In the spring and summer of 2018, we worked in partnership with historians from the University of Warwick, to facilitate two unique food and theatre residencies, exploring the history of prison food. Developed as a public engagement project of the five-year Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award, Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland, 1850- 2000 , Past Time offered a rare opportunity for prisoners to become ‘creative researchers’, exploring how policies about food in prison have changed over the last 160 years.
The design of the Past Time was originally conceived by Rideout in association with healthy living and safer custody staff at HMP Hewell who were keen to see how such an approach might be beneficial to prisoners considered to be at risk of self-harm and/or suicide. Inspired in part by Dutto and Marziani’s 2005 book, Il Gambero Nero (The Black Shrimp), a collection of photos and recipes collected from prisoners in an
Italian prison, and also by Rideout’s Director Saul Hewish previous involvement with B arts on their show A Place at the Table , we were keen to find ways of bringing the experience of food in the past to life through theatre and taste.
Working closely with Professor Hilary Marland and Dr Margaret Charleroy from the University of Warwick, this led to the creation of a mix of drama-based workshops, sessions with historians examining and interpreting historical source materials, cookery sessions, and training in food hygiene and nutrition. The culmination was two original performances showing how shifts in Government thinking about the purpose of imprisonment, and the growing recognition of the effects of food and nutrition on physical and mental health led to significant changes in prison diet. Furthermore, these performances gave audience members the opportunity to taste a range of prison food cooked to original recipes, if they dared!
An external evaluation of the project was commissioned through the Institute for Community Research and Development at the University of Wolverhampton, which is available for download here.
A short publication celebrating the project is available here
Further to the two residencies at HMP Hewell, Rideout was invited to deliver a third run of the project at HMP Stafford in November 2018. In due course this led to the creation of the Staging Time project.