On 14th March 2018 the Prison Arts Foundation held an event in Crumlin Road Gáol in Belfast called ‘Libération’. It was an exhibition of art, writing and music by serving prisoners in HMP Maghaberry, HMP Magilligan, Hydebank Wood College and Women’s Prison and Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre. This year’s showcase also featured art works, live performances and recordings of writing by mentees taking part in our new community arts based mentoring programme.
We want our workshop participants to believe they are artists, it is important to give them a venue to make them feel that way. The aim of ‘Libération’ was to give all of our participants a platform and a challenge to display their work as authentic artists. When individuals see themselves as worthy to put their individual artistic expression in public for others to engage with, it’s empowering! After a successful exhibition, participants may wonder what else they can do in the public realm. For participants lacking self-esteem, putting up work with peers can boost academic and artistic confidence. This year we were able to include mentees in the process carrying out a successful exhibition, this gave them the opportunity to engage in the entire artistic process, from conception, to creation, to communication with an audience. We hope that this experience will have a profound influence on those mentees for years to come.
Austin Treacy, Director of Prisons, Northern Ireland Prison Service opened the event on a personal note:
“The Crum is of special significance to me as I started my career in the Northern Ireland Prison Service 41 years ago. This Victorian Gaol of a Radial Wheel design epitomised the then thinking of how such places would punish prisoners to pay their debt, right the wrong before returning to society. Next year the NIPS will commission Davis House a new state of the art 360 person accommodation building on the Maghaberry sit with its origins in the radial wheel style of this Gaol.”
PRISON ARTS FOUNDATION TRIBUTE
Director Treacy praised PAF’s programmes adding
“I want to pay tribute to the Prison Arts Foundation, to their Management Board, their artists and of course their students for all their hard work, resilience and of course their brilliance, talent, vision in their continuance through the Arts to make our prisons and youth centres better places. Better places to work in, better places to live in through the transformation of buildings and spaces, and through the reaching out and changing lives, saving lives, liberating talent and skills that so many men, women and young persons have rediscovered or more commonly found within themselves. This exhibition showcases some of the work of our artists, and I applaud their skill and talent of all we see and hear this evening.”
SUPPORTING THE ARTS
Director Treacy emphasised the value in continuing to support the arts through challenging times:
“With Public Sector austerity set to remain; this year like many other years has been a challenging one for those who champion, and care deeply for the role of the Arts, and in particular the custody arena in Northern Ireland. That the Prison Arts Foundation continues to grow, and make such a difference is a real testament to their commitment to change lives. Over many years of working in NIPS I have come across many courageous, talented and passionate artists working in our prisons. Art has transformed some of our spaces and I am grateful for that.”
Dr Shelley Tracey launched the Prison Arts Foundation’s report ‘Building Foundations for Change through the Arts”, funded by the Arts Council of NI. The report explores the impact and benefits of PAF’s arts programmes, through the lenses of fourteen participants in these programmes. These include six individuals who have continued with their arts practice since release from prison, and current members of our creative writing group in HMP Magilligan. Click here to read more about her inquiry.