We are delighted to announce that we have received a Tonic Award for our dedication to changing women’s lives through theatre and our commitment to new writing.
The Tonic Awards are a celebration of the achievements of game-changing women in theatre and the performing arts, and significant organisations, projects and productions that redefine the role of women in the performing arts, both on and off stage. 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.
Clean Break member and Shakespeare Trilogy performer Jenifer Joseph presented the award to Lucy Perman, who was joined at the event by event by Róisín McBrinn Clean Break’s Head of Artistic Programme, Anna Herrmann Head of Education, Writer in Residence Natasha Marshall, and Member Sarah-Jane Dent.
Lucy Perman commented:
“This award is a brilliant recognition of all the hard work of everyone who has been involved with Clean Break over the past 40 years, and of the work that is happening with the industry to push for real change. It’s been a fantastic opportunity for us to look back over all the company has achieved and move forward into what is set to be a very exciting anniversary year in 2019.”
Other recipients honoured at the event were Emma de Souza, Waking the Feminists, The Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester, Steffi Holtz and Gina Abolins, Kully Thiarai, Lyn Gardner, Caryl Churchill and Katie Mitchell.
Clean Break is excited to announce Thick As Thieves.
This tense revealing play explores what it means to care for one another and asks who, in a time of increasing disconnect, we expect to look after us. Thick As Thieves reunites director Róisín McBrinn with playwright Katherine Chandler after the success of their acclaimed production Before It Rains.
This production is co-produced with Theatr Clywd and will be performed there 11-27 October. Watch this space for tour details!
Ticket sales for Thick As Thieves at Theatr Clywd go live 9 April and can be booked here.
Our young women’s theatre group, Brazen has created a podcast which looks at what it means to belong. Through a mixture of interviews, personal writing, performances and discussion, the Young Theatre Artists use the podcast to delve into the often tough subject of youth loneliness to discover how important it is to feel as if you belong to something bigger than yourself.
The Podcast was created in collaboration with the Roundhouse, who hosted an intensive day with their digital, online media and radio teams to create Belong. Through the process of creating the podcast Brazen aimed to learn about other young people’s experiences, help young people realise how common loneliness is, and get people talking.
The podcast was created as part of a project connected to the Youth Loneliness Network which was started and funded by The Co-operative Foundation, after their own research revealed that in 2016 32% of 16 to 24 year-olds reported to feel lonely ‘often’ or ‘always’. As part of the project the Young Theatre Artists have already spent an intensive week devising a theatre performance which looks at the effect of loneliness upon young people. They also took part in a series of workshops with tutor Anne Langford to develop a short performance piece which is to tour schools in order to raise awareness and initiate discussion around youth loneliness, this will then be followed by a 50 minute workshop in which attendees can further explore the subject of youth loneliness. The project will be rounded up by a panel event which will be devised and presented by Brazen and will look at their learning over the course of the project and celebrate their achievements.
To find out more about upcoming Clean Break projects sign up for our newsletter.
Selin Sun is currently undertaking a volunteer placement with us as part of her Arts Marketing Module at London Metropolitan University. We asked her to share her experience of volunteering in an arts organisation as part of Student Volunteering Week.
Volunteering as a student really allows you to understand what the world of work is like from how to communicate with your colleagues, to giving you an insight into what you want to do when you leave education. I am at a stage in my degree where I am fortunate to be given many opportunities that are helping me to discover where I want to focus my career.
During my second semester we were offered a choice between two modules, Marketing in the Arts and Directing. I chose marketing as it was something that appealed to me because I wanted to learn how to use social media to present a company to a large scale audience. When choosing marketing we were given the opportunity to apply to volunteer at Clean Break. I decided to go for it, because after reading about what Clean Break do as a company I felt it really fed into my ideas that everyone in society should be treated equally regardless of your gender, sexuality or past circumstances. The experience they provide to the members here becomes a life changing one and the outcomes Clean Break achieves are really empowering. I have felt that this is especially important now, during a year which has seen national movements such as #MeToo and the 100 year anniversary of suffrage, we are seeing women come closer together and standing as one, raising their voices to achieve equality in all shapes and forms.
