In November 2020 we celebrated the launch of our archive at the Bishopsgate Institute, London, with an online event called Efemera: The Origins and Survival of Clean Break Theatre Company.
Clean Break’s Chair, Alison Frater was joined by our Founders, Jacqueline Holborough and Jenny Hicks; theatre artist, Paula Varjack; Clean Break Member, Ann Whitely; Joint Artistic Director, Anna Herrmann; and researcher, Dr. Sarah Bartley to discuss the founding years of the company and how the archive is now being used to shape the present and future of Clean Break. The event included artistic and academic work inspired by the archive and offers real insight into the foundations of Clean Break as well as the lives of women with lived experience of the criminal justice system. We are thrilled to release the recording of the event as a rich resource for anyone interested in our story and the fields of arts and criminal justice, and to mark this next stage of our history.
The archive encapsulates 40 years of Clean Break’s work including playtexts, interviews, original art work, and letters, all paying tribute to the radical history of the company. It can be accessed at the Bishopsgate Institute in London and will be the subject of an exhibition at Swiss Cottage Gallery in Summer 2021.
The Big Give Christmas Challenge 2020 has been an incredible success thanks to the support from our amazing Clean Break family and friends – new and old!
In just one week, you helped to raise a phenomenal £31,677 which will enable us to support vulnerable women to Respond, Rebuild and Recover from the devastating impacts of Covid-19.
This generosity is already making a difference. We have been able to deliver care packages to our Members in time for the festive break. These packages are focused on care and relaxation and include vital items such as; protective face masks, essential toiletries, diaries and food vouchers for the festive period.
“It makes me feel like I haven’t been forgotten. That somebody does care for me…it just makes me feel special.” Clean Break Member
Thank you to everyone who has made this possible!
This year Clean Break is taking part in the Big Give Christmas Challenge, raising vital funds to address the inequalities that Covid-19 has exacerbated for our Members.
The pandemic is presenting us with a new, unknown and frightening world to navigate. There is an increased risk that vulnerable women will suffer from isolation, domestic violence, poor nutrition, a deterioration in mental and physical health, and relapse into drug and alcohol abuse. There is often a knock-on effect on the children and families of these women. Without the necessary support mechanisms in place, women and their families will struggle to rebuild their lives and recover.
With you help we will be able to deliver tailored, creative support to our Members including; one to one support, care packages focusing on self and family care, creativity and nutrition; health and wellbeing workshops and technical support for those struggling with digital world. All designed to provide our Members with the skills to develop self-confidence, resilience, minimise anxiety and create long term positive, health habits.
Please help us support more women to stay safe during lockdown and rebuild and recover from the impact of this ever-changing world.
With many thanks to our Champion Funder, Monday Charitable Trust, our Pledge Donors and our Patron Zawe Ashton.
Sonya joined Clean Break as a Member in 2011. She wrote a short play for the company in 2013, HOURS TIL MIDNIGHT, and was given a full length commission the same year. She performed in MEAL TICKET for Clean Break at Latitude Festival in 2014 and her play, BLIS-TA, is currently being made into an audio drama.
Sonya was such an inspiration to all of us at Clean Break. Beyond her brilliance as a writer, Sonya’s kindness, good humour and compassion touched many of us and she became a vital part of the Clean Break family – for staff, Members, Board and artists. We know that the friendships she formed in those early days of joining the company, walking alongside other women in recovery, sustained her and many of her peers over the past decade. She showed us all how to heal and affirmed the power of theatre and our imaginations in this process.
Even throughout her illness, Sonya had a resolute compassion for others – she wrote prolifically about women in prison during lockdown, wanting their stories to be heard and seen. To this end she was an amazing advocate for widening representation in theatre – and ensuring that stories from the margins are propelled centre stage. We will continue this work with Sonya in our hearts.
She will be hugely missed.
Our thoughts are with all those closest to her, especially with her son Fred, at this painful time.
Rest in Peace Sonya
The Applied Theatre Reader brings together new case studies of practice by leading practitioners in Applied Theatre and academics in the field and beyond.
This new edition covers the breadth of applied theatre practice with essays on playback theatre, digital technology, work with indigenous practitioners, inter-generational practice and school projects. Contributors come from across the UK and world including South America, Australia and New Zealand.
