Clean Break celebrates four decades of creating ground-breaking theatre on women’s experience of the criminal justice system with its retrospective exhibition ‘I am a theatre’: 40 years of Clean Break Theatre Company.
Jacqueline Holborough and Jennifer Hicks, Co-Founders of Clean Break: “We were dreaming big in 1979, but in our wildest dreams and furthest travels we could not have envisaged the brilliant organisation that Clean Break has become thanks to the talent, love and sheer determination of so many magnificent women.”
The live exhibition takes place at Swiss Cottage Gallery from 24 June - 31 July 2021, with Covid-secure measures in line with the latest government guidelines. It features:
Alison Frater, Chair of Clean Break: "Since the beginning, Clean Break's advocacy through theatre and Member support has highlighted the policy perversity of imprisoning women - influencing a consensus by successive governments to reduce the rate of incarceration. The announcement of 500 new prison places for women, taking money from much needed community services and the failure to introduce measures to reduce violence against women and girls (yet removing the right to protest) in the draconian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, demonstrates that its work is still very much needed."
The exhibition has been curated by Claire Stone, Heritage Project Manager at Clean Break, and is co-designed by Miriam Nabarro and Liz Whitbread. Miriam Nabarro is a visual artist and scenographer with 25 years’ experience in socially engaged and participatory settings, both locally and internationally. Liz Whitbread is a Member of Clean Break who joined in 2012 and graduated in 2019 from Wimbledon UAL in Theatre Design. Their previous collaboration on a mobile exhibition inspired by the archive toured the UK alongside 2019’s Sweatbox, set inside a prison van, and has been re-imagined as an installation for this exhibition.
This exhibition is made possible by support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts and Humanities Research Council. This funding was received to celebrate Clean Break's 40th anniversary year, to document our heritage by: establishing a publicly accessible archive of our work at the Bishopsgate Institute; conducting oral history interviews; creating a digital timeline and exhibitions to share its story.
After a year of online engagement, we are thrilled to announce a season of live and digital events celebrating and reconnecting our community of Members, artists and audiences. From May, you'll have the opportunity to experience our plays through audio and film, an exhibition and digital timeline sharing our legacy, and live theatre in person
Blis-ta by Sonya Hale
Audio drama available from 18 May, on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher and Soundcloud.
Kat and Cherry meet on the streets. Kat is wily, funny, and fierce; Cherry is a lost dreamer. Blis-ta is the story of their adventures to survive as homeless girls and the transformative power of friendship.
Written by the late Sonya Hale, a Clean Break Member, this audio drama is a wild tale of resilience, hidden homelessness, the lengths women go to for survival. Blis-ta is directed by Róisín McBrinn, Joint Artistic Director for Clean Break, performed by Ambreen Razia and Ria Zmitrowicz, sound design by Helen Skiera and dramaturgy by Gillian Greer, with an introduction by Clean Break Patron, Lucy Kirkwood.
Book now for our panel event Women's homelessness: the issues, the solutions and the art
Find out more.
Sweatbox by Chloë Moss
Film streaming for free on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram from 8 June.
Three women sit in a prison van outside HMP Bronzefield, each caught up in their own worlds as they anticipate what’s next. Sweatbox offers a glimpse into the experience of women as they are pulled away from their lives and transported to prison.
Chloë Moss’s highly original Clean Break play has toured the UK in a prison van since its premiere at the Latitude Festival in 2015. It is transformed into an electric adaptation for the screen, performed by Clean Break Members Funke Adeleke, Jade Small and Posy Sterling with Sarah Jane Dent as the Prison Officer.
Book now for our online screening and panel discussion.
Find out more.
I am a theatre
at Swiss Cottage Gallery, 24 June – 31 July.
This exhibition celebrates Clean Break's 40-year history as a radical theatre company, documenting its heritage through previously unseen archival material and specially commissioned interviews and installations.
The 40-year retrospective will be co-designed by Miriam Nabarro and Liz Whitbread, a designer and Member of Clean Break. It will take place at Swiss Cottage Gallery in Camden—Clean Break’s home borough since the 1980s.
Alongside the exhibition, we will be launching a digital timeline on our website and an events programme of digital and live activity including a screening of the 1984 Channel 4 production of Clean Break co-founder Jacqueline Holborough’s play, Killers.
Booking will open on Wednesday 12 May.
Find out more.
Through This Mist
at Clean Break, limited run from 15 – 17 July.