Volunteering with the Clean Break marketing team has really opened my eyes to the efforts and strategies that are involved when working with technology. I am thankful that I have had the chance to work here as a volunteer because it has taught me skills I never thought I would learn such as scheduling social media posts and finding relevant content that not only supports the messages I want to put out but inspires the thoughts and opinions of others. During my time here I’ve learned things that I can take away with me to assist me for the rest of my module and in my career if I want to continue into marketing in the arts.
From an outside perspective I assumed social media was easy to manage but seeing how hard these women work and the amount of effort they put into every detail of this company has really opened my eyes. Because of everything I have done and everyone I have spoken to during my placement it has positively impacted me in a sense that I am more understanding of how theatre companies run and how dedicated everyone is to making the wheels of this machine turn.
“Volunteering is a great way to gain experience and skills for your future career, so we always welcome students who want to gain experience within an arts organisation. As well as the brilliant career benefits volunteering also has many other advantages like; making new friends, feeling valued and being part of a community.” - Samantha McNeil Clean Break Volunteer Coordinator
For more information on volunteering opportunities at Clean Break check our About Us page or email Samantha.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clean Break are taking part in PROCESSIONS a mass participation artwork which celebrates 100 years since the Representation of the People Act, a bill which allowed some women to vote for the first time. Clean Break will be joining 100 organisations and communities who will create banners to celebrate the centenary.
As part of the march one hundred women artists have been commissioned to work with these groups and we are delighted to announce that we will be working with the brilliant and inventive Miriam Nabarro.
Miriam is a London based artist, theatre designer and photographer. Her theatre practice is often politically and socially engaged, including Palace of the End (Royal Exchange/ Traverse, Winner of the Amnesty International Freedom of Speech Award 2009), The Great Game: Afghanistan (with Pamela Howard) for The Tricycle/US tour, Dr Korczaks Example (Royal Exchange, Best Studio Production 2008), and most recently The Broke’n'Beat Collective and The Welcoming Party (both TheatreRites), and the critically acclaimed I Told My Mum I was Going on an RE Trip (Contact/ BAC/ 20 Stories High/ BBC Live), Black, She’s Leaving Home and Tales from the MP3 (all for 20 Stories High, where she is Associate Artist). Miriam has worked extensively as a community artist and aid worker, running creative arts programmes for children affected by conflict in DRC, Sudan, Eritrea, Kosova, Syria and Georgia. She is the first Artist in Residence at SOAS, University of London, and continues her practice as visual artist, theatre practitioner and educator.
PROCESSIONS takes place on 10th June and will see women and girls in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London walk together as part of this celebratory mass participation artwork. Wearing either green, white or violet, the colours of the suffrage movement, the PROCESSIONS will appear as a flowing river of colour through the city streets.
PROCESSIONS is commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary and produced by Artichoke. With support from the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, and from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
“Every hug, every time he needs me and I’m not there, every time he’s scared..."
These are the words of a mother in prison in a new film Keeping Mum, commissioned by Barnardo’s and researched, developed and created by York St John University Prison Partnership Project in association with Clean Break. Keeping Mum was based on extensive research, including time spent working with and listening to the experiences of mothers at HMP Askham Grange.
Keeping Mum highlights how the imprisonment of women with children can often feel as much of a punishment for the children as it is for the mother, especially considering that, depending on the familial circumstances, a mother can sometimes serve a whole sentence without seeing her children. The reflections in the film also highlight how the strain of living without their Mum for extended periods of time can affect a child’s mental health as well as their relationships with other family members.
