On 21 March, Clean Break spent the day at Rich Mix for ‘Inspire: Sustainability in the arts and criminal justice sector’, a one-day festival and showcase of work from the ‘Inspiring Futures’ project, which is a unique partnership of leading arts organisations working in criminal justice settings, led by the National Criminal Justice Art's Alliance (NCJAA).
Clean Break’s participation in Inspiring Futures last year resulted in an innovative new play, A Proposal for Resisting Darkness, created by women in HMP Downview in collaboration with playwright Yasmin Joseph. Originally directed by Anna Herrmann and performed in the prison chapel, the play has now been adapted into an audio-drama and is due to be broadcast as part of a programme for National Prison Radio (NPR) this year. Hosted by NPR’s female presenters at HMP Styal, the full programme will be around an hour long, but a sneak peek of the recording has been made available to listen to at the Inspire showcase.
The day began with warm and enthusiastic welcomes from Brenda Birungi, aka Lady Unchained (NCJAA Co-Chair), Sarah Hartley (NCJAA Advisory Board Member) and Lorraine Maher (NCJAA Manager) before being passed to host Peaches to introduce each event.
First to the stage was the Irene Taylor Trust and members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), presenting work from The Lullaby Project. This programme supported participants with experience of the criminal justice system to work with musicians from the RPO to write personal lullabies for their children, resulting in some deeply moving pieces of music. The Lullaby Project offers an opportunity for people in prison to connect with their creativity through music, and to have a space to reflect on their familial bonds, creating something that can be shared with their children. Four lullabies were performed, including a beautiful piece written and sung by Clean Break Member Michaela.
We had the chance to watch a powerful episode of Open Clasp’s filmed theatre piece Sugar, originally available on BBC iPlayer, which explores the realities of women’s lives lived in and around the criminal justice system. After the screening, we heard a panel discussion on digital sustainability featuring Clean Break Producer Maya Ellis and Open Clasp Senior Producer Carly McConnell, alongside Dr Sarah Doxat-Pratt from the University of Cambridge’s research team. It was valuable to hear varied and insightful thoughts around the successes and challenges of using digital media to connect with participants and increase the impact of theatrical work. Later in the day, Maya also delivered a workshop for attendees on using theatre in criminal justice settings with writer Yasmin Joseph.
Throughout the day there were opportunities to visit the installation of pieces developed during the project, which included audio recordings of spoken word, music and theatre, including our play A Proposal for Resisting Darkness. The showcase is open to the public until Sunday 26 March, so please do visit and experience the incredible work which has been produced during the Inspiring Futures project.
The organisations involved in Inspiring Futures were selected based on the impact their work has on people in the criminal justice system, their innovation and their experience. Alongside Clean Break, the partners include Geese Theatre Company, Good Vibrations, Helix Arts, Irene Taylor Trust, Only Connect, Open Clasp and Koestler Arts.
The partnership has delivered a ground-breaking programme of artistic work in prisons, alongside embedded participative research led by a team at the University of Cambridge Institute of Criminology (IOC), to gather the robust evidence needed for a recognition of the impact of the arts in criminal justice settings.
Inspiring Futures is on display to the public at Rich Mix London from 20 March - 26 March 2023.