Project Description

A Drama and Writing Project for Prisons

The National Justice Museum in Nottingham is the UK’s leading criminal justice museum. Its collection includes a vast array of objects, uniforms and documents relating to the history of prison, including what was once the Prison Service’s own archive. As part of this collection, there are a number of prisoner made objects, the provenance of which is unknown. The museum is currently developing a new exhibition, Ingenuity, which uses these objects as a starting point for an exploration of the role human creativity plays in coping with imprisonment. This exhibition is scheduled to open in 2023.

In support of this exhibition, Rideout (Creative Arts for Rehabilitation) has been commissioned by the museum to work with three prisons in Staffordshire. In each of these prisons, the company will work with a group of up to 12 prisoners for one week, to create a series of ‘imagined provenances’ for these objects. The process for generating these stories will comprise a mix of drama and writing based activities in which participants will be asked to consider the origins of the objects – Who made them? Why and how were they made? How was it that they came to be in the collection of the museum? The workshop will draw on processes used in contemporary TV programmes such as Antiques Roadshow and Fake or Fortune as a way to explore and develop ideas for the imagined origins.

The first of these workshops took place at HMP Stafford in late March 2022. Visits to HMPYOI Swinfen Hall and HMPYOI Drake Hall will take place later this year.

Following the creation of these stories, Rideout will work present the provenances in a published catalogue for an imagined auction which will be presented to members of the public in the exhibition in Nottingham. All prison participants will receive a copy of the catalogue once it is printed.