Monday, 31 October 2011

A fortnight of fun

All in all it’s been a busy couple of weeks, attending some really exciting community arts events.

Firstly, I attended a poetry workshop with Leah Thorn at the Southbank Centre, as part of a series of prison arts events run by the Arts Alliance, the national body for the promotion of arts in the Criminal Justice sector.  Leah’s workshop, Beautiful Sentence, was practical, enlightening and moving, and as well as demonstrating activities she used during her time as writer-in-residence at HMP Bronzefield.  I’m quite an avid note-taker and it’s hard to select what to say in summary of this workshop, as so much was covered.  One thing I did note was a quote from Anne Frank, which I thought carried an important sentiment: ‘Paper is more patient than people’.  The documentary she showed us (also titled Beautiful Sentence) really expressed the ‘liberating and healing effect of creativity'.

Next up, the following night, was another Arts Alliance event: The Argument Room.  This is a project by Ride Out, and is a live, interactive debate, discussing key concerns in arts and social justice.  These are held monthly, and on 20th October debated the question: ‘Who tells the truth about crime and punishment – the Politician, the Artist, the Prisoner or the Press?’  I watched the debate online at my friend Madelaine’s house, with a few glasses of wine and some unhealthy snacks.

The following night (see, I said I’d done a lot!) I went to another Arts Alliance event at the Southbank, this time in association with Synergy Theatre Project, where they presented a number of plays written by offenders and secure patients for the 2011 Koestler Awards, ART BY OFFENDERS, SECURE PATIENTS AND DETAINEES.  I also looked round the exhibition of art work, of which the quality was astounding (go and see for yourself – it’s a fantastic exhibition! We also had a peek at GOTOJAIL: THE CELL PROJECT (still at the Southbank Centre), a replica prison cell, inhabited by a couple of ‘in role’ ex-prisoners, who we had a really good chat with.

On Saturday (22nd) I went and saw Marat/Sade in Stratford, by the RSC – not a Social Theatre project, but definitely a play which confronts both many social and political issues, and the power of theatre.  A theatrical interrogation of Marxism versus Freudian individualism, reflecting on the French Revolution, performed by psychiatric patients. With LOTS of sex toys (and the occasional bit of on-stage masturbation and anal rape).

Next up, the Anne Peaker Debate on Tues. 25th, again ran by the Arts Alliance, which predominately discussed their recent report: ‘Unlocking Value: The economic benefit of the arts in criminal justice’.  It was very positive to hear that their research reported that there is £3-5 economic value for every £1 spent in this area – and that’s before you even begin to reflect on the human costs, not something so easy to measure with numbers.  As good old Einstein says: 'Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted'.  Anyway, they did some video interviews after the event, and I therefore had the joy of seeing my face from an unnecessarily close-up view point on youtube the following morning:

Last but not least, I attended the ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ conference, where I witnessed some fascinating lectures and met some really lovely and interesting people; I won’t list them all now, or link to all the organisations that presented, but check out the conference programme and have a little peruse through the different organisations that attended – there’s so much fantastic work being done, across the country.

I'm ready to get up and stand up.  I might even have a little dance, if the mood takes me....

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