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NCJAA BLOGS

Our blog aims to present opinion-based pieces from our members or those working within the sector. We want to hear what you’re doing in prisons or community settings – whether this is an arts intervention, research or perhaps a question or problem you have been facing or a good practice example you would like to highlight. Email Dora Dixon (Communications Officer) if you have a proposal for a blog post.

Penned Up at HMP Downview

Written as an address to himself, in this blog David Kendall reflects on how he measures the success of a two week arts and literature festival at HMP Downview. Penned Up is created with and for those in prison. Its two directors, Mark Hewitt and David Kendall, work with each prison to form a committee […]

Learning through laughter – an interview with Keith Palmer, director of The Comedy School

The Comedy School has offered high quality arts experiences for people within and outside of the criminal justice system for 20 years and is the only the only organisation of its kind in England led by a black person. It aims to raise the profile of the various uses of comedy, from stimulating personal creativity to […]

Reflections on art and violence

The National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance (NCJAA) is part of the Monument Fellowship. Every year the Fellowship produces a themed body of work that relates to criminal justice. This year the Fellowship is asking: How do we create a less violent society? In June 2018, on behalf of the NCJAA, Odd Arts’ Jo Lane attended […]

Shakespeare leading the way in tackling youth crime

I am now in the second month of my post as Development Officer for the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance (NCJAA). My work history is richly filled with experiences of arts education, training and using theatre for positive social change but, being new to this role, it is important that I become equally knowledgeable of […]

Art for a social purpose: Art for All

On a baking sunlit July Friday, 50 people met in the beautiful gardens of Watts Gallery Artists’ Village to discuss the work of museums and galleries in prisons. The talking inevitably cantered over territory that questioned how the restrained and reverential nature of many museums and galleries could be relevant to the lives of people […]

Not So Broken Dreams

For eight lunch time shows in August men from HMP Springhill will be performing their play Broken Dreams at The Royal Court Theatre, London in collaboration with Kestrel Theatre Company. This is their story, a story about fatherhood, grief and social justice, shaped and written with award winning writer Simon Longman, and directed by Holly […]

Repairing with gold: the case for a strengths-based approach to preventing and reducing (re)offending and radicalisation

On 22nd January 2018, Khulisa presented at the first International Conference on Preventing Youth Radicalisation, hosted at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy. The conference, and associated book “Young, Marginalised but not Radicalised: A Comparative Study of Positive Approaches to Youth Radicalisation”, is the first output of the Youth Empowerment and Innovation […]

Key Change

Following our blog post in October, we are delighted to share with you Open Clasp‘s critically-acclaimed ‘Key Change’, screening here until 10 December to mark the UN’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. Devised with women in HMP Low Newton, UK and originally toured to male prisons, Key Change is a raw and illuminating […]

Hidden from praise

Arts enable people to experience creativity in a way that transforms lives; even a single performance can change your life forever. At a conference organised by North East Prisoner Family Support (NEPACS), an organisation that seeks to enable positive futures for prisoners and their families in the north east of England by providing practical and emotional […]

MakeRight bags – changing lives by design

MakeRight is a collection of anti-theft bags designed by participants of a project at HMP Thameside, London and HMP Kilmarnock, near Glasgow. The collection takes its name from the MakeRight Design Academy, a design education initiative led by the Design Against Crime Research Centre at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. Starting as […]

Changing Tunes: responding to a changing landscape

On 12th July, Clinks launched their annual State of the Sector report for 2017. Every year, Clinks surveys voluntary sector organisations working in the criminal justice system to collect information about how healthy the sector is, the role it is playing, and the wellbeing of service users. This year the report found that organisations have […]

Collaboration makes a bigger noise: women, theatre and criminal justice

This blog post sees Chair of the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance (NCJAA), Alison Frater, reflect on an event that focused on women in the criminal justice system organised by NCJAA member Clean Break.  “On Monday 5th June, Clean Break and Queen Mary University of London co-hosted a unique and fascinating seminar exploring theatre for […]

Learning from experience: the impact of the NCJAA’s professional mentoring scheme

Marnie Forbes-Eldridge is the Associate Director of Prime Theatre. In 2016, she applied to be a mentee as part of the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance’s professional mentoring scheme. In this blog post, she shares the impact that being part of the scheme had on her – both in a professional and personal sense. Based […]

The Monkey: a Synergy Theatre Production at Theatre 503

On Wednesday 15th March, National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance Communications Officer Kate Davey went to see Synergy Theatre Project’s production of The Monkey at Theatre503. In this blog post, she reflects on the play and how it might resonate with people with experience of the criminal justice system. “The Monkey is part of Synergy Theatre […]

A new narrative

In this blog, Chair of the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance (NCJAA) Alison Frater, looks back at this year’s Annual Meeting, which took place at the National Theatre in London on 1st March. In the post, she reflects on the readings by four inspiring authors who have had direct experience of the criminal justice system, […]

Shutter stories: prison life behind the lens

In this blog post, Chair of the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance, Alison Frater, talks about our 2016 Anne Peaker lecture. The event took place in December last year, with a focus on the use of photography and film in prison settings. Artist Edmund Clark gave the key note speech, which was followed by a […]

Open Clasp performance of Key Change at the Houses of Parliament

In this blog post, Chair of the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance Alison Frater talks about a collaborative event at the Houses of Parliament on 25th October. The event, hosted by the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance and held in conjunction with Clinks, the Prison Reform Trust and Agenda: Alliance for Women and Girls at […]

Prison arts in Scotland – by Kate Davey

On 11th May, I travelled to Glasgow in preparation for the Scottish Prison Arts Network (SPAN): Skill Share Session and Glasgow Museums: Insight Café, which were taking place the following day. On the 11th itself I visited Citizens Theatre, the principal producing theatre in the west of Scotland. Additionally, the theatre has a fantastic learning department which is committed to enhancing the lives of all kinds of people in Glasgow and beyond.

Singing the same tune: arts in criminal justice settings championed across government departments – By Alison Frater and Jessica Plant

Unlocking Potential – a review of education in prison, the much-anticipated report by Dame Sally Coates, was published on Wednesday 18th May as a prelude to the Queen’s speech, which announced new freedoms for prison governors to reform jails in England.

Reaching out with art from death row in San Quentin, California – By Nicola White

“Art is the journey of a free soul”
Alev Oguz, Turkish Artist

The aim of the Art Reach project is to give men on death row in the United States the opportunity to express themselves with their own art, something all human beings should be free to do.

Diversity, arts and criminal justice: Bringing people together – by Alison Frater

Increasing diversity, increasing artistic excellence. At the National Alliance for Arts in Criminal Justice (NAACJ) event ‘Diversity, arts and criminal justice: bringing people together,’ delegates started with the outcome: diversity increases the value of arts. Diversity brings texture, richness, vibrancy and meaning. Widening participation can contribute towards offsetting bias, ending intolerance, and increasing audience size.


Anthony Navarro, Drifting Memories. Image courtesy of Nicola White, Art of San Quentin