Keeping Mum was conceived and creatively produced by Rachel Conlon, (Senior Lecturer in Applied Theatre at York St John University and Director of the Prison Partnership Project), performed by Clean Break actors, co-directed by Imogen Ashby, formally our Head of Engagement and was written by playwright Laura Lomas who we worked with on the 2016 B!RTH Festival submission These Four Walls and our production Joanne.
If you would like any further information on the project please contact Rachel Conlon from York St John University - email@example.com.
'So. One day, a woman, a woman like me, stepped out of her life… And no one knows why’
These lines are from Missing, the end of year production by the students of Clean Break’s Performance Level 2 class. The play was devised collaboratively with playwright in resident, Deborah Bruce and inspired by a news story about a woman called Carly who disappears and then reappears. It’s an enigmatic play which asks as many questions as it answers, fitting given Clean Break’s mission to ask difficult questions and provoke debate about how women are oppressed in society and in the criminal justice system in particular. The request to take part in this debate is made directly to the play’s audience. As they enter the performance space they’re met by the talented cast who look intently at them and ask ‘Are you Carly?’ or ‘Have you seen Carly?’
The play is highly stylised, made up of dislocated scenes of fragmented memories. Much of it is spoken by the cast in chorus and at other times different women take it in turn to play Carly and portray what might have happened to her. The effect is disorientating and that’s the point. As one member of the cast put it – ‘the play’s meant to make your head spin, this woman lost her mind and as a cast and as a team we wanted to look at why and how that happened.’
Carly is both the central character in the play - a woman working as an agency cleaner who discovers something shocking - and a symbolic character voicing the struggle of so many women to be allowed to define who they want to be. The universality of the play’s message is clearly set out by the cast in the opening lines of the play as in turn and in seven different languages they say, ‘I am Carly’.
Watching the play and hearing from the cast afterwards, it’s clear that the experience of creating it has been profound for all involved. Asked on stage by Laura McCluskey, the Director, what they’ve gained from the process, the bravely honest answers of each cast member almost sound like an extension of the script:
- The solidarity and generosity of the volunteers, the staff, but mostly us – has helped me so much, just coming into this room.
- Before coming in here, I was down there.
- Weren’t we all!
- My confidence and all that had gone out of the window.
- Being in an all women’s space first and foremost, the confidence and solidarity that brings. We’ve gone from strength to strength… we came up with this.
- Through the courses you grow a lot, it’s unexpected growth, but it’s quite healthy.
- It’s been a privilege.
Just before the end of Missing, Carly, or Sam as she’s now decided she is, reappears. The cast tells us:
- She was no longer missing
- Or maybe, she was missing but they knew where she was
- The question remained
- Was I who I felt I was, or who other people wanted me to be?
The play, quite rightly, doesn’t give its audience a comfortable resolution to Carly’s story, but its final lines are strong and hopeful. Echoing, but altering the opening lines of the play, the cast change from being Carly, to being themselves and in turn state:
- I am Nicole
- I am Jo
- I am Hester
- I am Blue
- I am Nadine
- I am River
- I am Kim
- I am Emily
- I am Tina
- I am Beverly
- I am Viola
Missing intertwines the stories of Carly, of countless women across the world, and of the group of women at Clean Break who created it together. The most important thing about it, is perhaps best summed up by one of the cast who said - ‘When I first came to Clean Break lots of things were going on which resulted in me having lost my sense of reality – this process helped me to get it back.’
Beth is a freelance arts and social change practitioner with a particular interest in the performing arts. She has worked extensively with refugees and migrants and also in the arts and criminal justice. In 2012 she was part of the team that set up the Women on the Move Awards to recognise and celebrate inspirational migrant and refugee women who make an outstanding contribution to UK society. She is also a portrait photographer.
To find out more about the Clean Break education programme and future performances sign up to our newsletter for a monthly update.
Clean Break is very sad to announce the death of its longstanding employee Helen Pringle, Head of Finance and Senior Producer with the company since 2001. Helen passed away peacefully on 14 May following a long period of living with cancer.
