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Inspiring Futures

Inspiring Futures


Inspiring Futures has been an ambitious programme of work led by the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance (NCJAA) delivered over 3 years.

Through a ground-breaking artistic programme in prisons and the community with embedded participative research, the programme addressed why arts interventions impact on the lives of people in the criminal justice system and how to optimise the effect.

In March 2023 the NCJAA showcased the work and achievements of the project through a week long exhibition at Rich Mix, London which has been recreated in this online virtual exhibition for audiences to access remotely. The legacy of the project will build upon the outcomes shared in this exhibition through our policy influencing channels, ensuring what works on the ground is converted into lasting policy change.

With thanks to all our Inspiring Futures arts partners; Clean Break, Open Clasp, Helix Arts, Geese Theatre, Only Connect, Good Vibrations, The Irene Taylor Trust and Koestler Arts and the project funders Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Economic and Social Research Council.

Clean Break– a women’s theatre company using theatre to effect positive change in the lives of women with experience of the criminal justice system. Their work includes theatre workshops in prisons and in the community, and writing and performing drama that highlights women’s experiences.  Find out more about Clean Break’s A Proposal for Resisting Darkness project. 

Geese Theatre Company– a team of theatre practitioners who present interactive theatre and facilitate drama-based groupwork, working with people involved in the criminal justice and social welfare settings, and professionals who work in these areas. Find out more about Geese’s Journeyman project. 

Good Vibrations– a charity using communal music-making to support people in challenging circumstances. Their work includes running Indonesian gamelan music projects with people in the criminal justice system. 

Helix Arts – a not-for-profit creative business working collaboratively with artists across a wide range of art forms to give creative and artistic opportunities to those who currently have the least opportunity to participate. Find out more about Helix Arts’ Avant-Guard project. 

Irene Taylor Trust– a music organisation working collaboratively with some of the most vulnerable and excluded individuals in society, including those in prison and ex-prisoners, to create original music. Find out more about Irene Taylor Trusts’ Lullaby Project and Music in Prisons project. 

Open Clasp– a women’s theatre company in the north of England with a national and international reach, who collaborate with women to create powerful professional theatre pieces which are performed to wide-ranging audiences, bringing personal, social and political change. 

Only Connect– a creative criminal justice charity working with men and women in the criminal justice system, focusing particularly on through-the-gate work. Their music project involves writing, producing, recording and music promotion and marketing. 

Koestler Artsis a leading UK prison arts charity that encourages people in the criminal justice system to change their lives by participating in the arts. Koestler run exhibitions and events showcasing the artwork, enabling the public to witness the diverse range of voices, stories and talent. Koestler will be involved in showcasing the Inspiring Futures work.  

Inspiring Futures research report

An Evaluation of the Meaning and Impact of Arts Programmes in Criminal Justice Settings

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 NCJAA, the project was a unique collaboration, bringing together eight leading arts in criminal justice organisations, University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology, and participants within the criminal justice system.

Download Inspiring Futures research report

Download Inspiring Futures research report

Inspiring futures exhibition

Image courtesy of Dance United archive