As the world was in the grip of loss and loneliness last summer, Clean Break commissioned a group of leading female artists and Clean Break Members through its 2 Metres Apart project, bringing them together to take solace in collaboration and creativity. Through This Mist shares some of the outcomes of those unions and the beginning of a return to live performance.
Performed outside in Clean Break’s garden, this live performance features work created collaboratively by: Ayesha Antoine and Yvonne Wickham, Katherine Chandler and Nicole Hall, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and TerriAnn Oudjar, and Chloë Moss and Sarah-Jane Dent. It also features a song by Eddy Emenike and a short film by Deborah Bruce and Sarah Cowan, screened inside as part of this event.
Spaces are limited for the performance.
Voices from Prison
Across women's prisons.
Over the last year women in prison have become more invisible than ever. During lockdown women in prison have been locked in cells for up to 23 hours a day with visitation and education programmes suspended.
Voices from Prison is a creative writing project inviting women from all 12 women’s prisons to create work in this moment, amplify their words and let their experiences be heard.
Inspired by a project of the same name from 1987 uncovered in our archive, a panel will be selecting pieces to be published and performed by a cast of actors and Member artists at an online event and on all our channels.
In May, we will be launching the second year of the Helen Pringle Award, an annual award in memory of our dearest friend and colleague, Helen Pringle, who died four years ago, after living with cancer for a number of years. Each year the award offers a £1,000 bursary to support a Member in her Further /Higher Education studies and a mentorship by one of Clean Break’s artistic community.
Find out more.
Members Programme and Women’s Centres
Our Members Programme will continue online over the summer. Our artists will be providing a foundation of learning and skills in theatre performance, creativity and wellbeing as well as one-off masterclasses and events.
We will also be working with our partners at Advance Minerva and Women in Prison to provide workshops to women accessing Women’s Centres over London.
Barbara was an extraordinary woman whose legacy will live on in the organisations she championed, such as Clean Break and the International Women’s Forum which she co-founded, and in the women she mentored and inspired throughout her life. I was lucky enough to be one of these women and it is a great pleasure to share something of Barbara’s life history and why Clean Break was so close to her heart.
Barbara grew up in Cornwall in a farming family. By her own account, she didn’t have an easy childhood although her mother kindled her early interest in music, which became a lifelong passion. Her promising education was cut short at 16 in order to support her family as a typist when the family farm went bankrupt. She clearly had a strong sense of adventure and self-belief because at 21 she left Cornwall for London, working briefly on a magazine and then taking a women’s adult education course at Hillcroft College, where Clean Break used to work in partnership. Following three years in Tanganyika working for a copper mine – the first of many all-male environments where she found herself – Barbara returned to London to pursue a career in politics and the media. She became an Islington Councillor but decided against standing as an MP when she realised that she would have to compromise on her own principles – in this case, her support for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Instead she joined the Civil Service as a press officer and went on to work with Labour PM Harold Wilson, unusually staying on to serve under Ted Heath when the Conservative Party came into power, drafting speeches and accompanying him on major political visits. Later in her career she was controller of information services at the Independent Broadcasting Authority, helped to set up breakfast television and was a non-executive director at Westcountry Television.
Throughout Barbara’s life she championed women’s rights: creating networks of women across national and sectarian divides, playing a leading role in the 300 group to secure the election of more female MPs, and pursuing equal pay for women. These activities and her evident self-belief meant she fast became a powerful and compelling role model for other women. This continued right through to her final decade when she came out as a lesbian and wrote and published her memoirs Exceeding My Brief: Memoirs of a Disobedient Civil Servant.
Around this time, Barbara joined us in the Clean Break building to celebrate her 90th birthday. In typical Clean Break style, we had tea and cakes with company Members and staff. She regaled us all with stories of her life and offered advice and encouragement on how we, too, could seize opportunities and live life to the full. It was a joyful occasion peppered with jokes and anecdotes. We all absorbed some of Barbara’s wisdom that day and were inspired by her infectious sense of self-belief and can do attitude.
This is what I loved about Barbara - she made you feel like anything is possible and that no barrier is too big to overcome. I first met her when I joined Clean Break in the late 1990s when we were about to start renovating our new home in Patshull Road, Kentish Town. She had joined the company in the early 1990s as one of a stellar group of Patrons, whom then Director Alex Ford had brought on board to help fundraise for and find our new base. Instrumental in the evolution of Patshull Road, I suspect she was also key to growing the company’s ambition and stretching our horizons way beyond the wildest dreams of the company’s founders Jacqueline Holborough and Jenny Hicks.
