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Working with women in the criminal justice system

I was recently invited by the Coordinators of our Networks project to a meeting which brought together the partner organisations with some of the artists and a representative of the funding body, the Community Learning Innovations Fund.  The meeting was held at Arnolfini in Bristol who, as partners in the project, have provided some inspiring cultural opportunities for participants in the project and we were given a short impromptu tour of a few artworks in the current exhibition which demonstrated how art can be used to provoke reflection, inspire participants to make new work and try out new ways of working.

The aim of the meeting was to enable partners to see the bigger picture, to understand that they were working alongside other, similar socially engaged arts projects with women in different parts of the criminal justice system, to see how women could benefit from creative engagement at different stages of their pathway through the service and how they could benefit from the Networking and peer support element that the developing digital project resource will provide during the second stage of the project.  From the discussion and the comments from those attending the meeting, this was certainly achieved.  Partners expressed a strong connection with and understanding of each other’s situations and issues and went away with an increased sense of ownership and engagement.  They certainly agreed to meet again and to develop and sustain relationships over time. There are some key things to look forward to during the second stage of the project which will provide a number of new arts projects in partner settings between now and June, an exhibition/event which will showcase the participants work and the launch of the digital resource [watch this space for more information about this].

As it evolves the Networks project is demonstrating what a valuable contribution working together, in partnership, can bring to providing activities and resources that support women at different stages in their lives to make sense of their situation, to develop new, transferrable skills and provide each other with the sort of peer support that helps to sustain change in a challenging environment.

Lesley Featherstone

(Director, Creativity Works)

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