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Clean Break to take part in Mass Lobby

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.


Blog: Leaders, Past, Present and Future

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. 

What one piece of advice would you like to give to the leaders in 2019?

“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.”

Jenny Hicks – Clean Break Founder

“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.”

Jacqueline Holborough – Clean Break Founder

“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.”

Avtar Brah – Southall Black Sisters Founder

What one piece of advice would you like to give to the leaders in 2059?

“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.”

Anna Herrmann – Joint Artistic Director of Clean Break

“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.”

Rahila Gupta – Member of Southall Black Sisters Management Committee 

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.

Click here to book your ticket





Four New Patrons for Clean Break

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.


Clean Break Launch Christmas Challenge 2018

The Big Give Christmas Challenge has launched!

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!

What is Sweatbox?

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.

DOUBLE your donation now!


Clean Break Take Part in the Big Give Christmas Challenge 2018!

This year we’ve joined the Big Give Christmas Challenge with the aim to raise £30,000 so that we can tour Sweatbox in 2019 as part of our 40th Anniversary celebrations.

Why Sweatbox?

Sweatbox, by Chlöe Moss is an immersive and critically acclaimed theatre experience. Using the intrigue of a displaced prison van, Sweatbox tells the stories of women in the criminal justice system, by not only inviting audiences into the van for performances of Sweatbox but also through open discussion and debate.

Sweatbox is a performance which draws stark attention to the genuine experience that women face when navigating the criminal justice system. In cramped, dark surroundings this piece brings the reality of prison transport to audiences.

For us, ensuring that this powerful production is part of our 40th Anniversary celebrations is vital in our goal to highlight the experience of women in the criminal justice system. In a time where reports state that sending to women to prison is “almost never justifiable from the perspective of public protection” we believe that Sweatbox is vital to bring the reality of the female experience of the criminal justice system to as wide an audience as possible.

What is the Big Give and how can I help?

Between midday 27 November – 4 December any donation you make to us through the Big Give website will be DOUBLED. Yes, you read that right, a donation of £10 will be worth £20, if you give £100 it will be an amazing £200 and if you give £500 it will be worth a phenomenal £1000!

So, if you want to help us hit our £30,000 target all you need to do now is pop a reminder in your diary, for #GivingTuesday 27 November.

If you want to ensure that you’ll receive reminders closer to the date, click the button below to sign up to our newsletter and you will receive an email reminder before the Big Give begins. 

Send me a Big Give Challenge 2018 reminder 


Clean Break Announces Three New Trustees

Ellie Kendrick, Winsome Pinnock and Sara Forbes join Clean Break's Board of Trustees

Clean Break is delighted to announce three new Trustee appointments in the lead up to its 40th birthday in 2019. Actor and writer Ellie Kendrick and award-winning playwright Winsome Pinnock (both of whom have strong connections to the company) and management consultant Sara Forbes join the company’s Board with immediate effect.

Ellie was in the cast of Vivienne Franzmann’s Clean Break play Pests, which included spending time working with women affected by the criminal justice system at Clean Break’s studios and at HMP Askham Grange. Her recent acting credits include HBO’s Game of Thrones, ITV’s Vanity Fair, BBC’s Press, Gloria at Hampstead Theatre and Cyrano de Bergerac at Southwark Playhouse. As a writer, her debut play Hole opens at the Royal Court Theatre in December as part of Royal Court’s Jerwood New Playwrights Programme.

Winsome is an award-winning playwright, academic and dramaturg. Her work has been produced on the British stage and internationally since 1985. She was the first black British female writer to have a play produced by the Royal National Theatre and has been described as ‘the Godmother of black British playwrights’ by The Guardian. The prizes awarded to her work include the George Devine Award, The Pearson Plays on Stage Award and the Unity Theatre Trust Award. She was first commissioned by Clean Break in 1996 and has worked in HMP Holloway and Clean Break’s studios. Her plays for the company include Cleaning Up and Taken (at Oval House) and Mules (at Royal Court Theatre).

