyd, Salisbury Playhouse or Hull Truck now!
What attracted you to working on Thick As Thieves?
Well there were loads of reasons really! I’ve wanted to work with Clean Break for ages, I’m such a big fan of what they do so I was completely delighted when Róisín spoke to me about Thick as Thieves. Also I love working with Róisín, we’ve worked together quite a bit over the past few years and she’s a brilliant director as well as being great fun to hang out with. And on top of all that Róisín I worked on another play together that Kath wrote called Before it Rains which I absolutely loved. Kath is an incredible writer so I jumped at the chance to work with her again too.
What is it like to work with Clean Break and how is it different from working with other theatre companies?
Clean Break is such an important company, and one I’ve admired for a long time knowing their history and their commitment to creating work of such a high standard. It’s not only that that's so impressive but it's also their education and training schemes that are so integral to the production process. Its also really wonderful to work with a brilliant all female team, not only on the production itself but within the wider Clean Break company. I am lucky enough to have worked with lots of brilliant women over the years but I think creating a company committed to promoting and developing women in an industry that was traditionally male dominated is so important. The main difference with other companies is having the opportunity to tour the show to prisons which is a really exciting challenge. From a practical point of view they are not necessarily theatre spaces or ready made performance areas so there are certain considerations that that brings. However its so brilliant knowing you're working on something that will tour to an audience that isn’t necessarily able to get to see theatre or live performance.
What are you hoping audiences take from your design and how will that augment their experience of the show?
Whenever I’m designing a show the main thing I hope I can do is support the story that the writer has written. Its really important that my work helps to tell the story and underlines what the writer has presented. Kath has written a story with amazing characters who have been on really interesting and divergent journeys. What I hope we’ll be able to do is create a space that represents their experience and relationship with the world around them and hopefully through that also show part of their interior worlds.
Clean Break is delighted to announce three new Trustee appointments in the lead up to its 40th birthday in 2019. Actor and writer Ellie Kendrick and award-winning playwright Winsome Pinnock (both of whom have strong connections to the company) and management consultant Sara Forbes join the company’s Board with immediate effect.
Ellie was in the cast of Vivienne Franzmann’s Clean Break play Pests, which included spending time working with women affected by the criminal justice system at Clean Break’s studios and at HMP Askham Grange. Her recent acting credits include HBO’s Game of Thrones, ITV’s Vanity Fair, BBC’s Press, Gloria at Hampstead Theatre and Cyrano de Bergerac at Southwark Playhouse. As a writer, her debut play Hole opens at the Royal Court Theatre in December as part of Royal Court’s Jerwood New Playwrights Programme.
Winsome is an award-winning playwright, academic and dramaturg. Her work has been produced on the British stage and internationally since 1985. She was the first black British female writer to have a play produced by the Royal National Theatre and has been described as ‘the Godmother of black British playwrights’ by The Guardian. The prizes awarded to her work include the George Devine Award, The Pearson Plays on Stage Award and the Unity Theatre Trust Award. She was first commissioned by Clean Break in 1996 and has worked in HMP Holloway and Clean Break’s studios. Her plays for the company include Cleaning Up and Taken (at Oval House) and Mules (at Royal Court Theatre).
Sara will chair Clean Break’s Finance Committee. A Director at KPMG in their Financial Services advisory practice. She has been with KPMG since 2013 where she has worked alongside many of the top UK and Global banks. She is focussed on bringing female talent through the firm and has been recognised as a driven female role model. She has previously spent five years with the Royal Bank of Scotland.
Kim Evans OBE, Chair: ‘I am delighted that Ellie, Sara and Winsome are joining the Board of Trustees as Clean Break enters its 40th birthday year in 2019. They each bring great expertise and a real commitment to helping the company achieve its ambitions and produce exceptional work that speaks truth to power. Ellie and Winsome are exciting theatre makers who have worked with Clean Break in the past. Winsome is an award-winning playwright and Ellie a well-known actor who is now writing for the stage and screen. Sara is an experienced Director at KPMG and was recently shortlisted for a Women in Banking and Finance Award. She has been deeply involved in supporting the development of women in the financial sector and will be Chair of Clean Break's Finance Committee.'
