‘Writing for Future : Triumphing Together’

Third Session, Wednesday 2nd October 2019 with  Jamal Khan, Poet, Performer & Creative Writer.

It is said a picture speaks a thousand words and by and large I would be in agreement with that, particularly if you are a visual person and adept at reading an image like a book. However, writing, particularly creatively adds another dimension to creative expression and packs the power to release what might be difficult to draw, or say out loud.

Oftentimes, I have found the ability to let the lid off the bottled up emotions and thoughts through creative writing and found it a useful tool to make sense of the world around (me) us. Jamal’s session made it very clear that this had been the case for him during his several years, from the age of 15 in the CJS.

Having Jamal, express this viscerally in front of a class of 12, some of whom are living through the CJS at present, had a profound effect on many present.

We cannot begin to understand the actions of another person, wherever that person may be, if we are not prepared to listen without judgment and give that person our time at no cost. Having this opportunity in HMP Springhill, underpinned by the wisdom of Desiderata, broadened the perspective of many present.

 

CoFacilitator, Hector Garay told us about his schooling in Spain, which had been prompted by the green biros we were using in the session:

Green is the colour of nature and plants. Its presence has increased in the last decade linked to recycling and the ecologist movement, but few people know it has been used for more than a century for writing purposes.

In latin-based languages, “green” (vert, verde..) is also the colour for “hope” (or “esperanza”).

That’s why when an attempt to create a common language called Esperanto, as an universal way for people from different cultures to communicate and understand each other, green was the proposed colour to write it.

There are still today communities all over the world that use this language to supress the barriers of communication and they still use green to write it, “hoping” some day we all understand each other, regardless our culture or the language we speak.

As Hector’s words suggest; it is clear to me that having the tool of creative writing is a real enabler for anyone wishing to take steps towards a better future; not only that, but in finding strength through writing, many present were led to gaining the courage to speak before other people.

It is also worth noting, the words which Title the blogs are all taken from the feedback collected from each session, written anonymously by the participants in the session.

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Our next, fourth session in Springhill will be in Lino Art with Alexandra Buckle.

 

 

‘Woven in to Life’ -25.09.2019

Second session took place Wednesday, 25th September with Willow Artist, Hazel Godfrey

Driving up the hill from the main road two Red Kites circled and danced in the sky above Springhill, almost in an act of greeting to us on our arrival. It was a magnificent site to see and a good omen for the afternoon ahead. Gladly, we met Hazel in the car park and were able to help with carrying materials and equipment to check through the gate before heading to the Ecobuild to set for everyone’s arrival.

 

Hazel talked us through the materials and explained our plans for the afternoon & the basic weaving methods for the initial framework. After a gloomy start and now with sun shining we set about gathering foliage from around the green spaces to weave in to the structures, which rather than planning, organically grew in the making…

 

Following a spot of the opening stance and movements of Shibashi returned to the Ecobuild with our bounty of nature, somewhat daunted by the prospect of working with such a simple material, yet seemingly complicated technique, with deep concentrating and a sense of solidarity we all set about weaving some magic.

 

Everyone’s work was exemplary, but there were some outstanding pieces produced through the course of the afternoon and magic they were, all.  In particular, the work of Craig; who, quite decisive and methodical in his approach, seemed to complete the task with ease and swiftly and before we knew it had set himself a challenge and progressed to produce a simply beautiful figure. Complete with the staff like object I had been making, a Shamanic presence now watched over us from the corner of the room with captivating effect:

 

Willow weaving & basket making as a method are thought to date back to hunter-gatherer times and the methodical, yet somewhat primeval activity that afternoon left many of us with a deep sense of reward; the works were varied in their approach and execution, but as mentioned previously each had its own magic, in particular:

 

Subconsciously, Alaina’s creation evolved out of a piece of artwork by Michael while he created a series of hearts; Daley a mobile & Leon’s structure took on a very organic, yet satisfying shape with suggestions of holding a baby, or even a basket from which to cascade flowers, like a bridal bouquet…

 

Once we had cleared up we arranged our creations on a central table to be appreciated and discussed by the group. Hazel, notably,  spoke of how she had found the session inspirational and revealing to her; by exploring the material afresh with those handling it for the first time she felt encouraged to explore new methods and approaches in her own work.

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Truly, a session of Learning Together, taking ‘a leap of faith’ and ‘trying something new’; discovering ‘power’ because you were good at it. Now that’s ‘Willow Growth’!

Next week we are joined by Wordsmith & performance poet, Jamal Khan to reveal the creative release that comes from working with words and putting pen to page. They say it is mightier than the sword…

 

Turning a New Leaf

First Session, From ‘Trees to Whales’ to Nests & Creativity with Lisa Pearson…

 

On the eve of our second session 25th September 2019, a moments reflection on the start of our 2019 project in HMP Springhill.

As has been the case for the last two iterations of the course, there has been a lot of anxiety in the build up to the project: are we going to have enough students; will there be enough interest within the prison; we need to figure out funding and the usual feeling of ‘why am I/we doing this?’.

It is a good question, and in the darker moments it’s a heavy one, but as those of you who have done similar work, or been to see a Koestler exhibition the ‘Light switches on’ the moment you have your first experience. The gratitude held, felt and shared by the participants is palpable, calm soothes the air as we share the experience together and a sense of equality -we are all human beings, irrespective of our differences- holds the space. Moments like these are of the highest value, that no money can buy.