Sara will chair Clean Break’s Finance Committee. A Director at KPMG in their Financial Services advisory practice. She has been with KPMG since 2013 where she has worked alongside many of the top UK and Global banks. She is focussed on bringing female talent through the firm and has been recognised as a driven female role model. She has previously spent five years with the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Kim Evans OBE, Chair: ‘I am delighted that Ellie, Sara and Winsome are joining the Board of Trustees as Clean Break enters its 40th birthday year in 2019. They each bring great expertise and a real commitment to helping the company achieve its ambitions and produce exceptional work that speaks truth to power. Ellie and Winsome are exciting theatre makers who have worked with Clean Break in the past. Winsome is an award-winning playwright and Ellie a well-known actor who is now writing for the stage and screen. Sara is an experienced Director at KPMG and was recently shortlisted for a Women in Banking and Finance Award. She has been deeply involved in supporting the development of women in the financial sector and will be Chair of Clean Break's Finance Committee.'

Ellie Kendrick: ‘I am excited to join Clean Break’s Board at this important moment in its history. As an actor, I have relished the opportunity to see the inside workings of this brilliant company's theatre making process - I now look forward to taking up the position of Trustee as the organisation develops new methods to ensure its Members play an even more central role in its ground-shaking, change-making work in 2018 and beyond.’

Winsome Pinnock: ‘Clean Break has been one of the most important companies I have worked with during my career and I am proud to serve its work as part of its inspiring Board. This is an important moment in history for the company and for the theatre landscape - I want to work with the Board and team to ensure that the company leads the way.’

Sara Forbes: ‘Ensuring women’s voices are heard has been an important part of my professional experience and something that draws me to Clean Break. I am delighted to be invited to lead its Finance Committee, supporting and enhancing the company’s next steps with the skills and experience I have developed in the financial services industry, and ensuring its important stories continue to be told.’


Clean Break Announces New Executive Director

Welcome Erin Gavaghan!

We are very excited to announce that our new Executive Director will be Erin Gavaghan! Erin will take up her post in October 2018, completing the company’s new leadership team, alongside Joint Artistic Directors Róisín McBrinn and Anna Herrmann. This team will lead Clean Break into an exciting new chapter as the company celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2019.

Erin Gavaghan comes to Clean Break following six years at Siobhan Davies Dance where she is currently Executive Director. Her career also includes General Manager at Soho Theatre and positions at the Royal Albert Hall and Natural History Museum. She is a Trustee of Deafinitely Theatre.

Kim Evans OBE, Chair of Clean Break's board said:
We are delighted to welcome Erin to Clean Break. Her experience across the performing arts; her great track record of leading and inspiring teams and building partnerships; and her commitment to our values make her exceptionally well placed to help us achieve our mission to produce bold, adventurous and outstanding theatre that enables women to realise their full potential. Erin, Róisín and Anna will be a force to be reckoned with and I’m excited to be working with them.

Erin Gavaghan, (incoming) Executive Director added:
I have been a huge fan of Clean Break’s work for well over a decade and am inspired by the way the company places the authentic stories of women at the heart of everything it does. I am completely thrilled to join the team at such a pivotal moment in its development. I am excited to work alongside Róisín and Anna taking the company forward into its next chapter. I can’t wait to join them, as well as Clean Break’s staff, artists, Board and - especially Members - and be a part of the exceptional work it creates.

Róisín McBrinn and Anna Herrmann, Joint Artistic Directors commented:
We are so pleased that Erin will be joining us as Executive Director. The third member of our shared leadership team is such a critical appointment and we’re confident that Erin’s vast experience, huge passion for Clean Break and commitment to ground-breaking theatre and performance will be an exciting fit as we move into our new model of producing more theatre and creating more radical opportunities for women with experience of criminal justice to change their lives and make more noise at this pivotal moment.

We're so pleased to welcome Erin aboard and can't wait to see what ideas she has for the company as we enter this our 40th year.


Clean Break Announces New Leadership Team

We are excited to announce a new leadership team which will take Clean Break into our fifth decade.

Róisín McBrinn and Anna Herrmann are set to take up new roles as the company’s Joint Artistic Directors and the search is now underway for an experienced Executive Director to complete our new three-women leadership team, who will lead Clean Break into an exciting new chapter as we celebrate our 40th anniversary in 2019 with an ambitious year-long programme of work.

