a black and white photo with a distorted affect over the top of a Clean Break production from the 80s, there are four women on stage, three are in police hats with pig noses on.

Clean Break Launches Digital Archive

We are excited to introduce you to our new digital archive.

This unique online tool has been built from the extraordinary gems we unearthed during our 40th Anniversary Heritage project in 2019. We have brought this treasure trove of artifacts to life by weaving it together with the story of Clean Break. Bringing this to you in a digital format means it can be explored from anywhere in the world, at any time, allowing more people to discover the rebellious history of Clean Break and extending the reach of our legacy.

During our heritage project, we sat down with some of the incredible women who have been part of this journey, including Members, our team and Patrons, to hear about Clean Break’s impact both on their lives and on society. From these conversations, we created a video which you might have seen as part of our I am a Theatre exhibition at Swiss Cottage Gallery in 2021. We are delighted to now share this with you online for the first time.

To celebrate the launch of our new digital archive, we are also pleased to share proud moments from two women who played key roles in Clean Break’s formation and early success. Jacki Holborough is one of the theatre company’s founders, and Ann Mitchell is an actor and director, who was instrumental in Clean Break’s journey.

Jacki Holborough on being the first group of serving prisoners to perform outside of prison:

“There are so many proud moments, but I guess the first time that, when we were still serving prisoners, we went to play [Efemera, an original show] to the public at the York Art Centre. A group of twenty women, most of them never been in a theatre, it was just wonderful. We did a two hour show and we’d written it ourselves, directed it ourselves. It brings tears to remember just how proud, happy and joyful it felt. It was such a success.”

 Clean Break Efemera by Ask 'em out programme 1978

Clean Break Efemera by Ask 'em out programme 1978 / Clean Break Digital Archive

Ann Mitchell on directing the original Voices from Prison with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC):

“When I was acting at the RSC, I was asked if I would direct one of their first platform performances. Now, most of the actors understandably wanted to direct themselves in different plays or different scenes, but I didn't want to do that. I felt that the RSC, what I had experienced when I was there, was a sense of elitism so I wanted to bring in Clean Break.

The team, Clean Break women, wrote to prisons and got information and poems, just like the new Voices from Prison, which I think is wonderful. I had about 20-30 people on stage. We inherited the most amazing set, it just was like the gods had smiled on us, it was a set of trees and I placed all the actors in them, all wearing black with the occasional flash of red. They all had about four to five lines to learn, professional actors as well, and that's what we did, and it was remarkable.

I was so pleased, and very touched that Jenny [Hicks] had said in some ways that was the beginning of Clean Break being acknowledged in a wider world, and it was certainly the beginning for the RSC of having the community in - the critics said ‘the RSC opens its doors to the community’.”

Voices From Prison, Barbican, 1987

Voices From Prison, Barbican, 1987 / Clean Break Digital Archive

A chance to win Clean Break prizes!

On Thursdays and Fridays until the end of May, we’ll be testing your Clean Break knowledge by posting quiz questions in our Instagram stories. Make sure you follow us and answer at least one question correctly for your chance to win a Clean Break goodybag - including playtexts!

All the answers can be found in our digital archive, so start exploring!