Snapshot of the room : Sarah & Cass

‘I’m just gonna sit on the side alright, I’m not gonna get involved and I wasn’t even gonna come but they got me up so I’m here now’ - This is the third session and Sarah has decided that she is now ready to come into the room, after three weeks of popping her head round the door, this morning she has decided to sit in. The concept of ‘playing’ is a significant trigger for her, we are conscious of our language. By the end of the session she is still here, sitting at the side, chipping in helping us to co-facilitate at times, offering her opinions and encouraging the group work - this is progress. The first time we meet Cassy she cautiously walks through the door, grey tracksuit and fresh trainers holding on tightly to a stress ball. Kneading it like dough, firm but with care, needing it for comfort, keeping her calm. Face shielded by her long dark hair, her facial expression is hard to read but she is here - this is courage. Months later we see Cassy, she decided to join this next round of sessions. She is head up, hair and nails done, shoulders back, stress ball free. Ready for action and although not the most outwardly confident in the room, not quite as outgoing as Jackie or Chloé who are now more than happy to stand up to rap or sing solo, but Cass is joining in with the chorus, present, engaging, making eye contact, open and willing. What was once weird is now good weird. It’s everything to witness her learning to acknowledge moments of joy, feeling free enough to laugh, free enough to just be.

The PIPE unit is a Psychologically Informed Planned Environment, designed to support female prisoners with complex psychological needs from across the country. The community is split into two groups, Preparation and Progression, BFT work separately with women from both, we act as part of the enrichment offer. The delivery is bespoke to the group and dynamic on the day. We come with the intention to be responsive to need inviting space to explore creativity, focusing on positive self-talk, introducing improvisation techniques and the co-creation of something tangible if we get there. Using a mix of low focus and energetic activity to encompass a range of themes that we can explore with varying complexity depending on the individuals and mood in the room. It’s hard not to feel swept up in the energy that is created by the power of the women in these sessions, the courage and laughter that occurs in the space is infectious.

 

"I was feeling really anxious and worried about all this drama stuff but I loved it. We laughed so much!! ( Participant, 2020)

 

 

"Nervous, I was definitely nervous, I wasn’t even gonna come –so now, I’m excited to come back, what the hell are you gonna ‘invite’ us to do next week!? ( Participant, 2020)

 

 

                                                     "Sceptical when I first sat down, well skeptical and now, yeah, I’m flexing" ( Participant, 2020)

 

"I enjoyed being in a team with officers, it was good even though they lost.  No one refused to work with anyone and I think that says a lot."

 

                     "I guess I’ve started to realise that there is a feeling of joy and pride when you challenge yourself” ( Participant, 2019)

 

 

"I had no idea what I was coming into and I’ve smiled from the minute I arrived." (Officer, 2019)

 

"Really connected with the admissions from the women today, just blown away by your (the women) bravery. It’s helped me to understand your journey better. I’ve just started to work on PIPE and I’m glad to be on this journey with you" (Officer 2019)

 

"Bearface Theatre have contributed so much to our service and the experience of our residents. They have tailored their workshops to suit the needs of our women and worked with us at every step to ensure that what they do supports our service aims and ethos. The workshops have been inviting, fun and inclusive, empowering our residents through collaborative work and play! We can not wait for them to come back soon."

(Emma HolmesHead Occupational Therapist for Offender CareCentral and North London NHS Foundation Trust, 2020)

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