Ellie Kendrick: ‘I am excited to join Clean Break’s Board at this important moment in its history. As an actor, I have relished the opportunity to see the inside workings of this brilliant company's theatre making process - I now look forward to taking up the position of Trustee as the organisation develops new methods to ensure its Members play an even more central role in its ground-shaking, change-making work in 2018 and beyond.’
Winsome Pinnock: ‘Clean Break has been one of the most important companies I have worked with during my career and I am proud to serve its work as part of its inspiring Board. This is an important moment in history for the company and for the theatre landscape - I want to work with the Board and team to ensure that the company leads the way.’
Sara Forbes: ‘Ensuring women’s voices are heard has been an important part of my professional experience and something that draws me to Clean Break. I am delighted to be invited to lead its Finance Committee, supporting and enhancing the company’s next steps with the skills and experience I have developed in the financial services industry, and ensuring its important stories continue to be told.’
CB: What was it like to write for Clean Break; how is it different from being commissioned by other companies?
KC:I have loved working with the company for lots of reasons. It is a different experience from working with any other company because of the process. I spent a lot of time initially at Clean Break with the women who were attending classes there and then spent time at Holloway prison with a different group of women who were there.
I tried to go into my time at both places without any thoughts about what I wanted to write about and really just came out with a lot of ideas. There was always, in both groups, continuous reference to kids and family and although we didn’t talk directly about anyone’s stories - because we were there for workshops about theatre – the kids was a big thing and were always being mentioned in chat.
It made me think a lot about motherhood and separation and the immediate judgements we make about each other based on generalised, ingrained ways of thinking and just the way we judge each other about our mothering whoever, whatever we are, so I was interested to challenge that a bit.
The commission was for two companies, Clean Break and Theatr Clwyd so that was also a consideration when I was thinking about the play because the two companies have different identities so the play had to fit with both. I just felt that I wanted to write a really big, small play!
I would say that when I had the seeds of an idea I wrote a first draft very quickly and then have spent a long time redrafting. Normally my plays are between three and six drafts and this play is currently on draft ten. It’s a play with a cast of two so I felt the script had to be really tight, it’s like a game of tennis with dialogue and every word counts so it’s taken time to get it right.
I also seem to start a play with a first draft that has murders and overly dramatic things happening and then through the drafting process the true story emerges which in this case was a reconnection of two sisters that were estranged.
CB: What are you hoping audiences will go home thinking about after seeing Thick As Thieves?
KC: I hope they go away having been entertained for an hour or so. Then if they think a bit about mothers and how we regard each other, that would be good. Themes that runs through are also about our starting points in life, paths we take, helping each other, judgement, class and family. I hope it might provoke thoughts about any of those things but I’m happy if they just like it!
CB: What have you taken away from your experience of writing Thick As Thieves and will it impact any of your future work?
KC: I feel very satisfied with the play now and when I hear it I can see the influences of my time with Clean Break and the women. It was an experience that I really value and I won’t forget it and the women and I think it’s been a really interesting way of working. For me all my plays are different and I think the process of your current one is likely to impact the way you write the next one, in one way or another. The play I wrote after Thick as Thieves was a completely fictional, comedic monologue that I went into with a solid structure and was written in two drafts, it couldn’t have been more different! I enjoy the differences. The next project I’m working on is similar in the process to Thick as Thieves.
CB: Tell us what you’re working on next!
KC: I’m working with BBC and Children in Need to develop an idea for a one off drama influenced by a project that is supported by Children in Need. I’m very excited about it, I think it’s a brilliant thing and very similar to the process with Clean Break.
Earlier this month, we launched a Twitter competition asking female photographers to retweet and reply with one of their photographs in the hopes of being awarded some free time in our photography studio. We were absolutely staggered by the wave of responses we got and the quality of the photographs. In fact, the quality was so high that we were unable to select only one winner, and have decided to award studio time to three outstanding photographers with three outstanding photographs. They are:
Yaa (#7), Heather Agyepong, 2017
Babirye, Brainchild, Myah Jeffers, 2018
Georgie, Behind The Scars Series, Sophie Mayanne, 2018
On a separate note, we also had many DMs and emails testifying as to how enormously difficult it is for even seemingly established female photographers to make headway in a still male-dominated field. We're glad to be able to help, even in this small way. Congratulations to everyone who entered!