Clean Break was asked to contribute a chapter and chose to focus on the ethics of representation when making public facing work about the experiences of women in prison. Joint Artistic Director, Anna Herrmann worked with Prof Caoimhe McAvinchey, who has been a long-term supporter and researcher of Clean Break, on the chapter. They brought the creators of Inside Bitch on board to talk about the process of making the play as collaborators—some of whom had lived experience of prison and others who did not.
In the article you’ll hear from Lucy Edkins, Jennifer Joseph, TerriAnn Oudjar, Jade Small, Deborah Pearson and Stacey Gregg about the project alongside critical writing about Clean Break’s practice.
Clean Break has two articles focusing on its work in Prison Writing and the Literary World: Imprisonment, Institutionality and Questions of Literary Practice. The book tackles international prison writing and writing about imprisonment from a literary and critical perspective. It offers scholarly essays exploring prison writing in relation to wartime internment, political imprisonment, resistance and independence creation, regimes of terror, and personal narratives of development and awakening that grapple with race, class and gender.
This first essay about Clean Break is by Prof Caoimhe McAvinchy from Queen Mary University on Clean Break’s Theatre of Necessity. The second is by Joint Artistic Director, Anna Herrmann; Playwright, Deborah Bruce; and Clean Break Member, Clare Barstow who participated in Clean Break’s participated in many theatre-writing workshops in prison. This article focuses on Clean Break’s theatre-writing workshops in prisons, focusing on the aims and challenges of working in a prison setting. The different perspectives in the article aim to heighten the understanding of the transformative power of writing in prison settings. It showcases the healthy and nurturing culture of Clean Break’s work where women are valued for what they bring, where they are inspired with hope and creativity, and are treated with respect.
Today, Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labour Party and local MP for Holborn & St Pancras, visited Clean Break to celebrate the re-opening of our building for our Members. Located in Keir’s constituency, our building is a vital centre for support, connection and creativity for the vulnerable women with whom we work.
During his visit, Keir met Joint Artistic Directors Anna Herrmann and Róisín McBrinn and watched Clean Break Members Jade, Funke and Posy, filming Sweatbox, a play whose nationwide tour was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Keir Starmer: “It is great to be at Clean Break to see them welcome back their Members.
“Much of the focus on the arts during this pandemic has rightly been on the huge financial challenges facing the sector. It’s also important to remember the huge impact that this period has had on people’s wellbeing, and I know that Clean Break and other theatre companies have been very eager to get started again.
“I am very glad that Clean Break have been able to re-open safely so they can continue with their important work.”
Clean Break Member: "It's been more than 6 months since lockdown and I was very worried that maybe I wouldn’t be able to go out again... but today when I came back to Clean Break I kind of felt like, oh yeah I can do this. It’s given me hope."
Róisín McBrinn and Anna Herrmann, Joint Artistic Directors: “Lockdown has been particularly trying for our Members, many of whom have been impacted by the negative effects of poor mental health, isolation, impoverishment and a lack of access to technology. Our priority has been to respond to our Members’ needs, with care packages, weekly phone calls, and online theatre programmes. But they deeply missed the lifeline that Clean Break provides. It is so important to us all to be back in the building together and we are thrilled Keir could join us at this time.”
Photo credit: Olivia Chancellor
We had a number of strong applications, and both Kei and Esther showed such passion and commitment to pursuing a career in theatre and the arts, demonstrating clearly how this Award will support them with their next steps, that we decided to make them joint winners! We wish them all the best with their chosen studies and look forward to seeing them develop as artists with support from their mentors across the year.
Esther and Kei will both be taking up further education courses with the bursary, established to continue Helen’s profound belief that women with a criminal record, women facing discrimination, women living in poverty, and women with mental health needs or in recovery from addiction should have opportunities to become part of the theatre industry.
Esther said: “I feel so honoured to have been one of the first to be blessed with such an opportunity and I am very grateful to Clean Break for all their support with helping to nurture my talent and for standing by me through thick and thin. From the bottom of my heart I want to say a massive THANK YOU to Clean Break for choosing me to give the Helen Pringle Award to.”
Kei said: “Thank you Helen. Thank you Clean Break. I will receive the award with great appreciation, and make it as an opportunity for me to be able to shine.”