"Helen was much admired and much loved, and is dearly missed by the Clean Break team and the family of women theatre artists in and around the company. She dedicated so much of her working life to Clean Break and was actively involved right up to a few weeks ago. She leaves a great legacy and strong memories of her passion for making theatre and for making a difference to the lives of women affected by the criminal justice system."
Lucy Perman, Executive Director
A group of Clean Break writing students have taken part in a brand new project with the Almeida Theatre.
Figures of Speech is a series of films which see acclaimed actors read great speeches from history. The films aim to create a wider platform on what leadership means and analyse the power of the spoken word in the present.
Clean Break writing students were invited to watch Fiona Shaw read Virginia Woolf’s Shakespeare’s Sister, part of the essay A Room of One’s Own, and feedback their opinion in a reaction video.
Our students shared their own experiences in finding creative spaces as women in the 21st Century and critiqued Woolf’s original essay drawing comparison with the current political climate.
“It would be really nice if leaders saw their role as kind of, midwives; to help a community articulate itself.”
The Figures of Speech films, plus additional materials which look at the theme of leadership can be found at speech.almedia.co.uk.
Today our education programme launches Clean Break's Theory of Change. Developed over a number of years, the document examines the path of our work from needs to activities to outcomes to impact.
The document came about through a desire for us to better understand and articulate our work and demonstrate a clear link between the activities we do and the outcomes and impact we aim to achieve.
Anna Hermann, Head of Education at Clean Break comments "the process of analysing our activities and identifying the intermediate outcomes has been hugely valuable".
She went on to say; "It is important to view this document as one which articulates our understanding of what we do and how we measure our success at this moment in time. Our work will not stand still."
To view the complete document click here.
We're excited to report that we have been awarded second place in The Big Give's Christmas Challenge Awards. We won this prestigious award because of the creativity of our campaign and the ways in which we engaged with our donors. Many thanks to all of you who spread the word and gave to the campaign - your support funded our four specialist courses for women with mental health needs for a whole year!
We’re delighted to announce the appointment of our incoming Head of Artistic Programme: Charlotte Gwinner. She will be with Clean Break until January of 2018 while Róisín McBrinn is on maternity leave. Charlotte was a founding member and the artistic director of Angle Theatre has held associate director positions at The Bush Theatre and Liverpool’s Everyman and Playhouse Theatres. She received a Peter Brook Award for her work with Angle Theatre in 2009, and the Quercus Award for Theatre Directors 2013.
Charlotte commented: "Clean Break is an inspiration in life and art; its unique combination of artistic excellence and social change gives it a far reaching relevance. I am thrilled to be able to join its inspirational team, consolidating on Roisin McBrinn's excellent and diverse programme of new work, at this time of acute political uncertainty."
Charlotte's time at Clean Break will be spent primarily in developing the large number of commissions we are currently engaged with, and working closely with our stable of playwrights to create a programme of plays for production in 2018. The company is pleased to welcome her into this vital role.
The Ministry of Justice announced today that a record 119 people have killed themselves while in custody in the last year, a devastating statistic. Overcrowding, and the cutting of staff numbers in addition to a lack of emphasis on mental health support have made the UK's prisons an unsafe place to be. It seems incredible that 10 years have passed since Baroness Corston made her recommendations for reform of the women's prison estate in The Corston Report, and in the face of such overwhelming evidence supporting her findings, so little has been done.
It has also been more than six years since celebrated playwright Chloë Moss, responding in part to the Corston Report, and inpartnership with Inquest wrote Fatal Light as part of Clean Break's Charged. In the playwright's own words:
"Something that came up a lot during the research process for writing Fatal Light was that, although prison sentences are often utterly devastating to the families of women in prison, there was an assumption that at the very least, their loved ones would be safe inside. Even though prison was the last place that their sister, mother, daughter should be, they trusted that they couldn’t come to any harm. That’s clearly not the case at all. The vulnerable are constantly being criminalised for having mental health problems.
