Inspiring creativity and encouraging personal and social change through the arts

The Prison Arts Foundation is as important as it is unique. Thanks to our pioneering work with people with convictions lives are being transformed and patterns of behaviour changed for good.

Our team of experienced professional artists working across the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland are offering people with convictions a life-line, helping to improve their creative and communications skills, which is key to personal and social development, building self-confidence and unlocking people’s potential.

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Davis House Nesting Lapwing

Speaking at the official opening of a new £54m accommodation block at Maghaberry, Ronnie Armour, Director General of the NI Prison Service said: “The opening of Davis House is a hugely significant day for everyone in the Prison Service. The building has been designed to put rehabilitation at the centre of everything we do and to support those who are vulnerable and have particular needs.”

Representing Prison Arts Foundation at the launch, Executive Director, Fred Caulfield remarked that “In October 2019 a state of art facility, named Davis House in memory of Steve Davis who was the Governor of Maghaberry Prison, was opened by David Sterling, Head of the N.I. Civil Service.

“During the construction of the facility I was invited to have a tour of Davis House by the Director of Prisons, Governor Austin Treacy, accompanied by the Architect, Karen Crilly. During the tour, we discussed the tremendous facilities available for the prisoners, and I was impressed with the area designated for Learning and Skills.

“Not only was I impressed with the visit to Davis House, but I was also delighted that PAF were asked to design a feature for the front of the building. Obviously, the outcomes that PAF has achieved by delivering art in the prisons was appreciated. The excellent work our artists in residence undertake with people in custody improves their self-esteem, enhances their communication skills and unlocks their potential which contributes to the rehabilitation process.

One of PAF’s artist in residence, Lucy Turner, designed a fabulous Sculpture, which was made by her and serving prisoners in her class.  “I was fortunate to see the sculpture being created but one of the highlights was the enthusiasm and skills that the prisoners had developed during the process. The design and the commitment of artists and prisoners to the overall process to create this sculpture was a testament to the benefits of Art in Prisons.”

Lucy directed the sculpture design and creation. An accomplished printmaker, Lucy’s approach was hands-on while recognising the need to be “an advocate for innovative and creative approaches, encouraging and supporting experimentation and cross-disciplinary work to engage, inspire and connect, in this case, the whole prison community. The restrictions on tools and materials which can limit do challenge, we had to think outside the box. There-fore, it became apparent quite quickly that a stainless-steel sculpture with mosaic elements made perfect sense for the Davis House sculpture. The CAD drawing, water jet cutting and welding of the main body was subtracted in Belfast leaving the detailed mosaic panels to be constructed in the ceramic studio in Skills and Learning.”

Lucy’s aim was to engage as many prisoners as possible in the creation of the sculpture: “It was important to engage with a cross section of HMP Maghaberry’s population lifers, remand, young, old and foreign nationals worked closely together.”

“The resulting drawings (created by the men) for the panels illustrate Lapwings emerging in a rural land-scape with wildlife meadows and the meandering River Lagan. The Lapwing, a bird that nests on open shrub needs protection from predators, this refuge within the walls of HMP Maghaberry are also depict-ed. The birds’ distinctive plume is mimicked as a flake on the main metal structure. Each panel was worked on by two or three men the decision for colourways, the breaking, sorting and placing the tiles to build up the image was theirs.”

Commenting on the final piece, Lucy added that: “The credit to Stephen Davis on his commitment within the prison service embeds an ethos of working together. Davis House Nesting Lapwing, a contemporary sculpture, is truly unique and representative of the social landscape that is HMP Maghaberry.”

The art project at Davis House HMP Maghaberry also won a Commended Award at the 2020 Koestler Arts Awards.