The company’s development gave Barbara enormous pleasure; she sent me an email in 2016, “When I remember my first days with Clean Break – a rehearsal space not much bigger than a cupboard I marvel at how far we have come.” But although the building came to embody much of the company’s ambitions, it was the women we worked with and their journeys that connected Clean Break to Barbara.
I last saw Barbara, pre-pandemic, at the Reform Club together with her longstanding partner Margaret Hyde – another good friend and supporter of Clean Break. As usual, she introduced me to many people over lunch – she was always a great connector – and we then had a tour of this venerable old institution. It was founded with radical beginnings and, in 1981, became the first of the traditional gentleman’s clubs to allow women to become members on equal terms. Barbara took us up to the top of the building and into a small art gallery. Here she proudly shared some of her own paintings displayed amongst the artworks – new pieces from weekly art classes that she had taken up in recent years. This was typical Barbara – telling us that you are never too old to learn something new and to share your creativity with friends.
It goes without saying that Barbara will be much missed by us all. Her spirit and love of life and ambition for women will be an enduring legacy.
Lucy Perman, Former Chief Executive Clean Break
More than £300 million has been awarded to thousands of cultural organisations across the country including Clean Break in the latest round of support from the Culture Recovery Fund, the Culture Secretary announced today.
This funding will predominantly be spent on our core activity, helping us to continue engaging with and supporting our Members (women who have experienced the criminal justice system or are at risk of entering it.) It will also ensure the retention of our valued staff and is, crucially, a significant investment in our future plans of returning to our building (and ensuring it is Covid secure), continuing our mission of making ground-breaking work for our audiences and working with our partners to change hearts and minds through theatre.
Over £800 million in grants and loans has already been awarded to support almost 3,800 cinemas, performance venues, museums, heritage sites and other cultural organisations dealing with the immediate challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
The second round of awards made today will help organisations to look ahead to the spring and summer and plan for reopening and recovery. After months of closures and cancellations to contain the virus and save lives, this funding will be a much-needed helping hand for organisations transitioning back to normal in the months ahead.
Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said:
“Our record breaking Culture Recovery Fund has already helped thousands of culture and heritage organisations across the country survive the biggest crisis they've ever faced.
Now we’re staying by their side as they prepare to welcome the public back through their doors - helping our cultural gems plan for reopening and thrive in the better times ahead."
Róisín McBrinn, Joint Artistic Director, said:
"We are hugely grateful to the government and the Arts Council for this award. It is coming at a time of major insecurity for the sector and at a moment of huge need for our Members. The award means we can face these next few months, and the new financial year, with far greater security and optimism for our long term sustainability as we invest in our reopening and recovery and continuing to make meaningful change within the theatre industry for our Members, our audiences and women in prisons."
Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, said:
“Investing in a thriving cultural sector at the heart of communities is a vital part of helping the whole country to recover from the pandemic. These grants will help to re-open theatres, concert halls, and museums and will give artists and companies the opportunity to begin making new work.
We are grateful to the Government for this support and for recognising the paramount importance of culture to our sense of belonging and identity as individuals and as a society.”
The funding awarded today is from a £400 million pot which was held back last year to ensure the Culture Recovery Fund could continue to help organisations in need as the public health picture changed. The funding has been awarded by Arts Council England, as well as Historic England and National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.
This year International Women’s Day we are asking you to join us and #ChooseToChallenge Maternal Imprisonment. At a time when the Government has just announced plans to build 500 new prison places for women and as the pandemic continues to impact on prisoners’ mental health and wellbeing, we're teamed up with Birth Companions to challenge the sentencing of pregnant women and mothers of young children.
Between International Women's Day on Monday 8 March and Mother's Day on Sunday 14 March we have a series of actions you can take. You can documentment your progress and encourage others to take up th challenge on social media. Use the hastages #ChooseToChallenge and #MaternalImprisonment
This plan flies in the face of all the evidence built up over years (including official Government data) about how to address the root causes of women's offending that so often include experiences of trauma, mental ill health, substance misuse and domestic abuse. These have been exacerbated as the consequences of the pandemic take their toll on the health and safety of the most disadvantaged women in our communities through increases in poverty and abuse.
In 2018 the Government published its strategy to invest in community-based support with the goal of reducing both the women's prison population and reoffending rates. This strategy is supported by the police, prison governors, probation officers, local authorities, health services and charities, including those providing specialist services for women, like women’s centres.