Women from South Wales who are incarcerated are currently taken to HMP Eastwood Park in Gloucestershire. This is a massive 4 hours from Swansea by public transport. Women in north Wales are taken to HMP Styal in Cheshire which is around 3 hours from Mold on public transport.
This distance from home is a disaster for Welsh women. These distances are considerably higher than those faced by women in England. Only half of the women who had lived with, or were in contact with, their children prior to imprisonment had received a visit since going to prison (Women In Prison, 2018). “Imprisonment in Wales – A Factfile” from Cardiff University (2018) states that the average distance from home for a Welsh female was 101miles, compared to 53 miles for Welsh adult males (Jones, 2018).
The distance is drastic compared to men and English women, what impact does this have? Three-quarters of women prisoners are mothers, and two-thirds of them have children under eighteen (Maruna and Liebling, 2005). So a lot of women in prison have families that have to face this long distance. These long distances can be both inconvenient, and expensive to travel.
A Home Office study showed that for 85% of mothers, prison was the first time they had been separated from their children for any significant length of time (Women in Prison, 2018). It was reported that for mothers, separation from their children is the most painful aspect of incarceration (Maruna and Liebling, 2005). This separation of women from children is often the issue most likely to affect the mental health or well-being of female prisoners. Women in prison told Baroness Corston (2007) that separation from children was emotional “torture” (Jones, 2018). The experience of being separated from your children can be excruciating, and so this distance from home is evidently an extremely important issue for women in prisons.
Children separated from their parents can react with feelings of rejection, loss of identity, anger and guilt. Separation was found to make the child highly vulnerable to both emotional and cognitive difficulties (Johnston and Gabel, 1995). The lack of a women’s prison in Wales has a massive impact on the children of incarcerated women, both at the time of imprisonment and in the future.
Not only does separation cause pain and anguish for the families and women, but there is also evidence to suggest that separation from children and families has effects on reoffending rates. Family relationships for prisoners have a significant influence on relapse prevention (Waul, 2003). It has been found that programs that include family members in prisoners’ treatment during incarceration can produce positive results for prisoners, families, institutions and communities (Jeffries, Menghraj, and Hairston 2001; Wright and Wright 1992). These types of programs are impossible to maintain when the distances involved are prohibitively expensive and time consuming to traverse.
Emotional strain and poor mental health for women, loss of communication, difficulties for children as well as higher reoffending; how can separation due to long distances be answered for? A more successful justice system must be found for Welsh women and families.
Johnston, G. a., 1995. Children of Incarcerated Parents. s.l.:Lexington Books.
Jones, R., 2018. The University of Cardiff. [Online]
Available at: https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/1195577/Imprisonment-in-Wales-A-Factfile.pdf
[Accessed September 2018].
Maruna, L., 2005. The Effects of Imprisonment. s.l.:Routledge.
Prison, W. i., 2018. Women In Prison. [Online]
Available at: http://www.womeninprison.org.uk
[Accessed September 2018].
Waul, T. a., 2003. Prisoners Once Removed: The Impact of Incarceration and Reentry on Children, Families and Communities. Washington: The Urban Institue Press.
Jeffries, Menghraj, and Hairston 2001; Wright and Wright 1992 found in Waul, T. a., 2003. Prisoners Once Removed: The Impact of Incarceration and Reentry on Children, Families and Communities. Washington: The Urban Institue Press.
Rehearsals have begun for Thick As Thieves which opens at Theatr Clwyd on 11 October. Actors Siwan Morris and Polly Frame have joined the creative team in the roles of Karen and Gail as the production gets truly underway. The cast and crew will be rehearsing at Clean Break's London studios for a fortnight before a final week of rehearsals in Wales in advance of opening night. Break a leg to the whole team - we cannot wait to see the play on its feet!
Thick As Thieves will be performed at Theatr Clwyd, Salisbury Playhouse and Hull Truck: for full booking details please click here.
What has been different about working with us, how has the experience here differed to working with other theatre companies?
