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
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.email@example.com.
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 - firstname.lastname@example.org.
'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!