Looking Back at 2023 — Clean Break

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a photo of Clean Break Members in a theatre workshop
19.12.23

Looking back at 2023

A round-up of Clean Break's activity this year

We are incredibly proud of all Clean Break’s achievements this year, despite challenges we continue to face, both locally as a community and globally. Below, we have taken a moment to reflect on some of our activity in 2023 and extend our thanks to everyone who made it possible. 

At the start of the year we embarked on an eight-week national tour of educational and professional settings with Sonia Jalaly’s play Catch, designed to deepen understanding about the vital role of women’s centres. The play was performed by Clean Break Members*, Daisy Bartle, Amy-Jane Pearce and Ann Whitely as part of an actors’ traineeship and reached over 400 audience members.

In March, we received the brilliant news that Clean Break had achieved a silver Trauma Informed Quality Mark from the charity One Small Thing. We are so proud to receive this recognition from an organisation we admire deeply at Clean Break.  Following receipt of the quality mark, we began delivering public sessions of our Leading with Kindness training, developed for arts practitioners and facilitators to learn about working safely with trauma.

In April, we opened our co-production Dixon and Daughters by Deborah Bruce, on the National Theatre’s Dorfman stage, a first for Clean Break. Dixon and Daughters told a moving and challenging story which highlighted the complexities of cycles of violence and was performed to our largest audience in the history of the company. The National Theatre welcomed our Members behind the scenes, embraced our initiatives around audience care, and played a significant role in helping to amplify this important story. Dixon and Daughters is now available on NT at Home.

Across the year, Clean Break has taken part in multiple research projects, which continue to build greater understanding and new thinking about the transformative impact of theatre and the arts in criminal justice settings. These academic partnerships, including with Goldsmiths and Southbank Universities, are an important way for us to extend our learning and connect across sectors, and we place great value on the learning that arises from them. In May, key findings from Women/Theatre/Justice, an interdisciplinary Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project focussing on Clean Break, were presented at a celebratory event at the Shard, where keynote speakers included our Patron Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, academics from the project, Professor Caoimhe McAvinchey and Dr Deborah Dean, and members of our team. Artworks inspired by the research, by Laura Dean, were also presented in an exhibition titled un:mute

In June, we hosted an ‘Anti-Racism Takeover day’ for the Clean Break community, led by our Creative Associates Titilola Dawudu and Rachel Valentine Smith. This event was an important milestone in our anti-racism journey, and with an emphasis on learning and joy, we explored what anti-racism and allyship means to us collectively. Together we participated in beautifully held workshops, and as always at Clean Break, shared a meal. 

In July, our Head of Participation and Deputy CEO Jacqueline Stewart received well deserved recognition from Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), receiving their Companionship Award for her outstanding contribution to participation work in the arts and criminal justice, which was presented by Paul McCartney. 

Over the summer we also welcomed five new trustees to our board, Catriona Guthrie, Lara Grace Ilori, Carien Meijer, Naima Sakande and Jess Southgate, who bring their expertise from the worlds of policy and campaigns, women’s rights advocacy and the arts, and all have a shared passion for Clean Break’s work. 

2023 also saw us complete the second phase of our Capital Investment project. Informed by our participation in the Mayor’s Business Climate Challenge and part-funded through Arts Council England, this phase focused on improving our environmental sustainability with the installation of LED lighting, replacement of boilers and refurbishment of other systems. The works were part of a filmed case study by Bloomberg Associates, sharing the improvements and impact. Our team, Members and hirers have already felt the difference in our building, and we look forward to beginning the next phase in 2024, which will improve our accessibility and enhance our trauma-informed environment. 

Clean Break’s first Playwrights Pathways programme took place this year, where six Members embarked on a nine-month playwrighting journey, in partnership with Royal Court Theatre. This programme was a huge success, with five writers, Fatima Dupres-Griffiths, Sorcha Fhionntain, Jill Power, Oriana White and Ann Whitely having extracts of their full-length plays performed in a celebratory showcase at the Royal Court Jerwood Downstairs in September. 

In October, we premiered our new film, Hope at an event at Kiln Theatre, hosted by Clean Break Patron Zawe Ashton. Hope is our first co-created film, by director Kirsty Housley and Member artists* Nicole Hall, Michelle Hamilton, Carina Murray, Natasha Jean Sparkes, and River. This lyrical documentary invites audiences to consider where hope really comes from, and what sustains hope during times of darkness. It is now available to watch online

2023 was also the second year of our participation in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Digital Accelerator Program, which saw us launching our new digital Knowledge Hub. We are thrilled to now have a new area of our website, rich with content and resources for audiences looking to engage with our work more deeply, including access to our film Hope. We are grateful to Bloomberg Philanthropies for their support throughout the program and look forward to creating more content and resources for our Hub in the new year. 