The award was judged by a panel of Clean Break staff and Helen’s daughter, Ashley:
“Clean Break was introduced to me through my mum and I am now so honoured to help introduce who she was to others. No words will ever describe how proud I am to be her daughter and of the work she did that was never just a job, but a passion she held. I know that she would want nothing more than for her legacy to be used to further advance and support other women.”
We hope that this will be the first of many opportunities for our Members to extend their creative practise and for Clean Break to support the next steps on their journey.
[BLANK] has been shortlisted for the James Tait Black Award for Drama 2020. The £10,000 prize is awarded to playwrights and celebrates new plays that demonstrate "an original theatrical voice and make a significant contribution to the art form". More than 80 entries were submitted for the 2020 award, the highest number of submissions since the award was established in 2012.
Clean Break and the Donmar Warehouse co-produced [BLANK] in Autumn 2019 to a sell-out run and rave reviews. Written by Alice Birch and directed by Maria Aberg the production was an experimental mosaic of 60 scenes of women and children effected by the criminal justice system. The scenes were selected from a compilation of 100 scenes illustrating fragments of the criminal justice system Alice Birch wrote after her time as resident writer with Clean Break. The offer to a director or production was to choose as many or as few scenes in order to construct their own narratives and make sense of the sprawling impact of the criminal justice system on the lives of women and children.
This year’s shortlist of 3 plays were all written by women. Also shortlisted is Yasmin Joseph, with her hit-play J’Ouvert which premiered last year at Theatre503 exploring the culture and politics of Notting Hill Carnival. Yasmin worked with Clean Break earlier this year when she created Inside This Box for the Young Artist Development Programme, which was then produced at the Clapham Omnibus and Arcola Theatres before a limited digital run in July.
The judging panel’s chair, Greg Walker, who is Regius Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature at Edinburgh, said: "This year’s astounding shortlist works with timely themes in exciting and fresh new ways. When considering the award, we ask our judges to nominate dramas that make them look at life a little differently, and this year’s James Tait Black nominees more than fit the bill in this challenging year.”
The winner will be announced in September, via an online ceremony.
Our building in Kentish Town is more than a collection of offices and studios. For our Members, staff and artists, it is a safe haven and the centre of a vital community. Many of our Members have been vocal about how much they miss being together at Clean Break. With knowledge of this and of the difference it will make to their mental health and overall wellbeing, we have been putting energy and resources into reopening our doors to ensure a safe welcome back for them. It is with great hope and optimism that we announce we will be opening the building (in a socially distanced manner) to commence a Members Programme of theatre making and support from mid-September.
Throughout the summer, we have been engaging with our Members and women attending women’s centres via an online Programme. We take some comfort in the fact that we have extended our reach through Zoom and Vimeo offers, delivered by our women artists, beyond what we have the capacity for in the building. However, we know that there is no substitute for human contact, laughing together in a real space and the offer of a shared meal. We also know and understand that not all our Members will be able to return safely or feel comfortable enough to do so, and will therefore, remain vulnerable and potentially isolated. And so, we will continue to offer online workshops alongside our activities in the building to ensure that no one is left behind. We will also be inviting new Members to get to know us before stepping inside our building by hosting online information sessions – dates will be announced soon.
We have been offered extraordinary support from our wider network of artists, Patrons and friends during lockdown. We want to say a huge thank you to all the volunteers who have worked on our Creative Buddy Scheme; to those of you who wrote messages of support to women in prison as part of WRITE 2 CONNECT; and to our phenomenal Patron Zawe Ashton and our friend Polly Frame who have both given hours of their time to mentor our young artists. Not to mention the brilliant Maxine Peake, who presented our BBC Radio 4 Charity Appeal in June and helped shine a light on the experiences of our Members and the vitality of our programme to many new listeners. And to our amazing funders and donors who have been flexible, generous and considerate during this period, we say a special thank you. The support has been overwhelming, particularly from ACE, National Lottery Community Fund and some of our loyal trusts and foundations. But the need for help continues as the pandemic brings new challenges to our Members, and our resolve to create life-changing theatre grows.
A few weeks ago we shared our response to the killing of George Floyd and also writings from our Members about the impact of racism on their lives. Since then we have facilitated a series of online conversations - Reflective Circles - where our Members have talked together about how they are impacted, what their experiences are at Clean Break and what they would like to see us doing moving forward. As part of a clear strategy to step up and be actively anti-racist across our programming and organisational structures, we are listening and implementing what we learn.