Clean Break is a company I have wanted to work with for years so I was so excited to have the opportunity to be a writer in residence here and forge a relationship with the women and the work. I suppose the most over riding difference at Clean Break is that the company reaches in many directions, and as a writer you find yourself working in lots of very different environments. There is the work inside prisons, work at Clean Break itself and work in theatres and outside spaces, and the work passes from one environment to another. For example, one of the most interesting projects I have been part of began with a group of women taking part in a writing group in HMP Send, and their words and ideas turned into Hear, a performance piece that was rehearsed by actors at Clean Break and then shown at The House of Lords and the National Theatre. The journey that the work embarks upon enhances and deepens it, making it feel properly connected to the ethos of Clean Break as a company.
What has been your personal highlight from your time spent working with us?
I have loved every part of the work I have done at Clean Break and learnt a lot. I suppose my personal highlight is perhaps the playwriting courses I have been part of; I have met the most incredible female writers and felt inspired by every single person that has taken part in these courses. In teaching playwriting I have learnt so much about what writing is, and what an invaluable safety valve it can provide. I have been struck by what a generous and supportive environment those writer’s groups have created – sharing your writing is a very vulnerable thing to do, and the community that these groups have provided women who write, has been moving and inspiring to me in a big way.
How have you found working in all female environment?
The non competitive, supportive, and genuinely non-judgemental atmosphere at Clean Break has felt liberating. I love it. I love being in the building and although I’m not putting all of this down to the absence of men, (I went to an all girl’s school that was nothing like this at all!) I think the all female environment contributes to a more direct, straightforward authenticity about the communication in the organisation. It is also refreshing to work in an environment that feels diverse in other ways – culturally, ethnically, across class divides – and to feel that pressing forward, positively and creatively is the unified aim.
What advice would you pass on to our members about making it in the Industry?
Keep your integrity, write or create work from a place you are properly connected to. Don’t think of ‘the industry’ as a thing over there that you will be lucky to break into, think of your contribution as something that the industry would be lucky to have. The industry is just a collection of people doing their thing, there’s room for more good ideas and hard working individuals to join in. See as much theatre as you can, read plays, make relationships and connections with companies that are making work you respect. If you write, get a group of like-minded people together to read each other’s work out loud. You don’t need permission to write, push yourself towards things that inspire you, eavesdrop, keep your eyes open to the small details, try and stay open.
As a company we would like to extend our thanks to Deborah for the amazing work she has produced and the dedication that she has shown towards our members and that is why we are delighted to announce that our relationship does not end here! In fact Deborah will be working on a full length commission for us, so watch this space.
When asked about Deborah’s contribution to Clean break Lucy Perman commented:
“Deborah has been a superb resident playwright. She’s immersed herself in every aspect of the company’s work – in prisons and in our playwriting workshops at our studios. She has been an encouraging and nurturing teacher and mentor for our Member writers as well writing several short plays for us already. We’re really looking forward to her full-length commission for Clean Break.”
We are very excited to announce that our new Executive Director will be Erin Gavaghan! Erin will take up her post in October 2018, completing the company’s new leadership team, alongside Joint Artistic Directors Róisín McBrinn and Anna Herrmann. This team will lead Clean Break into an exciting new chapter as the company celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2019.
Erin Gavaghan comes to Clean Break following six years at Siobhan Davies Dance where she is currently Executive Director. Her career also includes General Manager at Soho Theatre and positions at the Royal Albert Hall and Natural History Museum. She is a Trustee of Deafinitely Theatre.
Kim Evans OBE, Chair of Clean Break's board said:
We are delighted to welcome Erin to Clean Break. Her experience across the performing arts; her great track record of leading and inspiring teams and building partnerships; and her commitment to our values make her exceptionally well placed to help us achieve our mission to produce bold, adventurous and outstanding theatre that enables women to realise their full potential. Erin, Róisín and Anna will be a force to be reckoned with and I’m excited to be working with them.
Erin Gavaghan, (incoming) Executive Director added:
I have been a huge fan of Clean Break’s work for well over a decade and am inspired by the way the company places the authentic stories of women at the heart of everything it does. I am completely thrilled to join the team at such a pivotal moment in its development. I am excited to work alongside Róisín and Anna taking the company forward into its next chapter. I can’t wait to join them, as well as Clean Break’s staff, artists, Board and - especially Members - and be a part of the exceptional work it creates.
