Monday, 29 October 2012

Celebrating Performing Arts in Prisons

Wot is Justice - Ashworth Special Hospital, Mixed Media
Wot is Justice - Ashworth Special Hospital, Mixed Media 
Last week I attended the Arts Alliance's excellent 'Celebrating Performing Arts in Prisons' event, which reminded me that - other in than in my post about Massey-Chasing Boris - I haven't yet done a proper post about Free: Art by Offenders, Secure Patients and Detainees, the Koestler Trust 50th Annual UK Exhibition of Prison Arts, currently on at the Southbank Centre.

Other than obviously being a big fan of prison arts, free exhibitions and indeed the Southbank, this exhibition is of particularly significance to me, as I have my own very small link to one of the exhibited works. The back story to this is that my twin sister and I have a little competition every Christmas over who can get the best, cheapest present (which has to be under £5). Last xmas, she rather thought outside the box, and decided to not spend any money on me directly. Instead, she donated to the Koestler Trust and, as a surprise, named an award for this year's exhibition after me. Which was a lovely present and I even shed a little tear over it. So, this year, when you rock over to the Southbank Centre, look out for the Kate Massey-Chase Commended Award for Drawing.


I didn't choose the picture or anything, but it's still very exciting to feel part of an exhibition so close to my heart, even in just a small way. And this is the picture Sarah Lucas, the curator, chose to win my award:  

The Moment - HM Prison Parkhurst, Kate Massey-Chase Commended Award for Drawing

It's called 'The Moment', and you probably can't see it, but the title of the piece of music the subject is composing is 'A New Life'. The artist came from HMP Parkhurst. He says about it:

I wanted people to know that any form of artwork can be created anywhere by anyone and...change people's lives...by inspiring them...in some way that will make their world a better place to be. It is an incredible feeling as an artist when a work is completed, so I also tried to depict that moment. 

And here are my personal favourites from the exhibition (all images come from the Koestler Trust website): 

Wasted! - HM Prison Channings Wood, James Wood Q.C. Silver Award for Mixed Media
Wasted! - HM Prison Channings Wood, James Wood Q.C. Silver Award for Mixed Media

Sorrows to Follow - HM Prison Send, Margaret Wignall Highly Commended Award for Portraits
Sorrows to Follow - HM Prison Send, Margaret Wignall Highly Commended Award for Portraits 

The Pain I Cause - HM Prison Full Sutton, Gustave Courbet Highly Commended Award for Portraits
The Pain I Cause - HM Prison Full Sutton, Gustave Courbet Highly Commended Award for Portraits
The artist of the last piece says:

I never did think I had anything to give to anyone not even myself, but through my art I find that I do. I now believe I can do anything and through my art I can express myself and I know I will not be coming back to prison. I know I have a future so I will be able to give back something to try to make amends.

The whole exhibition is fantastic, so hopefully these will have whet your appetite and you'll hurry down to the Southbank Centre before Nov. 25th, when it finishes, to take a look.

My next plan, although she doesn't know it yet, is to get my twin sister to donate a lump sum to Clean Break, so they can fund their Access course (which I volunteered on in 2011, and is a fantastic course, which enables female ex-offenders and women vulnerable to offending through drug use or mental health needs to progress through further education, to the point they could apply to a degree level course at university - which many do). It really saddens me that this course isn't funded at the moment, as it has the capacity to make a really meaningful and lasting change to the lives of women who aren't always given the chances they need and deserve. So, when Becca asks me what I want for my birthday.... The Kate Massey-Chase Access Course, please! Sadly, she works in the charitable sector, and despite growing vegetables, riding her bike, and wanting to change the world, she hasn't quite got the finances to fund all my arty social justice endeavours. Why did my parents encourage us to do meaningful jobs, that would fulfil us, and shit??! I live in a house with mould on my bedroom ceiling and damp coming through the walls, and Becca can't fund my predilection for supporting prison arts charities. What's that about? 

Anyway, on a more positive note, at the conference last week we had a bunch of practical workshops, with arts organisations working in prisons, and that included an EXCELLENT workshop with Good Vibrations where we all got to play the Gamelan! I'm all about the Javanese gongs right now. 

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