Amongst the things we had to cancel when lockdown started was our programme of workshops and training for those interested in our unique practice, developing new skills, and gaining a deeper understanding of our approach. We have reimagined these offers and will deliver courses online later this year. Watch this space for more details!
And what about our audiences? We miss you! We hope that some of you were able to catch INSIDE THIS BOX, our young artists production streamed online for one week in early July, brilliantly edited by our partners Eastside Film. We hope you have also caught up with the blogs by a few of the 24 artists on our 2 METRES APART project, who have been collaborating online and continuing to invest in what is so special about Clean Break - the alchemy of our Members and the women artists we work with. We look forward to sharing with you the legacy of these collaborations at a future point when we can enjoy live performance together again. To this end we are currently working hard to confirm new dates in 2021 for the rescheduling of TYPICAL GIRLS by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm. This big, bold show with songs, co-produced with Sheffield and Soho Theatres was originally planned for this Autumn.
Changes have been immense for all of us since March 2020; included in this was bidding goodbye and thanks to our outgoing chair Kim Evans and a big welcome to our new Chair Alison Frater. As lockdown eases, and we begin to come together again in small ways – Clean Break continues to be here for our Members and all women who need us, our community.
We look forward to reimagining new ways that we can continue to amplify the voices and stories of those who are often unheard. The need for our work is as vital now as it has ever been.
Erin, Anna and Róisín
Alison is an advocate for the transforming value of the arts in the criminal justice system, and writes on arts, health, and justice in the scientific, medical and general press. She is currently Chair of the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance, a trustee of Clinks and a member of the Transforming Lives Advisory Board, Prison Reform Trust. She is a visiting professor in the Department of Criminology and Sociology at Royal Holloway and a public health lead researcher on a probation based mental health study at UCL. Throughout her career, Alison has fought for women’s rights and held lead roles in public health working to tackle health inequalities. She’s been a senior leader in the voluntary and public sector, with positions including: Chief Officer at the Brook Advisory Centres; Director of Public Health in Bristol and in North Hampshire; Head of Public Health in NHS England (London).
Alison Frater: ‘Clean Break has reached out to connect with and raise women’s voices in the face of many crisis during an extraordinary journey to success as a leading-edge theatre company. As its new Chair, I know Clean Break will survive and thrive beyond the present pandemic. Theatre has sustained and changed me and I’m excited by the opportunity to stand alongside women who won’t be ignored and whose artistic and educational work inspires a personal and political agenda for change. The work of Clean Break reveals the causes of crime and the impact of a racially discriminating and moribund criminal justice system on individuals, their families and communities. I take very seriously the privilege of stepping into the shoes of previous extraordinary Chairs who’ve driven a fantastic mission to champion women’s lives and life chances through the advocacy and authenticity of theatre. I am especially grateful to Kim Evans who has been hugely welcoming and a great inspiration.’
Erin Gavaghan, Anna Herrmann, Róisín McBrinn - Clean Break’s leadership team: ‘We are delighted to welcome Alison as our Chair. We have had the pleasure of working with her over a number of years in her role as Chair of National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance and have witnessed her outstanding contribution to the Alliance as it has grown in stature, influence and ambition. She brings to Clean Break the inimitable combination of expertise in criminal justice, women’s issues and the arts, and we know that she shares our vision and our mission of a world where women are no longer criminalised but are able to fulfil their full potential. Alison has the tenacity, resolve and skillset as well as warmth and compassion which we believe will serve us well in the years to come post Covid-19, as we commit to rebuild better and differently.’
Alison takes up the position from 23 July, succeeding Kim Evans OBE who steps down from the role following eight years of service.
After 8 years of leading Clean Break, Kim Evans OBE is stepping down as our Chair. We have been incredibly lucky to have Kim at the helm for two terms, leading Clean Break through so many creative challenges and exciting moments.
‘Kim has been a phenomenal Chair. She has steered us through significant organisational change and an incredibly tough external climate, with care, expertise and commitment. Her combination of leadership experience, her membership of the Parole Board, and her strong values and feminist beliefs, have been a perfect match. Kim has championed diversity and inclusion throughout her time, and her personal commitment to this helped drive our Board in increasing its representation, importantly resulting in appointing Clean Break Members to be at the table and share power. She encouraged us take up space, be brave and ambitious, and it is testament to her leadership that we have achieved significant growth, profile and reach over recent years. We wish her all the best in her next pursuit and know that this is by no means a goodbye as she will continue to be a friend to, and champion of, the company as we move forward with resilience, confidence and strong values as her legacy.’