Róisín McBrinn and Anna Herrmann, Joint Artistic Directors commented:
We are so pleased that Erin will be joining us as Executive Director. The third member of our shared leadership team is such a critical appointment and we’re confident that Erin’s vast experience, huge passion for Clean Break and commitment to ground-breaking theatre and performance will be an exciting fit as we move into our new model of producing more theatre and creating more radical opportunities for women with experience of criminal justice to change their lives and make more noise at this pivotal moment.
We're so pleased to welcome Erin aboard and can't wait to see what ideas she has for the company as we enter this our 40th year.
Are you looking for the opportunity to get your career in the arts kickstarted? We have several volunteer opportunities based in our studios in the heart of Kentish Town.
We're looking for:
If you are interested in any of the roles above please send a CV and cover letter to Samantha McNeil at Samantha.McNeil@cleanbreak.org.uk.
When we launched our Fringe Support Competition, we were overwhelmed by the incredible calibre of the entries! You can read all about our winners, Power Play, here but we just HAD to tell you about a few of the others who made the shortlist...
DANGEROUS GIANT ANIMALS
Written and performed by Christina Murdock, directed byJessica Lazar and Adriana Moore
A kick. A scream. A tantrum. When it comes to disability, what’s allowed? What’s forbidden? This is a middle-child story of the extraordinary range of experience that comes from growing up too soon alongside a sister who will never grow up. A provocative new solo show, DANGEROUS GIANT ANIMALS, is a darkly comedic game of hide-and-seek with our true nature.
Christina really impressed us with her ambitious solo project based on her experience of growing up alongside her disabled sister. She's tackling big, difficult and under-represented issues with a light-touch, and we think she's terrific.
written by Madeline Gould, directed by Madelaine Moore
A chambermaid, a hotel room and a dead woman.
Ladykiller is a blood-soaked morality tale about social responsibility, zero-hours contracts and tearing up the gender rule book on psychopathy; a jet-black comedy for the age of the gig economy.
Ladykiller presents us with a genuinely complex and compelling female character, tapping into the feminist zeitgeist in a most unexpected way.
This one is quite a departure for us - it's not a show that we could have produced ourselves! However, The Thelmas pitched themselves to us as a "female-led, intersectional company creating work that disrupts trad female stereotypes without problematising being female. We push boundaries with our characters... [and] explore the gender gap between how female perpetrators and victims are viewed and treated" and we simply had to include them on our shortlist! Follow them @TheThelmas
Kitchen Sink Theatre Ltd
written and directed by Kat Woods
Inspired by real events, KILLYMUCK is a housing estate built on a paupers graveyard in 1970's Ireland. Niamh navigates life through the parameters of growing up, with the trials and tribulations of being a kid from the benefit class system. Lack of opportunity, educational barriers, impoverishment, addiction and depression are the norms as the struggle to escape the underclass stereotype becomes a priority. From school trips organised as cross-community excursions to unite a fractured post troubles town, to finding the humour within an estate crippled with misfortune.
We really admire Kat's tenacity and ambition - she's been taking shows to the Fringe for years, self-funded, and is 'waitressing a million hours' to pursue her creative ambitions. She says on her GoFundMe page that it's really important for writers from her background to have work produced to address the class imbalance so prevalent in the theatre, and we couldn't agree more. Quite aside from that, she's a talented writer with stuff to say! Go Kat, go! She reached her GoFundMe target, but here's her video so you can find out more about her. Follow her @katwoods79
Sounds Like Thunder Theatre
When did you last speak to your Mum? Last week? Last year? We’ve been asking everyone from grandparents to schoolkids. The stories they’ve told us unfold the parent/child relationship in all its beauty and bathos, silliness and sadness. From ironing a nine-year-old’s crumpled geography project to coming out to your mum. Childhood homes for sale. Getting older and parenting your parents. Voicemails and dial tones and things left unsaid until now. Through verbatim stories, we’ll take you to those tender, irrepressible places inside us all where we’ve never really grown up.
Sound Like Thunder were founded last year with a mission to "privileges the voices of the many, not the few, and to snap at the heels of the established theatrical discourse" so of course, we were on board pretty much immediately! They also mentioned that with this piece they hoped to provoke "generations of women to talk to each other". We think their verbatim based production sounds marvellous and were delighted to shortlist them. They still need a good chunk of their funding, so please donate to them here and follow them @slt_theatre.