Our new Joint Artistic Directors, Róisín McBrinn and Anna Herrmann, will combine their extensive experience as a leading theatre director and a leading practitioner specialising in theatre and social change to expand the ways in which Clean Break produces groundbreaking new work. The new leadership team, inspired by our founding principles, will build a diverse community of women artists with lived experience of the criminal justice system and leading and emerging theatre practitioners. Together, they will create unforgettable theatre that speaks truth to power.

This inspiring new model has been developed by our current Chief Executive, Lucy Perman MBE. Lucy will be leaving the company this summer, having led Clean Break for 21 years. Earlier this year, she was presented with the Criminal Justice Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding contribution to the sector.

Kim Evans OBE, Chair commented:

“The Board is delighted to be working with Anna and Róisín and we look forward to recruiting a new Executive Director to complete the new leadership team. We are deeply grateful to our outgoing CEO, Lucy Perman, for the drive and vision she has brought to the company over the past 21 years. It is through her leadership that we have developed our new model for collaborating with some of our most exciting theatre makers to bring the voices of our Members to a wider audience in surprising and memorable ways.”

Click here for the full press release.

For more information about the Executive Director role and details of how to apply download the recruitment pack here.

To keep up to date with the latest Clean Break news make sure to sign up for our newsletter to receive a monthly update.

Brazen Theatre Company

Brazen Create Podcast to Assess Impact of Youth Loneliness

‘What does it mean to belong?’

Our young women’s theatre group, Brazen has created a podcast which looks at what it means to belong. Through a mixture of interviews, personal writing, performances and discussion, the Young Theatre Artists use the podcast to delve into the often tough subject of youth loneliness to discover how important it is to feel as if you belong to something bigger than yourself.


The Podcast was created in collaboration with the Roundhouse, who hosted an intensive day with their digital, online media and radio teams to create Belong. Through the process of creating the podcast Brazen aimed to learn about other young people’s experiences, help young people realise how common loneliness is, and get people talking.

The podcast was created as part of a project connected to the Youth Loneliness Network which was started and funded by The Co-operative Foundation, after their own research revealed that in 2016 32% of 16 to 24 year-olds reported to feel lonely ‘often’ or ‘always’. As part of the project the Young Theatre Artists have already spent an intensive week devising a theatre performance which looks at the effect of loneliness upon young people. They also took part in a series of workshops with tutor Anne Langford to develop a short performance piece which is to tour schools in order to raise awareness and initiate discussion around youth loneliness, this will then be followed by a 50 minute workshop in which attendees can further explore the subject of youth loneliness. The project will be rounded up by a panel event which will be devised and presented by Brazen and will look at their learning over the course of the project and celebrate their achievements.

To find out more about upcoming Clean Break projects sign up for our newsletter


Clean Break team up with Miriam Nabarro for PROCESSIONS

Clean Break are taking part in PROCESSIONS a mass participation artwork which celebrates 100 years since the Representation of the People Act, a bill which allowed some women to vote for the first time. Clean Break will be joining 100 organisations and communities who will create banners to celebrate the centenary.

As part of the march one hundred women artists have been commissioned to work with these groups and we are delighted to announce that we will be working with the brilliant and inventive Miriam Nabarro.

Miriam is a London based artist, theatre designer and photographer. Her theatre practice is often politically and socially engaged, including Palace of the End (Royal Exchange/ Traverse, Winner of the Amnesty International Freedom of Speech Award 2009), The Great Game: Afghanistan (with Pamela Howard) for The Tricycle/US tour, Dr Korczaks Example (Royal Exchange, Best Studio Production 2008), and most recently The Broke’n'Beat Collective and The Welcoming Party (both TheatreRites), and the critically acclaimed I Told My Mum I was Going on an RE Trip (Contact/ BAC/ 20 Stories High/ BBC Live), Black, She’s Leaving Home and Tales from the MP3 (all for 20 Stories High, where she is Associate Artist). Miriam has worked extensively as a community artist and aid worker, running creative arts programmes for children affected by conflict in DRC, Sudan, Eritrea, Kosova, Syria and Georgia. She is the first Artist in Residence at SOAS, University of London, and continues her practice as visual artist, theatre practitioner and educator.