The Corston report (a review of women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system) was published in March 2007, following the deaths of six women at HMP Styal in just over twelve months. Four years later, there has been slow progress in implementing its recommendations for the sentencing and treatment of female prisoners. There are still so many cases of women who’ve spent their lives dealing with mental health problems and abuse, who are then incarcerated miles from families, support networks… their kids. Prison is the final straw for them.
The subject matter of Fatal Light is bleak of course, but that’s because the reality of the situation is bleak and therefore it’s hugely important to tell these stories and to question why deaths in custody keep happening. I actually think the play itself is, strangely, quite hopeful. The piece plays backwards in time and ends with Jay in a positive situation. Starting with her death and working backwards serves to highlight how avoidable these tragedies really are."
We can only hope that perhaps with the stark figures released this week behind them, the recommendations made in the Corston Report will at last be recognised as urgent.
If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can find support with Women In Prison, a charity devoted to supporting the needs of women in prison, and Inquest a charity specialising in providing free advice to people bereaved by a death in custody.
Click here to download the 2016/7 prospectus and view our wide range of free courses.
This week we celebrated with our students as they graduated from a variety of courses completed this term. The certificates were handed out by long-term friend of the company Zawe Ashton, who said
“[I am] Always proud to be involved with Clean Break and your truly life-changing work.”
It’s been an exciting few months for graduates from our education programme.
One of our Make-Up for Theatre students has been offered a bursary by The London College of Fashion; three Clean Break graduates have completed their Masters in Applied Theatre at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama; a fourth has begun a BA in Applied Theatre, whilst a fifth has been offered a bursary onto their Acting Diploma. Two further students have been offered bursaries to the Rose Bruford Summer School in preparation for beginning undergraduate degrees there in autumn 2017. Huge congratulations to them all!
Our students can achieve a huge amount if they get the right support and our goal is always to reach as many women as possible. If you missed out on The Big Give, please don't be discouraged from giving: every donation, no matter what size, helps us work to transform women’s lives through theatre.
Click here to make a donation or call Emily Goodyer on 020 7482 8604 to discuss how your support can help the company.
We’re delighted to announce that thanks to the generosity of those who donated, as well as GMS Estates and The Reed Foundation who matched those donations, we not only hit our target of £15,000 but exceeded it! The grand total raised during The Big Give Christmas Challenge 2016 was £21,555, allowing us to completely fund our four specialist courses for women with mental health needs.
If you missed out on donating during the campaign, please don’t be discouraged: you can still support our work here – every donation, no matter what size, helps us work towards our goal of transforming women’s lives. An enormous thank you to everyone who shared the campaign, donated or told their friends!
We are excited to announce that Clean Break has been chosen to take part in the Big Give Christmas Challenge! We aim to raise £15,000 in support of women with mental health needs, providing them with specialist support, training and guidance to overcome barriers and achieve goals.
Thanks to GMS Estates and the Reed Foundation, every donation will be DOUBLED, making your support even more valuable for vulnerable women. A donation of £10 will be worth £20 to Clean Break, if you give £100 it will be an amazing £200 and a gift of £200 doubled will pay for a full place on our specialist courses.
Please put a reminder in your diary: the campaign begins at 12pm on 29 November 2016. Go to SUPPORT CLEAN BREAK to find out more.
The 2016 Longford Prize has been awarded to the Donmar Warehouse, Clean Break and York St John’s University’s Prison Partnership Project for work carried out over the last 4 years in women’s prisons and as part of the Donmar’s all-female Shakespeare Trilogy
Clean Break has worked alongside The Donmar Warehouse at each stage of its all-women, prison-set Shakespeare trilogy. All three productions have starred Clean Break patron, Dame Harriet Walter alongside performances from graduates of Clean Break’s education programme.
In this final year of the trilogy, Clean Break collaborates with the Donmar on a project that sees a group of young women working with both companies to explore the links between the lives of Shakespeare’s characters and the lives we live today, creating a brand new piece of theatre by blending Shakespeare’s text with their own words. The programme will climax by giving students an opportunity to perform their own original work on the Donmar stage on 2 December.