NEVER VERA BLUE
Futures Theatre Company
written by Alexandra Wood
She’s five foot ten. She’s almost certain. But if she was the size she thinks she is she couldn’t be here and if she doesn’t even know her own dimensions, what hope is there at all?
Written in response to conversations with survivors of domestic abuse, Never Vera Blue is a disorientating story of one woman’s journey to recover who she is. From the city to the Kent coast, from a war-torn land to the pit of the stomach, Alexandra Wood’s new play explores just what it means to be made to doubt yourself and how to regain a sense of identity.
This play provoked a deep response in us at Clean Break HQ, and in addition to discussing the difficult subject of domestic abuse the company will be campaigning to raise awareness alongside the show. Even without our competition, we would have wanted to get behind NEVER VERA BLUE. They've already reached their funding target, but you can find out more about the show below, and follow them @Futures_Theatre
Good luck to them all at The Fringe - we'll be keeping an eye on their progress and we think you should too!
When we launched our Fringe Support Competition over Twitter, we were hoping to find theatre companies that align with Clean Break's values - we never dreamed we discover anyone as wonderful as the team behind Power Play!
Power Play is an activist theatre campaign that analyses and exposes gender inequality in grassroots and fringe theatre, using data-activism, immersive theatre and bold stunts. As well as taking four brand new plays written by women and featuring all-female casts to this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival, they are launching the first ever statistical study of the Fringe’s gender breakdown.
We were beyond impressed by this young company, and are delighted to be offering them free rehearsal space, marketing advice and a social media bump during their Fringe run - congratulations Power Play! Find out more about this ambitious and impressive company here.
written by and starring Emma Dennis-Edwards
4-25 August, 14:30
Originally commissioned as a short play for the Royal Court’s Tottenham Festival and now expanded to an hour-long piece, Funeral Flower makes its Fringe debut!
Angelique loves flowers, her mum and her boyfriend... in that order, but at the moment it seems like floristry classes are the only thing working out for her. Part-play, part-interactive floristry masterclass, FUNERAL FLOWERS takes you right inside Angelique’s world as she copes with the chaos of her Mum’s incarceration.
written by Jess Moore, directed by Polly Creed
3-25 August, 16:00
£12 ( £10)
Offie-nominated writer, Jess Moore, follows her ‘stylish debut play on mental health issues’ (The Stage), Gin for Breakfast, with a site-specific play addressing the topic of domestic violence.
On average, victims of domestic violence experience 35 assaults before calling the police. Why does it take abuse survivors so long to leave? NEXT TIME examines this question through its excruciating, yet compelling exploration of one woman’s story. Set within the claustrophobic confines of a real house, the play follows a woman in her twenties, as she plans to leave her abusive relationship. Minute-by-minute, it explores the practical and emotional barriers that victims face.
written by Matilda Curtis, directed by Bethany Pitts
3-25 August, 13:00
What makes a woman? This is the question at the heart of Matilda Curtis’ new play, SOMEBODY. The site-specific play follows Girl, a twenty-seven-year-old finally on the cusp of womanhood. Facing motherhood and marriage, we are taken back in time through the events that shaped her identities and values, moving from Girl’s childhood to her present. Consumed with questions of identity and womanhood, this is certainly a play for 2018.
THE EMPTY CHAIR
written by Polly Creed, directed by Seren John-Wood
3 - 25 August, 17:30
Straight from its award-winning London performances at the Duchess Theatre and Pleasance Theatre (winner of Best New Writing and Best Performance at the London Student Drama Festival), THE EMPTY CHAIR - a play about celebrity culture, the #MeToo Movement, and the arts industry - hits Edinburgh! This site-specific, immersive play takes you behind the walled communities of Beverly Hills into the cloistered setting of a Hollywood after-party in the early hours of the morning, examining the human experiences behind the #MeToo movement.
On Sunday 10 June we took to the streets of London to take part in PROCESSIONS, a celebratory mass participation artwork commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary and produced by Artichoke.
