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Inspiring Futures

September 2019 - date

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

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

The Institute of Criminology embeds 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 involves 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 – will facilitate conversations and creative exercises that look 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.

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 project will feature in the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance and Koestler Arts performances and exhibitions festival planned for Autumn 2022.

A blog post from the Institute of Criminology can be found here.

Thanks to our Project Funders

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