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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2018 NI exhibition at Crumlin Road Gaol

Curated by PAF artists in residence, mentors & mentees

Launch date: 14th March 7:30pm, by invitation only

Opened by Austin Treacy Director of Prisons, Northern Ireland Prison Service

Reception – Governor Corridor

Exhibition – Circle and C-wing

Visitor Attraction & Conference Centre, 53-55 Crumlin Road, Belfast, BT14 6ST

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.



Arts Platform

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.


Event Opening

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.”



We had approximately 250 individuals attend the event; the audience included artists, family and friends of exhibiting artists and key individuals/representatives from organisations working within the criminal justice system in NI including Department for Justice NI, Northern Ireland Prison Services, Probation Service NI, Youth Justice Agency, Irish Prison Service, Arts Council NI, NIACRO and Prison Chaplaincy.

 “The trip was very rewarding and well worth the effort as I really enjoyed seeing the art work in the very appropriate setting of the Crumlin Road Gaol and meeting everybody associated with PAF.  I thought of it as a pop-up exhibition, which is a popular concept at the moment, (there one minute gone the next) and in every situation I find that I learn something valuable.  At the moment I am working towards an exhibition of artwork from all 13 prisons in the South, therefore Liberation was a good experience and a good reference point for me as I face into a similar challenge. It is well worth doing these events as a lot of good things flow from the occasion. It was a really good move to have Mentees there simply to talk about their work and bring it alive for people. The musicians and singers also added some real atmosphere and it was great to see how it was a positive occasion for families and friends.”

Tom Shortt, Arts Development Officer, Irish Prison Service

 “Many thanks for my invitation to your event last night.  Myself and my guests thoroughly enjoyed the whole event, it was very impressive. It was a truly fitting place to hold the event.  It was great to meet a few ex-prisoners telling me how the Prison Arts have turned their lives around, from art and music alike.”

Andrea Campbell, Librarian, HMP Magilligan

 “As much as all the participants have worked to prepare for tonight, I know that you’ll have worked every bit as hard, if not harder, to bring the whole thing together. I’d like to thank you for all you do and to wish you and all those involved an enjoyable and successful night.”

PAF Mentee

The exhibition won a First-Time Entrant Award for Arts Project Koestler Arts 2018.