Conferences: NCJAA, Digital Prisons, Khulisa and Whitworth Art Gallery

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Following on from our recent post from Facilitator Wallis Eates after her visit to Grendon’s Art Day, we now have a round up of other events that were attended by Stretch.

National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance conference

On Monday the 4th it was the NCJAA event on the Southbank in London. Wallis, Victoria and Alex attended as delegates, while Carlotta was on the panel for one of the breakout sessions discussing the challenges of bringing digital media into prisons. Other sessions included The David Lammy Review, and Employability in the Arts after Prison, that the rest of the team attended. About the day, Victoria comments:

The annual NCJAA conference was the first I’d attended, and it was enlightening from start to finish. We saw some superb theatre pieces which cast light on the experience of imprisonment, and heard a particularly fascinating range of voices speaking about HMP Holloway, and the real people whose lives had been affected by its closure: prisoners, art therapists, psychiatrists, and ordinary people with tales to tell. There was a lot of emphasis on the experience of women prisoners – to be expected, perhaps, given the emphasis on Holloway – but men and young people suffer in prisons too, and it’s important not to overlook their issues out of a misplaced sense that somehow women are less deserving of custodial sentences and their emotions easier to confront. Or perhaps it’s simply a reflection of the number of women involved in arts as a whole, with a corresponding gender imbalance in arts in criminal justice. I’ll be interested to see how, in future, a broader range of issues might be addressed and perhaps Stretch could be involved in that. Overall, though, it was an inspiring day and I’ll look forward to the next conference.

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Alex adds:

I really enjoyed the conference. After a tough year and feeling quite disillusioned and frustrated at times at the seemingly ever increasing obstacles being put in our way to carry out our work, it was great to spend the day with inspiring and like-minded souls who, in spite of these obstacles are still doing great work and striving to make a difference. I felt there was a collective frustration among all the delegates about the social and political factors that make our job so difficult, and the common theme was, how do we change both the government’s stance on rehabilitation over punishment, and the public’s perception of the work we do? These are huge questions and I’m not sure what the answers are, but I think it is massively important to have the debate centre around these questions when we are thinking about, “What’s next for arts in criminal justice?” The performances and presentations, particularly those in the afternoon about HMP Holloway I found particularly powerful and moving, and it reaffirmed for me just how passionate I still am about the work we do. Whatever is coming next – I want to be a part of it!

Digital Prisons

Carlotta attended the Digital Prisons conference in Edinburgh and was inspired by all the ideas that could feed into the re-imagining of Stretch Digital. While she felt that Scotland are far more forward thinking than England in terms of using technology in the CJS, she was also frustrated that the reduction of re-offending seemed to be the only measurement taken into consideration.

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Khulisa Charity Gala Dinner

Stretch attended a charity gala dinner for Khulisa – a charity that works on prevention and behaviour programmes with young people. Norman Lamb delivered a great speech, and it was a great opportunity for Stretch to connect and share what we do, highlighting the crossovers with Khulisa.

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Whitworth Art Gallery

Carlotta was invited to the Whitworth Art Gallery to represent somebody working with outside arts. This was to look at the possibility of a five year project with European partners to examine the role that Rock ‘n’ Roll museums and galleries could have in supporting marginalised artists. It was a brilliant and stimulating day, and Carlotta is excited to see how plans can develop to involve the Stretch Outsider Art Festival.