Inspiring Futures

September 2019 - March 2023

A ground-breaking artistic programme in prisons and the community led by the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance.

Image produced during Avant Guard project

Helix Arts was one of the Inspiring Futures delivery partners, delivering a programme of activities in North East prisons and communities. The project was supported by research undertaken by the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge.

Inspiring Futures, National Showcase

In March 2023, Avant Guard (the creative work resulting from our Inspiring Futures project) was launched at the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance conference at Richmix, London.

A series of sound pieces and transcripts from the residents of HMP Northumberland were shared, giving listeners a chance to hear reflections and work created from a series of workshops with artist Craig Conway.



The Wasp



Full transcript

Inspiring Futures

Inspiring Futures sought to advance our understanding about how and why arts interventions affect the lives of people in the criminal justice system. The programme aimed to explore how the positive effects from arts interventions can be used to enable a change in arts and criminal justice practice. It also aimed to address long-term inequalities and to broaden access to the arts for people in the criminal justice system.

The Institute of Criminology embedded participative research at every stage of the project, with Helix Arts positioned within a community of good practice that offers professional development opportunities, enables peer reflection, presents case studies, and develops online platforms.

Avant Guard Project

Avant Guard involved Helix Arts and artist Craig Conway working with residents within a NE prison, to focus on their voices, mindset and understanding from their lives inside and outside the criminal justice system. Craig – an actor, writer, director and producer – facilitated conversations and creative exercises that looked towards the complexities of individuals’ experiences and circumstances and finds where, if possible, a positive shared influence could be introduced to educate and inspire change. A blog post from the Institute of Criminology can be found here.

Due to the pandemic, the project was delayed until Autumn 2021, when the lifting of lockdown restrictions allowed us to enter the prison and have face to face, small group workshops with the residents. Sessions were flexible and person centred, and involved the use of creative writing, prose, poetry, sound, drawing, journals in order to share experiences. The conversations were developed into a sound piece presented as a conversation between a resident and his younger self.

Listen to the full piece here.

Thanks to our Project Funders

This programme is funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).