- Erin Gavaghan, Róisín McBrinn, Anna Herrmann
This week we are taking a moment to celebrate her considerable contribution to the company by sharing a short video featuring excerpts from her interview with former Chair, Rachel Wyndham Wincott recorded earlier this year at our studios. The full interview was originally recorded as part of our 40th anniversary heritage project and will be available as part of Clean Break’s archive at Bishopsgate Institute in London from Autumn 2020.
Video by Chloë Plumb
Maxine Peake will be presenting our Charity Appeal on BBC Radio 4.
Tune in on Sunday 21st June at 07:54 and 21:25 then again on Thursday 25th June at 15:27. Click here to listen.
In this current crisis the demand for Clean Break’s services has increased. This appeal will help us to raise vital funds to support our Members during this particularly difficult time; providing a support line, care packages and broadband devices to help women meet their essential financial, medical and social needs. They can also access the therapy and theatre courses which are now available online.
Our Presenter Maxine Peake
Maxine Peake is a stage, radio, film and television actress with many of her roles exploring the different facets of the criminal justice system. Here she shares why she supports Clean Break and believes in our work.
The appeal will be aired on Sunday 21st June at 07:54 and 21:25 then again on Thursday 25th June at 15:27. Click here to listen.
The appeal is now closed, but if you would still like to make a donation to support our work, please click here.
Clean Break is part of a sector-wide initiative to set up a Freelance Task Force, as outlined in the Open Letter to Theatre and Performance Makers.
The aim of the Freelance Task Force is to strengthen the influence of the self-employed theatre and performance community. It will create ongoing points of connection between freelancers, organisations, funders, and government and amplify the voice of the self-employed in the conversations to come about how we manage the response to and recovery from the Covid-19 crisis in the performing arts sector.
We are delighted to be working in partnership with Theatre Rites to support two freelance practitioners, on a part time basis, to be involved in the Freelance Task Force.
We wanted to make a clear statement about why we have not done an open call for applications.
At the time the scheme was announced, neither organisation felt we had enough funds to support a freelancer for the full 13-day commitment required by the Taskforce. However, at a late stage it transpired that a job share was an option and we joined forces with Theatre Rites who were in a similar position to us. We wanted to work with an artist who has worked with Clean Break before so she could speak to our Members as part of her network of engagement for the Taskforce. A very tight time frame, coupled with a majority-furloughed team meant that we were not able to share an open call with our artist pool, but instead decided to identify clear gaps in terms of freelancer roles within the existing Taskforce.
We are delighted to be involved in the scheme and hope to learn about how we can improve our working practice with freelancers in the future.
Since Clean Break had to close our doors, we have changed the way we support and engage with our Members. We have widened our networks and increased our reach, helping as many women as we can through this difficult time.
Clean Break is delighted to be taking part in the #TwoPointSixChallenge which has been launched this week to Save The UK’s Charities and we'd love to see all our incredible supporters, friends and family signing up to support us.
We’re asking you to take part in an activity of your choice based around the numbers 2.6 or 26 and fundraise or donate to support Clean Break via twopointsixchallenge.co.uk.
Think of an idea/challenge, set up a challenge donation page, ask friends and family to support you, and once you completed your challenge photograph yourself so Clean Break can celebrate with you!
1. Dream up your 2.6 challenge – there are ideas on the twopointsixchallenge.co.uk website
2. Head to twopointsixchallenge.co.uk to donate £26 – or whatever you can afford – to Clean Break or to set up a fundraising page
3. Ask all your friends and family to sponsor you and challenge them to do their own 2.6 Challenge
4. Complete your challenge
* The only requirement is that you must follow Government guidelines on exercise and social distancing. Most people are taking part from Sunday 26 April but you can do your activity whenever is most convenient for you.
If you have any questions or want to tell us you have signed up please contact Stephanie Cartwright on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07469 660855.
We are excited to announce that Clean Break Members will be taking part in The Lullaby Project in 2020.
