Our 2018/19 creative prison programme.
The academic Deirdre Heddon wrote that “The telling of stories about oneself is part of the construction of an identity for that self”, and in prison, where many more visible indicators of identity are removed, stories become the most valuable currency.
Changing Stories was a participatory arts project based in sixsecure institutions in the North West of England than ran for a year between April 2018 and March 2019. Participatory artists worked with adult men, women and children in secure settings to create theatre, music, and writing inspired by the stories that shape their lives. The project was designed to equip participants with the language of the creative arts so that they can legitimately speak about the life experiences that define who they are. Changing Stories workshops developed participants’ theatre improvisation and devising skills, creative writing skills, and acting skills; they learned to play instruments, compose original music, write lyrics and perform live together as an ensemble.
Changing Stories was a practical articulation of TiPP’s mission to provide opportunities for some of the country’s most disadvantaged groups to benefit from high quality participatory arts. Over the course of the project, we trained and supported thirty-six emerging artists and delivered 256 sessions. You can get an idea about the work we undertook by watching this video:
The project was based in HMP Thorn Cross, HMP Styal, HMP Preston, HMP Lancaster Farms, HMP Berwyn and Barton Moss Secure Care Centre. Changing Stories was built around the idea that we all have stories that we like to share; stories that define who we are. Changing Stories drew on these stories, and developed a narrative for the artists and participants that took part that was based on them becoming co-creators of art.
Changing Stories: Epilogue was the final event of the project. It was a symposium that we staged in HMP Thorn Cross on 11thApril, 2019. The symposium showcased some of the work that had been made, demonstrated our working methods and provided attendees with an opportunity to gain first-hand experience of participation in a creative arts workshop.
Delegates watched a short performance written with the men of HMP Lancaster Farms, listened to music performed by men from HMP Thorn Cross and then moved on to participate in a series of short workshops, where (amongst other things) they learned how to play the ukulele, drew a self-portrait and composed a poem. One delegate said “This was amazing.I got a chance to talk to residents here and the play made my cry! Many thanks to everyone involved!” You can watch a short video detailing the conference here:
Changing Stories: Facts and Figures
During the 12 month period we trained and supported 36 emerging artists and provided 28 placements for students
We ran 256 sessions and had 827 prisoner attendances and worked with 166 different individuals
The majority of attendances were voluntary, but 35% attendances were a part of compulsory programme
There were 15 performances/presentations of work; these were in visitors’ centres, prison chapels, performance studios and on one occasion, at the end of a prison landing