The Longford Prize recognises the contribution of an individual, group or organisation working in the area of penal or social reform in showing outstanding qualities in the following areas: humanity, courage, persistence and originality.
The Longford Prize is awarded annually by a prize committee on behalf of the trustees and patrons of the Longford Trust. From 2016, the prize winner will receive £5,000, thanks to sponsorship from The McGrath Charitable Trust, founded by Kevin and Kate McGrath. The awards' ceremony takes place as part of the annual Longford Lecture on Wednesday 16 November. The Longford Prize is organised in association with The Prison Reform Trust, for more information please visit www.longfordtrust.org.
Santa Claus has brought you a very merry early Christmas present: a huge discount when you book 5 days or more in our lovely studios between 15 December 2016 – 13 January 2017!
Celebrating Success was a research project commissioned by Clean Break in partnership with Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Funded in 2015 by CreativeVouchers, a scheme run by CreativeWorks London, the researchers, Dr Selina Busby and Dr Nicola Abraham, focused on the impact of Clean Break’s education programme on women entering the creative and cultural industries. The research was published in 2015 following a special photography exhibition, The Changing Face of the Arts, which was on view at the Free Word Centre July-October 2015. The exhibition featured a series of portraits of graduates involved in the research by artist Tracey Anderson.
We've so enjoyed working alongside The Donmar Warehouse at each stage of their fantastic, all-women, prison-set trilogy of Shakespeare. The productions star our patron, Dame Harriet Walter and feature performances from two graduates of our education programme, Jennifer Joseph and Sarah-Jane Dent.
In this final year of the trilogy, we're going one step further and collaborating with the Donmar on a side project. A group of young women will be working with both companies to explore the links between the lives of Shakespeare’s characters and the lives we live today, with a chance for everyone taking part to create a brand new piece of theatre by blending Shakespeare’s text with their own words. The programme will climax by giving students an opportunity to perform their own original work on the Donmar stage on 2 December!
We're excited to see the results of this fantastic project!
Our purpose built studios are centrally located just off Kentish Town Road. The four versatile spaces also benefit from a peaceful secluded outdoor patio garden area and kitchen facilities, and right now, we're offering 20% off for bookings this August. Bargain!
Click here for more details, including rates, amenities, and dimensions for each studio.
To make a booking, please contact Clean Break on
020 7482 8600 or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Clean Break is pleased to be taking part in B!RTH Festival, a global festival of theatrical provocation and debate.
The festival will present an exciting and varied programme at the Royal Exchange over the four days of B!RTH from 19 - 22 October, 2016. Headlined by 7 commissioned plays from 7 leading female playwrights from across the globe (Kenya, India, China, Syria, UK, USA and Brazil) the festival will also host a series of debates with experts from the world of science, art, academia, politics and charities, as well as an incredible programme of supporting events.
Clean Break is excited to contribute a rehearsed reading of These Four Walls by Laura Lomas on 20 October. The play examines what it's like for mothers who are in prison, and deals with their experiences of separation, loss and loneliness with sensitivity and humour. It will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Mahala McGuffie, Governor of HM Prison Styal, and chaired by director Roisin McBrinn.
Clean Break was overwhelmed when the cast of Henry V at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park decided to do something different with their cards and gifts money.
Two of Henry V’s leading actresses, Michelle Terry (playing Henry V) and Charlotte Cornwell (playing Chorus) are old friends of Clean Break and reached out to us to make a generous offer - that instead of buying the cast and company the usual first night cards and gifts, they would donate that money to us - raising about £400! They also invited a group of Clean Break students to come and meet the cast of Henry V to be presented with the cheque, and stay to see Monday night's performance. Our students were delighted to see this fantastic show!
Thank you again to everyone at Henry V and the Open Air Theatre!