In our first collaboration with the Irene Taylor Trust and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, this project will combine the best in music expertise, criminal justice intervention, and rehabilitation through the arts.
Participants in the project work with professional artists to write a personal lullaby for their children. They produce a high-quality audio recording which can work as a memento for parents and children, as well as helping to cement the bond between them.
In a safe, non-judgmental, creative environment, participants join together with other young people in similar situations. The process of writing lullabies is a great cathartic tool for parents, helping participants to use their creativity to express their own experiences, explore emotions, and reinforce their self-esteem.
Participants will build something beautiful and which speaks to them and their child on a personal level. Participating in The Lullaby Project is a brilliant opportunity for our members to give a voice to their feelings about parenthood, and find a creative outlet to give them strength, support, and intimacy with their child.
Parents with experience of the criminal justice system from Clean Break and Sounding Out will be performing on Tuesday 3 March, 2.30pm, in Angel. Click here to find out more.
As we bring our 40th year to a close, we asked Clean Break Members to put forward questions to two of our Patrons, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC and Dame Harriett Walter DBE, reflecting on the past four decades of women, theatre and criminal justice. The result is the below video in which the two discuss the culmination of the systematic failures that lead women to be incarcerated and the effect of theatre on the lives of those who rarely have their stories told.
We have spent 2019 looking back at what the past 40 years have meant for women in the criminal justice system and played a part in bringing the stories of these women to the stage, in a bid to change hearts and minds.
As we prepare for a new decade in a turbulent time for the UK we want to look forward and affirm that change is possible. We want to invite you to reflect, discuss and share how we can move forward and change women’s experience within the criminal justice system. We're asking you to #ImagineAnotherWay.
So for now, we ask that you watch the video and reflect on where we’ve been and what’s to come. We’ll be back in January with a provocation so that we can collectively #ImagineAnotherWay.
You guessed it - Clean Break is taking part in Big Give’s Christmas Challenge!
For one week only, every donation given to us between 12pm Tuesday 3rd December – 12pm Tuesday 10th December will be DOUBLED.
This year we want to raise £30k – and we need your help.
At Clean Break we have big plans for these donations: we want to deliver empowering theatre and intervention projects for women with lived experience of or at risk of entering the criminal justice system, as well as running workshops in women’s prisons. The money we raise this Christmas will supercharge the impact of our work.
Our work gives women affected by the criminal justice system their voice back. Women who engage with Clean Break’s programs come away feeling more confident, hopeful, and are able to express themselves. They produce vital theatre, and are able to tell their own stories, stories that help their audiences to understand the complex issues faced by women in the criminal justice system, and help to bring communities together.
So every pound you donate, matched by our generous match funders The Reed Foundation UK has the power to give more women a voice, amplify those voices, and bring those them into our theatres and community spaces.
We need your help to reach our target. Remember, whatever you can be generous enough to donate – we’ll get double! And once our brilliant community of supporters have come together and raised £15k, we’ll have smashed our target!
Any amount you can donate will have an amazing impact on our work in 2020.
Keep your eyes peeled on our website and social media on Tuesday 3 December for our Big Give Christmas Challenge launch!
We are delighted to announce a new programme of training sessions where attendees can learn more about elements of our work including; arts in the criminal justice system, trauma-informed practice, and the Clean Break ethos and methods of working.
Our training sessions include:
Safer Spaces - a one-day training course for theatre artists, criminal justice professionals and early career front line workers interested in developing their tool kit for working with young women in the criminal justice system and young women at risk of offending.
Staging Rehabilitation - a Clean Break masterclass in association with Geese Theatre Company. It is for theatre artists and criminal justice professionals interested in the specialised field of arts in the criminal justice system.
Rebel Voices - a monologue workshop for actors who want to explore unconventional characters and get support in their casting preparation.
Rewriting Justice - a one-day training course for theatre artists and emerging playwrights as well as criminal justice professionals with an interest in how to use playwriting with women in prisons and in community settings.
Unlocking Potential - a one-day training course for theatre artists, and early career group work facilitators interested in the art of creating safe and transformative women-only spaces. Drawing on the practice from our current Members Programme and former award-winning Education Programme, this day will provide participants with a rich toolkit to develop inclusive practice.
