Arts and Creativity transform prisoners’ wellbeing

11 Jun 2021 01:36 PM

Led by Soft Touch in Leicester, and supported with £97,505 of National Lottery Project Grants funding, ‘Unlocked’ used arts, creativity and the CHIME (Connectiveness, Hope, Identity, Meaningfulness, Empowerment) model of recovery to enhance the wellbeing of those in prison and serving a community sentence.

De Montfort University is bringing together is practitioners, artists and researchers for an online event to celebrate and reflect on ‘Unlocked’, the three-year penal arts project.

During the first two years of the project, participants at HMPs Leicester and Stocken attended weekly art sessions, where they worked on a broad range of themes using different types of media.

Colorful collage skull

Collage Skull by Darren Begnor. Photo – Soft Touch

A participant of the programme recently said:

“Unlocked saved my life, it gives you hopes and dreams and frees you from fears”

The third year was significantly impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic, with no in-person workshops being able to take place. Instead, with the support of staff inside the prison, weekly art challenges were distributed to each cell, and returned to Soft Touch, who posted them on social media. Soft Touch shared the online engagement and comments received back to prisoners, creating a link with the outside world.

This work has been displayed through exhibitions, both in-person and digitally, giving prisoners a platform to share their experiences and bring their drawings and poems to life.

Peter Knott, Director for Arts Council England, recently said:

“Unlocked has given those in prison and serving a community sentence the opportunity to engage in creativity and learn new skills - we’re so pleased to have supported it through National Lottery Project Grants.

“Culture and creativity have the power to bring people together and improve health and wellbeing. We hope that the work and research produced as a result will support new and ongoing arts and health work in criminal justice settings.”

Sign up to the event.