PROCESSIONS takes place on 10th June and will see women and girls in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London walk together as part of this celebratory mass participation artwork. Wearing either green, white or violet, the colours of the suffrage movement, the PROCESSIONS will appear as a flowing river of colour through the city streets. 

PROCESSIONS is commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary and produced by Artichoke. With support from the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, and from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. 

Helen Pringle

Helen Pringle 1966 - 2017

Clean Break is very sad to announce the death of its longstanding employee Helen Pringle, Head of Finance and Senior Producer with the company since 2001. Helen passed away peacefully on 14 May following a long period of living with cancer.

"Helen was much admired and much loved, and is dearly missed by the Clean Break team and the family of women theatre artists in and around the company. She dedicated so much of her working life to Clean Break and was actively involved right up to a few weeks ago. She leaves a great legacy and strong memories of her passion for making theatre and for making a difference to the lives of women affected by the criminal justice system."   

Lucy Perman, Executive Director

Róisín McBrinn and Charlotte Gwinner

Clean Break welcomes new Head of Artistic Programme (maternity cover) Charlotte Gwinner

We’re delighted to announce the appointment of our incoming Head of Artistic Programme: Charlotte Gwinner. She will be with Clean Break until January of 2018 while Róisín McBrinn is on maternity leave. Charlotte was a founding member and the artistic director of Angle Theatre has held associate director positions at The Bush Theatre and Liverpool’s Everyman and Playhouse Theatres. She received a Peter Brook Award for her work with Angle Theatre in 2009, and the Quercus Award for Theatre Directors 2013.

Charlotte commented: "Clean Break is an inspiration in life and art; its unique combination of artistic excellence and social change gives it a far reaching relevance. I am thrilled to be able to join its inspirational team, consolidating on Roisin McBrinn's excellent and diverse programme of new work, at this time of acute political uncertainty."

Charlotte's time at Clean Break will be spent primarily in developing the large number of commissions we are currently engaged with, and working closely with our stable of playwrights to create a programme of plays for production in 2018. The company is pleased to welcome her into this vital role.

Fatal Light

Fatal Light by Chloë Moss in context

As the MoJ releases bleak new deaths in custody figures, we look back at Fatal Light by Chloë Moss.

The Ministry of Justice announced today that a record 119 people have killed themselves while in custody in the last year, a devastating statistic. Overcrowding, and the cutting of staff numbers in addition to a lack of emphasis on mental health support have made the UK's prisons an unsafe place to be. It seems incredible that 10 years have passed since Baroness Corston made her recommendations for reform of the women's prison estate in The Corston Report, and in the face of such overwhelming evidence supporting her findings, so little has been done.

It has also been more than six years since celebrated playwright Chloë Moss, responding in part to the Corston Report, and inpartnership with Inquest wrote Fatal Light as part of Clean Break's Charged. In the playwright's own words:

"Something that came up a lot during the research process for writing Fatal Light was that, although prison sentences are often utterly devastating to the families of women in prison, there was an assumption that at the very least, their loved ones would be safe inside. Even though prison was the last place that their sister, mother, daughter should be, they trusted that they couldn’t come to any harm. That’s clearly not the case at all. The vulnerable are constantly being criminalised for having mental health problems.

The Corston report (a review of women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system) was published in March 2007, following the deaths of six women at HMP Styal in just over twelve months. Four years later, there has been slow progress in implementing its recommendations for the sentencing and treatment of female prisoners. There are still so many cases of women who’ve spent their lives dealing with mental health problems and abuse, who are then incarcerated miles from families, support networks… their kids. Prison is the final straw for them.

The subject matter of Fatal Light is bleak of course, but that’s because the reality of the situation is bleak and therefore it’s hugely important to tell these stories and to question why deaths in custody keep happening. I actually think the play itself is, strangely, quite hopeful. The piece plays backwards in time and ends with Jay in a positive situation. Starting with her death and working backwards serves to highlight how avoidable these tragedies really are."

We can only hope that perhaps with the stark figures released this week behind them, the recommendations made in the Corston Report will at last be recognised as urgent.

If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can find support with Women In Prison, a charity devoted to supporting the needs of women in prison, and Inquest a charity specialising in providing free advice to people bereaved by a death in custody.

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