We joined 100 women’s organisations and communities who created banners to celebrate the centenary. We were lucky enough to work with the amazing Miriam Nabarro who worked with our members to create our amazing banner.
Our members worked with the London College of Fashion to create costume and makeup designs that reflected the sentiment of our banner and would make a stunning statement on the day.
We were also lucky enough to team up with the phenomenal Annie-Lunnette Deakin-Foster, who helped our members to choreograph movement and create chants that would capture the mood of the day in true Clean Break style.
We had a brilliant day, one filled with unity, solidarity and most importantly fun and laughter.
Annie-Lunnette Deakin-Foster is a celebrated choreographer, and one of 100 artists working on the Processions project. She’s teaming up with Clean Break, the London College of Fashion and theatrical designer Miriam Nabarro to create a banner and performance as part of a celebration of the centenary of women’s suffrage in June.
We interviewed her about her work on the project.
Why did you want to take part in Processions?
I wanted to take part in Processions as it gave me an opportunity to be a part of a large, cross-country scale project that has creativity and togetherness at its heart. A chance to express myself creatively and work with a new group of individuals to who are able to come together, to celebrate the centenary of the female vote, and suffragette movement, as well as having a conversation about justice, equality and gender roles as we face them today. Discovering how all this can be expressed artistically is what really interested me about this project.
What is it like to work with Clean Break specifically?
This is the first time I have worked with Clean Break and after my first session, I have been inspired by the group's boldness, artistic vision and enthusiasm that there has been for my movement sessions. I look forward to the next few sessions and creating something vibrant and exciting to see on the day.
What do you hope to elicit as a response to your work?
I would like to present something captivating, touching and thought-provoking. I hope that the movement that we make, along with the beautiful banners and flags, costumes and make-up we present, will all be so visually striking and get our message across clearly and effectively, that the presentation will stay with the audience throughout the day, and longer still, and really get them talking.
Are there any other upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?
YES! I have just started working on the movement for "The Court Must Have a Queen" by Ade Solanke, which is a new play set in the Tudor period that is to be performed throughout the summer at Hampton Court Palace. The show previews from 25th June and runs through to 2nd September 2018, and is worth a watch!
Clean Break is on the hunt for one lucky company to offer our support to this summer! We'll be offering:
We're looking for companies that value the sames things we do, so if your show is foregrounding women and/or the criminal justice system, apply now! Not sure if your show fits those criteria? Apply anyway! What have you got to lose?
The winner will be judged based on who we feel best reflects our own theatrical and social values. To apply, please share the competition on Twitter and reply to our posts about the competition with <100 words about your show and company by 4pm on 15 June. The winner will be announced by 6pm the same day.
Róisín McBrinn and Anna Herrmann are set to take up new roles as the company’s Joint Artistic Directors and the search is now underway for an experienced Executive Director to complete our new three-women leadership team, who will lead Clean Break into an exciting new chapter as we celebrate our 40th anniversary in 2019 with an ambitious year-long programme of work.
Our new Joint Artistic Directors, Róisín McBrinn and Anna Herrmann, will combine their extensive experience as a leading theatre director and a leading practitioner specialising in theatre and social change to expand the ways in which Clean Break produces groundbreaking new work. The new leadership team, inspired by our founding principles, will build a diverse community of women artists with lived experience of the criminal justice system and leading and emerging theatre practitioners. Together, they will create unforgettable theatre that speaks truth to power.
This inspiring new model has been developed by our current Chief Executive, Lucy Perman MBE. Lucy will be leaving the company this summer, having led Clean Break for 21 years. Earlier this year, she was presented with the Criminal Justice Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding contribution to the sector.
Kim Evans OBE, Chair commented:
“The Board is delighted to be working with Anna and Róisín and we look forward to recruiting a new Executive Director to complete the new leadership team. We are deeply grateful to our outgoing CEO, Lucy Perman, for the drive and vision she has brought to the company over the past 21 years. It is through her leadership that we have developed our new model for collaborating with some of our most exciting theatre makers to bring the voices of our Members to a wider audience in surprising and memorable ways.”
For more information about the Executive Director role and details of how to apply download the recruitment pack here.
To keep up to date with the latest Clean Break news make sure to sign up for our newsletter to receive a monthly update.