Our work in prisons and women’s centres continued this year, offering regular weekly workshops at Women in Prison and Advance women’s centres, and playwriting and theatre making workshops in HMPs Styal and Downview respectively. It is hugely important to us to have a presence in women’s prisons, as it binds us to our company roots, and we know from women we meet there of the hope, creativity and vital connectivity such workshops provide.   

We recently had the pleasure of announcing Lakesha Arie-Angelo as Clean Break’s new Associate Artistic Director, who will be joining us in March 2024. This new role was created to ensure shared decision making which reflects a broader plethora of voices, and we are so excited to welcome Lakesha to our senior management team next year. 

Earlier this year the Clean Break community received the heartbreaking news that Member artist Carrie Rock had passed away. We are grateful to the Royal Court for hosting a special event for Carrie in June, organised by her family and friends and supported by Clean Break. The event was an important moment for collective reflection and grief for those who knew Carrie, or who shared communities with her, as well as being a celebration of her life and incredible talent as an actor. As a community we have sadly ended the year with another loss – that of Member Katy Sage, who, like Carrie, has been known to the company for fifteen years. Katy performed in our 2020 small scale tour, Not Pretty Like the Rainbow. Our thoughts go out to her family and friends at this sad time.  

Thank you 

We have so many people to thank for being part of Clean Break’s journey this year, first and foremost are our Members for the creativity, resilience and warmth which everyone brings to our building each week. We would also like to thank our Member artists for their work on and off stage, and our Members Advisory Group for spearheading this important initiative to build engagement and involvement of Members in all aspects of running the organisation.   

Our team of staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly this year, we are grateful for everyone's commitment to Clean Break’s values and continue to be inspired by their dedication to our work. We are thankful to all who moved on from Clean Break in 2023, especially Lorraine Maher, who after ten years as our Participation Manager, and a year of sabbatical, has taken up a permanent role as Race and Justice Manager at CLINKS. We wish her all the best and thank her for many years of dedication and passion.

We would like to give special acknowledgement and thanks to our Creative Associates Titilola Dawudu and Rachel Valentine Smith whose fixed term contracts recently ended. During their year and a half in this role, Titilola and Rachel have immersed themselves across the company, and contributed significantly to our artistic output and to our organisational development. We wish them both all the best with their next steps and look forward to continuing working with Rachel in a freelance capacity.

We are excited to begin a new year with the team members who have recently joined us. We also look forward to welcoming Producer Dezh Zhelyazkova back in 2024, after going on maternity leave this year to have baby Florence Petra.

Thank you to our trustees for guiding us with passion and steadiness, and particularly to Tanya Tracey, who stepped down as Co-Chair this year after 9 years of service on our board, and whose expertise and dedication to Clean Break’s mission has been invaluable. We thank Alison Frater for continuing as Co-Chair with support from fellow trustee Alex Rowse, and we will be recruiting in the new year. 

We are indebted to our Patrons for being such passionate champions of Clean Break, and we look forward to continuing to work with them, and with award-winning actor Michelle Greenidge, who we had the pleasure of announcing as our newest Patron earlier this month. 

Clean Break is entering 2024 with a group of incredible writers on commission. We are excited to see what develops next year and beyond with babirye bukilwa, Emma Dennis-Edwards, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Tash Marshall and Yasmin Joseph. We are also thrilled to be working in partnership with London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT) and Brixton House on an international project with five Clean Break Member artists to produce an original works as part of the festival next June. More details will be announced in March.  

None of this work would be possible without our dedicated community of supporters. We are so grateful for their generosity which allows Clean Break to continue its transformative work into 2024 and beyond. 

We wish all our partners and everyone who has passed through Clean Break’s doors, engaged with us online, or seen our work on stage a restful break as 2023 comes to a close, and look forward to welcoming you back in the new year.

From Anna, Erin, Jacqueline and the Clean Break team


*Clean Break Members are women who participate in our programme, who have lived experience of the criminal justice system or are at risk of entering it. 

Clean Break Member artists are women who have participated in our programme and now engage with Clean Break in a professional capacity as freelance artists. 

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