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Annual conference 2019

Young people in the criminal justice system – how can the arts respond?

On 27th February, we held our 2019 conference at The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham. Across a packed day of workshops, performances and panel discussions, over 100 delegates explored how arts and creativity can support children and young people (up to the age of 25) in contact with the criminal and youth justice systems.

  • Find out more about our speakers and workshops. Read the conference programme
  • The conference was live-tweeted using #ArtsCJS2019. Follow the day’s discussions in our Twitter Moment
  • Read Nathan Dennis’ highlights from the conference in his guest blog here


The theme of the conference felt significant amid the latest figures showing poor levels of safety across children’s secure settings, and record levels of young people in youth offender institutions identifying as being from a black and minority ethnic background.

We began with a video address from Justice Minister Edward Argar (click here to watch) and a challenging discussion between senior policy-makers, after which delegates were reminded of the power of creative expression with spoken word performances from young artists Jamal Khan and Aliyah Hasinah.

Eight workshops delivered by experts across the fields of arts and youth justice presented a range of innovative creative approaches to addressing issues such as poor outcomes for young black, Asian and minority ethnic people in custody; Adverse Childhood Experiences; mental health and wellbeing for young people in custody; and leadership and role models. These sessions were lively and engaging, and cleverly captured by young poet Talia Jay in her performance summary at the end of the day.

Intermission Youth Theatre’s performance of Verona Road was brilliantly received and it was a pleasure to have three of their actors take part in the plenary discussion. Convened as part of our curatorial role for this year’s Monument Fellowship work, the plenary gave young people the chance to have their say on what should happen to young people who commit criminal offences – and share their first-hand experience of the transformative power of arts and culture.

The panel discussed how the arts addressed their childhood trauma, created safe spaces and encouraged their self-worth. They called for the provision of creative activity and emotional support to allow more young people to open up to positive change.

The National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who took part and contributed to the success of the event. We hope it proves to be just the start of the conversation.

We want to hear more from all those practising arts in criminal justice and community settings.

In order to help us understand the needs of the sector and to measure our impact we need as many people as possible to take part in our annual survey. As a thank you for taking part, we are offering you the chance to win £50 high street vouchers.

The survey closes 5pm on Friday 15th March. Click here to have your say

Image credits: Elijah Thompson Photography