Miriam Nabarro is a celebrated photographer and theatrical designer, and one of 100 artists working on the Processions project. She’s teaming up with Clean Break, the London College of Fashion and choreographer Annie-Lunnette Deakin- Foster to create a banner and performance as part of a celebration of the centenary of women’s suffrage in June.
We interviewed her about her work on the project.
Why did you want to take part in Processions?
Processions 2018 is such an exciting opportunity to create a unique piece of art together with the members of Clean Break and to be part of the much larger mass participation event that will take place on June 10 in London, Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh. As a community artist I am passionate about collaborative art making as well as about suffrage and having the right to vote.
Processions is both the chance to celebrate the centenary of the Representation of the Peoples Act, and to protest at the ongoing exclusions which mean that the most vulnerable in society remain silenced- prisoners, those with mental health issues, refugees and new arrivals, 16-18 year olds, the homeless and survivors of domestic violence.
Together we will be referencing the craftivist movement to make a beautiful banner while drawing on the unique lived experience of the members to give voice to those still without the vote. I’m greatly looking forward to working with the London College of Fashion and with Annie who will choreograph.
What is it like to work with Clean Break specifically?
Vibrant, inspiring, direct, honest, humbling. The Clean Break members are profoundly articulate and creative in expressing urgent political realities of our time and I’m honoured to be working with them. There will be stiff competition as the other 99 artists and organisations in Processions are amazing but I’m excited to see what we manage to create!
What do you hope to elicit as a response to your work?
Awareness of the lack of suffrage for prisoners, those affected by mental illness and survivors of domestic violence: the strength, creativity and courage of Clean Break as members and an organisation, and hopefully some wit and humour too!
Are there any other upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?
I’m an associate artist with 20 Stories High in Liverpool, and we are touring our showBLACK around ´cultural cold spots’ in the North West, as well as touring our BBC Live film I Told My Mum I was going on an RE TRIP to film festivals in the UK and beyond. I am working with Art Refuge UK in Calais on a new project, and will exhibit a solo show of cyanotypes Exposed by the sun, washed out by the sea in Paris in Autumn.
We can’t wait to see the finished piece! - watch this space for an upcoming interview with Annie-Lunette Deakin-Foster.
April 2018 marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and Clean Break is utilising its voice to become an agent of change.
The theme of this year’s activity is “Embrace Your Voice”, a subject that places importance on words having power in bringing about constructive change in ending sexual assault. We want to use our voice to shine a light on women involved in the criminal justice system and their experiences with sexual assault, remembering that many of these women have experienced a traumatic and abusive past.
How are women in Prison affected by sexual assault?
“How can everybody expect me to be humane when I am treated inhumanely?”
It is evident that the worsening conditions of female prisons and the continued cutbacks have contributed to the decline in the emotional stability of women in prison. It is most important to say that many of these women involved in the criminal justice system were victims of domestic violence and 53% stated they had experienced childhood abuse. These factors are not considered in a system designed for men. Standard procedures such as supervised bathroom trips can often trigger re-traumatisation.
How does Clean Break explore these issues on stage?
The issue of sexual abuse is so common amongst women who have been involved with the criminal justice system, that it has been inevitably featured in many Clean Break plays over the years. Dream Pill by Rebecca Prichard is one such play. Commissioned as part of Clean Breaks Charged season, the piece explored the lives of two Nigerian girls, trafficked to the UK and forced into prostitution. The girls face horrendous abuse, finding escape through their interactions with the audience and their dream pills.
“TUNDE enters. Her dress is ripped and her face is smudged and bruised”.
The play provides an insight into the sorts of violence that many women involved in the criminal justice system have faced, this violence is both physical and emotional. In many cases it leads to their involvement in criminal activity, as well as drug and alcohol abuse. The entrance of substances as a coping mechanism is a key theme explored through Dream Pill, “Did he bring your pill?”.
Many of these women's actions are a direct result of the violence they have faced in their lives. We must take the necessary action, share our own stories and use our voices for others who are not heard, to ensure that these women become survivors and not forever labelled victims.
If you need help or advice about any of the issues addressed in the blog, please contact Rape Crisis to find information and resources.
hashtags : #EmbraceYourVoice, #SAAM