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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Tipping the Balance

R-Space gallery, Lisburn

25-29th March 2022

Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast

31st March 2022

Curated by PAF artist in residence Lucy Turner

The number and proportion of older people in the population is consistently increasing; this is likewise apparent in our criminal justice system. PAF wanted to increase opportunities for older prisoners to engage with the arts as we believe creativity plays a role in promoting individual and community health and wellbeing. Thanks to funding from ACNI’s Arts and Older People Programme we were able to achieve this through a new creative art residency that addressed social issues such as poverty, isolation and loneliness, as well as promoting positive mental health for older prisoners in HMP Maghaberry.

The group called themselves T.M.B (Too many Birthdays!) and during their sessions they collated images from places, poetry, stories and songs. These images were then transferred unto mosaic and attached to plywood boards to make a series of 7 ceramic wall panels, each representing a county, city or townland in Northern Ireland which had meaning to a club member. The resulting ceramic wall panels and some smaller ‘Nesting Bird’ artworks were exhibited at both the in R-Space gallery in Lisburn and at PAF’s main art exhibition in Crumlin Road Gaol during March 2022 and will be distributed to hostels & centres throughout Northern Ireland in later in the year.

Evaluating the project has helped PAF strengthen our evidence for the personal and social benefits of arts participation in later years. It is clear that older prisoners can provide valuable resources, and their desire to give back to local community through the project with art works show the importance of their ongoing participation. It is intended that this project will demonstrate how the arts can help address issues relevant to older people, and to inform future practice and funding applications.

Finally, the impact of the project from a TMB club member’s point of view:

“This class is a real benefit to me, anti-anxiety in the class keeps me from harming myself and feeling down. I look so forward to coming here and also the class is so relaxed, at present I’m at trial and if convicted I will spend the rest of my life here. With this class there is a ray of light in my life, almost forgetting where I am, also the teacher is very good with us. At first coming here I was worried in case I was no good at the class, but the teacher made me feel so comfortable and I was able to do things with clay I thought I could never do. I am so thankful for the help I receive here in class; I still feel human in this place of sorrow and brokenness.”