The Lab - a three-day intensive workshop for theatre artists interested in a more comprehensive, deeper engagement with our practice, encompassing both how we work with women to how we produce theatre for different audiences. The three days will incorporate working closely with Clean Break Members in a collaborative process which is central to how Clean Break fulfils its mission.
Rebel Voices, Unlocking Potential and The Lab are open to any participants who identify as a woman. All other courses are open to participants of any gender.
A limited number of bursary places are available to anyone who has had direct personal (not professional) experience of the criminal justice system. To apply for these, please write explaining your interest in the training event to email@example.com marking your email FAO Anna Herrmann.
If you would like to find out more about our training programme and book a session click here.
We are delighted to announce three new Trustees joining our exceptional Board as we continue our 40th Anniversary Year and beyond. The appointments include Shaen Gaber and Amanda Richardson, who have experience in the women’s and theatre sectors and are Clean Break Members; and Alison Jefferis, Head of Corporate Affairs at Columbia Threadneedle Investments, who has served on Clean Break’s Development Committee since 2014.
Shaen Gaber has worked with organisations including Advance Minerva and Women’s Trust, as a volunteer, mediator and ambassador. She recently graduated with a Psychology and Counselling Diploma from Birkbeck University and has been a Member of Clean Break since 2014. She commented; “I am passionate about social justice and encouraging women’s voices to be heard from every age and background. Clean Break gave me a voice and in my new capacity as a Trustee, I look forward to helping other women to grow and flourish and to find theirs.”
Alison Jefferis is Head of Corporate Affairs (EMEA, APAC) at global investment firm Columbia Threadneedle Investments, a member of the firm’s Talent Advisory and Culture & Conduct Advisory Groups, and Chair of Columbia Threadneedle Foundation. She has over 20 years’ experience in corporate philanthropy and has been a member of Clean Break’s Development Committee since 2014. She shared; “I’m delighted to join the Board of Clean Break, a thriving charity doing vitally important work, giving a voice and a platform to women whose stories are rarely heard. Clean Break is a courageous and caring organisation with its Members firmly at its heart, and I look forward to both learning from and contributing to its continued success.”
Amanda Richardson worked in the care sector before more recent customer service roles at The Koestler Trust and Southbank Centre, and volunteer work with projects at Talawa Theatre Company, The Place and Citizens Advice Bureau. As an actor, she has trained at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and been a Member of Clean Break since 2012. She told us; “I am committed to equal opportunities and to fighting discrimination. I am delighted that in my new role as Trustee of Clean Break, I will be able to help and engage with women involved with the criminal justice system, and those suffering with mental health and drug issues to lead more positive lives.”
Kim Evans OBE, Chair commented on the new appointments stating; “Clean Break’s Board is made up of an experienced and committed group of women from the theatre, criminal justice, women’s and financial sectors. We are delighted to have appointed Shaen, Alison and Amanda who each bring additional expertise to the Board and will help us ensure that the voices of our Members remain at the heart of the company’s work and governance.”
In 2016, over one hundred years after it first opened its gates, HMP Holloway said goodbye to its last female prisoner and closed the final chapter of a famously controversial history. It has since been sold for over £80m and will be levelled to make way for 1,000 new affordable homes. Until redevelopment begins, HMP Holloway remains a scar of the North London skyline, a reminder for many of a justice system which maligned and failed women. Within its now deserted corridors remain fragments of stories which will soon be lost to history, but which remain very much alive for the women who were once held there.
Earlier this year, five Clean Break Members who each served time in HMP Holloway, envisioned such possibilities in a collaborative short-film project with documentary film maker Clare Richards. Part of the London Festival of Architecture (LFA) and created by Ft’work in collaboration with Sarah Wigglesworth Architects, Without Walls explores the experiences of our Members in Holloway, the impact it has had on their lives and the tensions caused when social and physical boundaries collide. Giving a voice to those who are often marginalized and silenced by society, the project sought to involve women in the conversation surrounding penal reform and asks them to share their own ideas about how our criminal justice system could better support women who offend.
In a series of hard-hitting, poignant, and at times funny conversations, Members discuss the harsh realities of prison life; from the claustrophobia of confinement in shared cells, antagonistic staff, nauseating sounds, daily stampedes just to get clean and the debilitating effects that prison has on a person’s state of mind. Each woman shared the sentiment that confinement within prison has far more detrimental affects than positive, and that alternative rehabilitative systems must be put in place.
