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The Anne Peaker Lecture 2023

The Anne Peaker Lecture 2023

The Anne Peaker Lecture 2023

Here at the NCJAA our aim is to ensure the arts are used within the criminal justice system as a springboard for positive change. Against the backdrop of a volatile financial environment, a loss of specialist staff and increasing administrative barriers to do what the arts do best; it has become imperative for the NCJAA to take stock of why we are here and honour the crucial work of such an undervalued and often side-lined sector.  

The arts in the criminal justice sector can often wrongly be considered a side gig, a nice extra, a frontline service’s fluffy sister, crafty and lovely. But we are so much more than this, the evidence is clear, the data is tight – we are impactful, powerful, and present, we get the right people to notice us and create meaningful action on our behalf.  

We sustainably support people – we co-create, co-design and co-produce futures and we are here to stay. Our NCJAA evidence library is consistently providing useful analysis of our vital work. We hope to build on this deliberately over the next year, if research is something you’re interested in sharing with us please get in touch. 

We at the NCJAA have been proud to offer a series of events over the past months as a way of strengthening connections within the sector. We take our role representing a large network of individuals and organisations very seriously. Our members deliver creative interventions to support people in prison, on probation and in the community, with impressive results. And bringing this membership base together is vital for achieving our vision.  

The first in our series of affirming events was the Anne Peaker Lecture 2023. Anne Peaker was a pioneer of arts for, and by, people in the criminal justice system and this years lecture celebrated her legacy in its celebration of art, reform and creative expression. We were proud to curate a platform for the celebrated author, artist and public speaker. In 2011 Carl wrote Prison: A Survival Guide, following his early release from a two-and-a-half-year sentence.

Actor and producer Shona Babayemi started the journey of the night with her mind-shakingly evocative reading of poetry from Voices from Prison, a Clean Break project delivered during lockdown. This key moment was shaped by her delivery of the line, “you forget how to open and close your doors you know, really.” We asked the audience, what did you take from Shona’s poem? And Twitter replied, ‘deeply evocative’. Shona’s use of metaphor paved the way for a visceral keynote speech by Carl Cattermole. 

Carl’s keynote speech: Wow, where do we begin? The creatively opinionated and politically astute orator chose to weave us through the sum of his stance on art inside and outside of prison. “I’ll look at what prison IS and what art IS and add the two and end up somewhere”— A moment made more poignant by Carl’s use of observation as a tool to bring you into the locked room with him. But helped you to break free from it too.  

Our audience saw a snapshot of images from Life Through the Lens, which was a series of photography workshops led by Artist Emma Barnard, who participated in the 2022 NCJAA Mentoring Programme. These images are in response to the questions: What is your experience of being inside a prison? What do you miss about life outside the prison system?  

Image credit: Life Through the Lens @ Anne Peaker 2023 – Emma Barnard

Actor and Director from the North East, Ric Renton, shared monologues from his play; One Off, of which the audience said “Ric Renton, was brilliant – the sharing of his play provided deeply thoughtful and powerful insight into prison life.”  

In the second half of the lecture we heard from a panel, who shared their thoughts, feelings and opinions on Carl’s words after the poetic lecture. The panel included Russ Haynes, Executive Director for Teach a Friend to Read and current NCJAA Advisory Board member and Actor and Facilitator Demi Wilson-Smith who was a Members Assistant at Clean Break for three years and is currently facilitating with Synergy Theatre Project and Ruslan Shamsutdinov, DJ and manager of So Nice Events. Everyone concluded it left a fire in their veins and renewed pride in the role of arts within criminal justice settings.  

 The event was smoothly hosted by our very own Lady Unchained, NCJAA Advisory Board Co-chair and Independent artist with a natural rapport and flair to her guidance through the lecture. The key note and panel were also punctuated by photography, music and performances that provided a platform for important key messaging on the role of the arts in the criminal justice system. We also collectively paused to honour the life of Lord David Rambsbotham GCB CBE and reflect on his dedication and service to our sector. 

Everyone left the Anne Peaker event inspired, not least thanks to Laura Asare who guided us through a creative interlude to close, and to The Irene Taylor Trust who provided music from their Lullaby project to play us out. The lecture certainly quenched our audience’s thirst for action and left everyone feeling reflective, with a renewed sense of championing the need for our work.  

These important issues influenced the curation of  NCJAA presents Inspire: Sustainability in the Arts and Criminal Justice.

As the year develops the NCJAA will continue to address the themes and issues raised though these events, starting with our NCJAA Arts in Criminal Justice Forums.

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If you have something to share with our audience at events like this in the future we’d love to hear from you, get in touch via artsalliance@clinks.org