That was definitely the case last week: the groups came together for a series of activities looking at trees, nature & ‘nest building’ with Lisa Pearson, a creative, horticultural therapist.

Initially we started the afternoon, following introductions with the opening posture (& first moves) of Shibashi, attempting to perfect our Wuji Stance. I have found this to be the best grounding and breathing exercise to reduce anxiety, particularly in new environment and it helps to create an open, but safe space in which to be creative and share in the experiences available.

Once we had found our space we engaged in Charlotte Synge’s From Trees to Whales’ activity, creating a web of connections as we learned and identified the connections created through, by and with trees.

…now well and truly integrated, with our newly established knowledge of this Wooded World we took ourselves to the grounds green spaces, to reflect on our lesson and gather natural materials with which we made works of art & crafted our nests.

The weather was kind to us, a glorious sunny afternoon and spirits were most certainly higher than before. With willow weaving tomorrow, but for worries about the weather how can we not continue to be excited? Come rain, or shine I hope we will leave again singing with the successes of the day!

~ Rebecca LG

DrawingConnections exhibition at Banbury & Bicester College Art Faculty

Hector Garay, Co-Facilitator of the DrawingConnections project and Lecturer at BBC Art Faculty has worked tirelessly these last few days. He has curated an exhibition of works in the college to showcase the work created over the last two projects…

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The exhibition launches today and we also have an announcement to make, so please come along, have a look & support the project and people helping to make it happen!

~Thank you Hector!

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June Reflections

The last few months, since the Radzinowicz Exhibition have been a riot of activity. Particularly in June when we welcomed Dr Shira Diamond, an Art Therapist form South Africa via Israel who came to conduct interviews with a cross section of participants from the two years the programme has run since starting in 2017.

 

Interviews were conducted with College & Prison based participants. Staff in both institutions and a number of the Artists involved, the former Governor on location at his current post and the new Governor Becky Hayward to discuss the future of the project and it’s possible role in Springhill moving forwards. The interviews took place in the College, Prisons, a train station and with some Artists, on location at their exhibitions in beautiful settings such as the Wildlife Trust’ College Lake Nature Reserve and Green Dragon Eco Farm; lots of beautiful art and walks in nature to be had!

The interviews, now conducted will be transcribed and studied by Shira for a PostDoctoral research paper with the excellent support of Dr Caroline Lanskey, a Senior Lecturer At the Institute Of Criminology who works closely with National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance (NCJAA).

Were looking forward to learning about some of the insights made through the interviews, hopefully a sound bite or two will be ready for the Festival of Ideas, Arts in Prisons series of activities, Saturday 19th October 2019.

In the meantime, preparations for the next run of DrawingConnections in Springhill mid September this year are underway; the Artists now confirmed, include three men with experience of the Criminal Justice System this year, who thanks to Koestler Arts and NCJAA are practicing their creativity upon release.

Pop up exhibitions are now set in Springhill and the college to engage students for the next run and August 30th an exhibition event will take place welcoming former participants to share their experiences with interested people and potential DC students.

Lots going on, which we hope you understand, is why the updates are less frequent!

Watch this space…

 

…and just to close, a few photos from our trip to London to see the Summer Exhibition and a brief visit to the garden at Berkeley Square!

 

2019 Lent- Radzinowicz Library

Since our last post many things have come to pass with the DrawingConnections project. We have had the great privilege of having works from the last project exhibited alongside the permanent Koestler exhibition at the Radzinowicz Library. Much gratitude to Stuart, Head Librarian for allowing this to happen and curating the works with the help of PhD candidate Eleanor Neyroud.

On the open day we welcomed participants up to Cambridge, including from the College and HMP Springhill. Along with representatives of the Arts Council, BACO, Koestler, Arts Society Granta and Colleagues from the Institute of Criminology, including Director, Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe. All friends.

The exhibition remained for the duration of Lent until the beginning of the Easter Term, meaning MSt students were able to view  the works produced as a result of the project, particularly relevant to those studying for the Master of Studies (MSt) in Applied Criminology, Penology and Management.

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We are now looking forward to plans for summer exhibitions at the College and in the HMP Springhill over the Summer months July – August to encourage participants for a Mid-September start of a 2019 project. Exciting plans… watch this space!

Celebration : Session eight with everyone who could make it!

We had a delightful, close group celebration in the Boardroom at Springhill. A temporary exhibition was assembled to show a selection of works produced during the project all together in one space. It was also an opportunity for all to see and enjoy their achievements, exchange stories and give mutual thanks in a relaxed, safe space.

Beautiful food was provided by the Nanna Mexico mobile facility, for a Burritos feast served to us no less, than by owner, Luis. It was great to see the van parked up front of the house, but out of full sight to avoid temptation and tantalisingly smells drifting across the huts. Just to seal the Burritos bargain, DrawingConnections tokens were exchanged to generate a ‘healthy’ Christmas’ Chocolate Coin reserve for Luis, who enthused about taking part and ‘returning to the NannaMexico roots’.

 

As the afternoon closed, additional feedback was shared, with repeated thanks and  gifts, irrespective of people’s Religious stance at this time of giving. We now look forward to seeing one another at the Radzinowicz Library exhibition, January 2019 (closing mid March)!

Hope to see some of you there, join us from 2pm Wednesday 30th January 2019, email: crimlibd@hermes.cam.ac.uk if you wish to attend then, or at a later date.