So, what is the alternative? Our Members, and other advocates for reform, such as Women in Prison, and the Prison Reform Trust, pose women’s centres as the logical answer. Women’s centres are a sensitive and holistic approach to rehabilitation, providing support for mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, and employment to break the cycle of deprivation and offending. A 2015 report by the Ministry of Justice found that rates of re-offending were reduced among women who had been given the support of a women’s centre, versus those who had not, while an impact study conducted by the Centre for Welfare Reform, discovered that all participants felt an improvement in their lives as a whole.
The case for women’s centres is clear. Holistic, trauma-informed approaches to female offending have far more positive results than our current carceral system. Yet with only 50 centres of this kind in the U.K, more investment is needed to ensure vulnerable women get the support they deserve. Women in Prison’s #OPENUP campaign is calling for the reduction of the women’s prison population and the creation of healthier, safer communities for all.
You can find out more about the Clean Break Member's programme here.
On Wednesday 26 June we will be joining Women in Prison’s mass lobby to mark one year since the publication of the Ministry of Justice’s Female Offender Strategy.
Attendees will be lobbying their MPs, asking them to make a commitment to; investing in, growing and supporting a specialist network of women’s centre’s, that enable women to address the root causes of offending in a supportive, non-judgemental environment. They will also be focusing on the need for £80m that our HM Treasury has received from the sale of the Holloway prison site to be invested into the delivery of the strategy.
Women in Prison will be using the Emmanuel Centre as their base for the day where there will be information and stalls about campaigns and organisations who work with women with experience of the criminal justice system. The day will culminate in a rally at 4pm, which will see several speakers including representatives from the Ministry of Justice.
If you’d like to find how your can get involved in the day, or how to lobby your MP click here for more information.
Our next Leadership event Activism, Women and Power brings together the founders and current leaders of both Clean Break and Southall Black Sisters as each organisation spend 2019 celebrating their 40th year. The event is a moment for both to reflect on what the past forty years has meant for each company, and what the current landscape means for the future of women and justice.
In preparation for this leadership event we took a moment to reflect on the last 40 years and asked both the founders and leaders of Clean Break and Southall Black Sisters to offer advice; from the past and to the future.
“The advice to Clean Break now is to always be aware to listen to the experience of the women who are experiencing or have experienced prison or the criminal justice system. Try, if you can, to let go of your own expectations of what you will hear and be prepared to be surprised or shocked. Then allow that to be included in your reality. To be aware of hierarchy and decision making, to always make this as inclusive as possible. Clean Break has always been a voice for women speaking out through the layers of patriarchy.”
“It has always been my belief that play and fun is a huge and important part of the healing power of art. Freeing the soul to explore and challenge and not being afraid to speak truth to power. Advice most helpful to us in 1979 would probably be to dare to dream and don't take no for an answer.”
“Questions of racism, class, sexuality/ heteronormativity, and disability are crucial to tackle in relation to gender/ patriarchal relations.
Racist and fascist politics of the far Right are on the horizon again and struggle against them central to feminist politics. These issues were as relevant in 1979 as they are today.”
“In many ways the thought of Clean Break being alive in 40 years’ time brings with it feelings of both dismay and delight. Dismay that we will still be needed - and that this will mean women will continue in the future to be silenced, marginalised and incarcerated rather than listened to, supported and treated justly. And delight that a such a powerful organisation will continue to be championing brilliant women, carving out space for justice and equality and making ground-breaking urgent theatre. To its future leaders I say let your dismay fire your passion - never settle for anything less than justice and always, always listen to those in our midst who know from having lived it first-hand. And treasure the joy of being the temporary custodians of something so very special.”
“If Southall Black Sisters were still in existence in 2059, I feel we would have failed. The whole point of our work is to demolish unequal economic, racist, sexist and patriarchal structures of our society. If those structures were to prove so unyielding, we would urge Southall Black Sisters to continue our struggle without submission to the powers that be, to devise legal and political strategies based on universal human rights values and a careful analysis of the chinks in state and community power.”
Activism, Women and Power takes place 15 May at the Sam Wannamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe.
Chaired by Dr Farah Karim-Cooper, the panel will explore the themes of justice facing women, the current context and the strategies both organisations have adopted to affect change and reclaim power.
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.