An update from Clean Break
Clean Break is a theatre company enabling female offenders and those at risk of offending to develop personal, social, professional and creative skills leading to education and employment. They pitched at the City Funding Network’s live crowdfunding event in June 2014, raising £6,000. Almost two years after receiving support from CFN, we caught up with Lucy Perman, Executive Director at Clean Break.
Can you tell us a little about Clean Break and the project that was funded at CFN’s June 2014 event?
Clean Break was set up in 1979 by two women prisoners who believed that theatre could bring the hidden stories of imprisoned women to a wider audience. Today we remain true to these roots, transforming the lives of women affected by the criminal justice system. Our theatre education programme builds confidence, skills and qualifications for women in prison, former offenders and women at risk of offending. Our professional development programme for criminal justice staff deepens understanding and reconnects professionals with women’s experiences. Our award-winning theatre productions engage theatre and festival audiences throughout the UK, addressing the theme of women, crime and justice.
At our CFN event, we raised crucial funds towards a new short play/touring theatre production with an accompanying workshop. The production included a cast of women with personal experience of the criminal justice system and toured to frontline organisations working with women offenders and those at risk of offending. This powerful production connected frontline organisations with women’s experiences and helped to inform practice, as well as giving our actors an opportunity to develop their careers as performers following completion of Clean Break courses.
Clean Break is a women-only theatre company. Why do you think it’s important that women’s stories are told?
Whilst women and men remain unequal in society, it will always be necessary to continue to tell women’s stories. Even beyond that, their stories are different – it’s important that women’s stories have a platform and an audience. This commitment goes to the heart of Clean Break’s beginnings, when two women serving a prison sentence founded our company and began to tell the story of women in the criminal justice system. Women remain a minority within the criminal justice system and are still subject to a system which is largely designed for and by men. Bringing to light the hidden stories of women caught up in crime is a driving force behind the stories that we tell through theatre.
Do you think there is still a need for charitable projects that work specifically to help women and to bring about social change for women?
In the current environment and with austerity and cuts disproportionately affecting women, there continues to be a strong need for specific projects which meet women’s needs and bring about change in their lives and wider social change. Examples of this include the excellent work undertaken by domestic violence charities include Refuge which is in the public eye because of the Archers abuse storyline. Domestic violence disproportionately affects women; many women offenders and those attending Clean Break’s courses and services have experience of this and are therefore themselves victims of crime.
Clean Break pitched at CFN in June 2014 and raised £6,000. Can you tell us what it was like to pitch at our live crowdfunding event?
It was a fantastic opportunity to pitch at a live event and very exciting for us all. This was our first experience of this and has helped us shape further fundraising pitches. It was also an exciting opportunity to bring together our patron and supporter Dame Harriet Walter with Jennifer Joseph – one of the graduates from our education courses and now a professional actor. Harriet and Jen have acted together at the Donmar Warehouse and both are wonderful advocates for Clean Break’s work. Beyond the important funds raised, it was a chance to raise awareness of our work and make new friends and advocates.
What do you have planned for the future of Clean Break?
We have many exciting plans. This year we are delivering increased theatre and playwriting residencies in women’s prisons including a final piece of work in HMP Holloway before its closure, to support the women in transition.
We are reprising our one woman show Joanne about the impact of the financial cuts on women and specifically telling the story of one young woman who falls through the cracks as she leaves prison and makes a new life for herself.
We are also touring another short production with a cast of graduates from Clean Break’s theatre education programme. Spent is all about debt, poverty and crime, and reveals the hidden stories of women struggling to make ends meet.