Building new prison places will make the collective efforts of these organisations all the more difficult, and undo progress with the strategy, including delivery of the Government’s newly published Concordat and all the commitments within it.
Building these prison places will harm women, their children, families and communities. The most recent Safety in Custody statistics show self-harm across the women’s estate is at the highest levels on record. These figures point to the urgent need to rethink these plans before the impact of prison expansion results in a steeper trajectory of this devastating upwards trend. We call on the Government to do the right thing to halt these plans, and return to focusing on the strategy that so many are committed to.
Kate Paradine, CEO, Women in Prison
Lisa Dando, CEO, Brighton Women’s Centre
Rokaiya Khan, CEO, Together Women
Joy Doal, CEO, Anawim
Niki Gould, Head of Women’s Community Services, Nelson Trust
Naomi Delap, Director, Birth Companions
Marchu Girma, CEO, Hibiscus
Helen Voce, CEO, Nottingham Women’s Centre
Hannah Shead, CEO, Trevi
Angela Everson, CEO, WomenCentre
Caroline Baker, Project Manager, Women's Work (Derbyshire)
Gemma Fox, Managing Director, North Wales Women’s Centre
Stef Martinsen-Barker, CEO, Cambridge Women's Resource Centre
Angela Murphy, Chief Executive Officer, Tomorrow’s Women Wirral
Anna Herrmann, Joint Artistic Director, Clean Break
Jackie May, Chief Executive, Women’s Centre Cornwall
Niki Scordi, CEO, Advance
Sara Swire, CEO, New Dawn, New Day
Jan Fishwick, CEO, Alana House, Parents and Children Together (PACT)
Nikki Guy, CEO, Stockport Women’s Centre
Natasha Finlayson, CEO, Working Chance
Sofia Buncy, National Coordinator, Muslim Women in Prison Project
Susanah Stennett, Women’s Services Manager, Willowdene Farm
Lisa Boyack, Area Manager for Criminal Justice Services, Changing Lives
Amanda Greenwood, CEO, Lancashire Women
Suzi Heybourne, CEO, The Magdalene Group
We’re looking for a friendly and diligent candidate, who really understands the unique importance of Clean Break’s work and has a passion and drive to share this with our current and prospective supporters. You’ll have an eye for detail, enjoy working as part of a close-knit team, and be confident about making a case for support; this means telling people about what we do, why it’s important, and clearly demonstrating the life-changing impact of our work. You’ll have great communication skills both written and verbal, combining your desk-based work with meetings and events that help to bring Clean Break’s work to life.
You’ll work most closely with our Development Manager (your line manager) as the majority of your work will be based around our relationships with Trusts and Foundations. Working together, this will include writing and submitting funding applications, looking after relationships with new and prospective funders, and writing progress updates and reports. You don’t need experience in fundraising, or in an arts organisation, to do this; you might equally use the application to show you have the transferable skills to fulfil this role. This might include demonstrating things like; a love for talking to people about work that you’re passionate about; an enjoyment of writing persuasively in a variety of forms and styles; great organisational skills that help you to keep on top of research and systems.
The role is broad, and as such will be a great introduction or next step in a fundraising team. As well as working on our Trusts and Foundations portfolio, you’ll work with our Head of Development and Communications on developing our corporate relationships, with our Individual Giving Manager on events and communications, and with our Development & Members Assistant to ensure smooth administrative running of our funding partnerships.
The deadline for submitting applications has passed.
In November 2020 we celebrated the launch of our archive at the Bishopsgate Institute, London, with an online event called Efemera: The Origins and Survival of Clean Break Theatre Company.
Clean Break’s Chair, Alison Frater was joined by our Founders, Jacqueline Holborough and Jenny Hicks; theatre artist, Paula Varjack; Clean Break Member, Ann Whitely; Joint Artistic Director, Anna Herrmann; and researcher, Dr. Sarah Bartley to discuss the founding years of the company and how the archive is now being used to shape the present and future of Clean Break. The event included artistic and academic work inspired by the archive and offers real insight into the foundations of Clean Break as well as the lives of women with lived experience of the criminal justice system. We are thrilled to release the recording of the event as a rich resource for anyone interested in our story and the fields of arts and criminal justice, and to mark this next stage of our history.
The archive encapsulates 40 years of Clean Break’s work including playtexts, interviews, original art work, and letters, all paying tribute to the radical history of the company. It can be accessed at the Bishopsgate Institute in London and will be the subject of an exhibition at Swiss Cottage Gallery in Summer 2021.
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!