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Anne Peaker Lecture 2024: Inspiring Futures

Anne Peaker Lecture 2024: Inspiring Futures

Anne Peaker Lecture 2024: Inspiring Futures

Anne Peaker

Anne Peaker was a pioneer of arts for, and by, people in the criminal justice system. Our annual lecture honours her work and legacy, which forms the basis of the work we do today.

In this year’s lecture, held on Tuesday 26 March, we publicly shared the findings of the Inspiring Futures research project. Dr Caroline Lanskey, from the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge, presented the report and key stakeholders shared their thoughts on, and hopes for, the findings. Panelists included Anna Herrmann, Clean Break; Sara Lee, the Irene Taylor Trust; Simon Pellew OBE and Ben Digby, Only Connect; Bettina Crossick, HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS); and Richard Ings,Arts Council England(ACE).

The report findings provided deeply thoughtful material for the audience to reflect upon, and what was striking were the speakers’ and audience’s passion for, and commitment to, having a thriving sector – a sector where the evidence for arts being a supportive and transformational mechanism is not ignored.

The event also celebrated the work of the Inspiring Futures arts partners and artists in contact with the criminal justice system, showcasing a variety of music, videography, art and theatre. The NCJAA wishes to thank this year’s speakers, panellists and artistic contributors, as well as all the people who made Inspiring Futures happen. We sincerely hope that the report becomes a lightning rod for change in the arts in criminal justice sector.

About Inspiring Futures

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Inspiring Futures was an ambitious programme of work that examined how and why arts interventions impact on the lives of people in the criminal justice system, and how to best optimise their effect. Led by the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance (NCJAA), the project was a unique collaboration, bringing together eight leading arts in criminal justice organisations, the Institute of Criminology, and participants within the criminal justice system.

The research focused on two things:

  1. Impact of the arts for those taking part in the projects
  2. Wider impact of the arts on organisations, facilitators, the sector, and members of the public.

Due to begin in March 2020, the project was instantly impacted by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought national lockdowns within the community and across the prison estate. Despite this, the adaptability and resilience of the sector transcended the chaos, and everyone involved continued with their shared goal of successfully completing the programmes of work. In March 2023, we celebrated the completion of the project and showcased the work and achievements of the arts partners and programme participants through a weeklong exhibition at Rich Mix, London. The physical exhibition was later turned into an online virtual exhibition for audiences to access and share the work remotely.

What the research found

For participants

  • Those involved gained new creative or technical skills and gained confidence to try new things.
  • There were positive shifts in well-being, self-perception, and personal development.
  • Participants experienced positive social impacts such as making new connections and friendships and becoming closer to family members.

For criminal justice staff and settings

  • Some staff who participated in activities found the experience enjoyable and confidence-building.
  • Staff participation in arts programmes could have longer-term benefits between staff and prisoners such as seeing each other as “real people”.
  • Arts programmes are making an active contribution to several of HMPPS’ priorities including Respect, Purposeful Activity, and Rehabilitation and Release planning.
  • Staff motivation for the projects varied.

For arts facilitators and organisations

  • All were motivated by a desire to make a difference and found the work highly fulfilling.
  • Prison projects are/were unpredictable, with last-minute cancellations or changes causing disruption to work.
  • By reaching communities currently under-served by the arts, arts partners and others in the sector, are making an important contribution to ACE’s strategy for 2020-2030 Let’s Create.

For audiences

  • Performing or sharing work with an audience is important to both the arts partners and project participants.
  • The events broadened some audience’s understandings of criminal justice and perceptions of people with criminal convictions.
  • Responses showed recognition of the role of the arts in facilitating rehabilitation.
  • Exhibition feedback demonstrated the potential for arts programmes to positively influence public opinion.


The team at Cambridge drew three main observations from the research:

  1. That arts are making a valuable contribution to the lives of people in the criminal justice system, effecting personal growth and change, and improving the wellbeing of those who engage in them.
  2. That ongoing and follow-up activities are important for maintaining positive outcomes for the participants. Thus, highlighting the necessity of more arts-based services within prisons and in the community upon release.
  3. That a collective strategic commitment to, and long-term vision for, the arts in the criminal justice system is needed for the full potential of the arts in the criminal justice to be realised and achieved.

Read the full report here

NCJAA’s response to the research findings

Inspiring Futures is unmatched in its scale and ambition. The findings from the programme builds on the existing and extensive evidence gathered over many years. This evidence both demonstrates and highlights the value and benefits of access to, and participation in, arts and creativity in the criminal justice system. The landscape of criminal justice in the UK has changed in recent years, but the seven priorities we outlined in our 2018 publication, What does success look like for arts in criminal justice?, are still relevant in 2024.

There is work to be done and so much we need to push forward and collectively achieve. Our work over the coming year will be shaped by the findings of the Inspiring Futures research report, and we will continue to work closely with our Advisory Board and the Inspiring Futures arts partners to identify areas of future influence. This will ensure that the wealth of evidence of the impact of arts practices in criminal justice is used effectively to affect meaningful change.

The NCJAA will continue to represent and influence arts in criminal justice with the government and senior decision makers, working with our partners at ACE and HMPPS through the quarterly Arts in Criminal Justice Forum, and with the arts seat on the HMPPS Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3). We will continue to amplify the voices of those working in the sector, to ensure representation and engagement in policy and strategic developments to enable arts and creativity to become embedded within criminal justice settings.