Sketch by Harriet Riddell, 2019, The chapel, HMP/YOI Winchester.       

Snapshot of the room: Donny is Nervous

It's week six and Donny is visibly nervous about the deciding process. "How are we gonna put it all together? We haven’t got it all written up! This is mad!" The group listen to Donny with respect but also with shared understanding that Donny has a nervous disposition and suffers with anxiety, they don’t react, they respond supportively and reassure him. We lay everything we have out on the floor. We break off into groups and we come back with ideas of a creative arc that will tie all our ideas together. It’s hard work but hugely rewarding and at the end of the session we have the vision and the title. “How you see me. How you don’t”. Donny is calmer and less confused. When we evaluate the programme after the successful performance, Q&A and chaired discussion, Donny reflects that recently he was having a huge issue with his cell mate. He felt anxious and nervous and was very close to self harming - "But then I thought, it doesn’t have to be like this, I’ve been here before but when I didn’t hurt myself. I thought - I did a whole show and it was hard and I’m proud and I changed what I did. I changed my process." The group reflect on this and nod in understanding and there are broad smiles across this very supportive room.


The BFT prison project promotes democratic thinking, creative muscle flexing and a space to be heard. The process is instigated by BFT Jenny and Kate with carefully selected exercises aimed at creating togetherness & teamwork in a joyful way. The group can then begin to ask wider questions about our personal and social narratives. From these foundations, an ensemble is built to develop content and imagery as a team  – men, staff and BFT. 


Finally we platform the work to an invited audience made up of residents, the wider prison community, cultural professionals and prison staff. The product is often dynamic, awakening and funny and always causes spark for debate! This is a key aspect of the project leading to important social conversations; amplifying voices, challenging perceptions and shifting perspectives.




"You’re not acting - you’re being yourself - you can be yourself here” Learner (Russell Pilot Report 2018)


"It’s a way of expressing yourself that allows you to explain something without having to write it or talk directly to somebody" Learner (Russell Pilot Report 2018)


"It incredible to watch, funny and beautiful  – it made me think… and I will be having this conversation with others – it's an important conversation and one I think I took for granted before.” (Audience member, Saving Face, 2018)


"All the people in the room for a moment just became humans figuring out how to make stuff better – not institutions or corporations –  it felt like a place be be heard and to listen. Respect." (Audience member, Stuck in the System, 2019) 




2017 - The Pilot – Exploring the idea of self identity as a prisoner and as part of the wider society (HCT) 

2018 - Saving Face – A piece that looked heavily at the treatment of men after they leave prison – the revolving door, how to negotiate ‘rehabilitation’ and the importance of understanding trauma. We asked the question What is rehabilitation? (Big Lottery) 

2019 - How you see me. How you don’t. – This work analysed the stereotypes of incarceration and how metal health suffers when living in these environments (HCT) 

2019 - Stuck in the system – Shining a bright light on mental health and the difficulty breaking out of the Criminal Justice System. (HCT)


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