Wish Comet, Jana Matejkova, Lumiere Durham 2011. Produced by Artichoke. Photo by Matthew Andrews.

Making art in prisons

Local partners, businesses and charitable trusts have supported artists’ work in prisons over three festivals, offering offenders the chance to change how they see themselves – and how they are seen by festival audiences.

In 2009, 2011 and 2013, artists worked with offenders over several months to create beautiful, large-scale artworks, which were shown to thousands of people at Lumiere Durham:

Nine Men Drawing, Lumiere Durham 2009

At the very first Lumiere festival, men at HMP Durham made drawings relating to their lives and experiences. Artist Ron Haselden then turned ten of these pictures into Nine Men Drawing: large-scale, illuminated rope sculptures, which lit up the grounds of Durham Cathedral.

“The ideas of people who wouldn’t think of themselves as artists are given value and are represented in a public space. It’s about making people feel confident about themselves.”

Ron Haselden, Artist

Wish Comet, Lumiere Durham 2011 & Wish Planet, HMP Low Newton

Jana Matejkova worked with the women of HMP Low Newton and their children to create Wish Comet, a massive installation made out of 5,000 fluorescent wristbands, inscribed with the wishes of the women and their children. Wish Comet was a companion piece to Wish Planet displayed inside the prison.

“It was lovely and it makes you think about your life and how yours or my life is not as bad as we may think and that there is always hope, so all in all it is inspirational.”

Female prisoner on viewing Wish Planet 2011

The Other Side of The Wall, Lumiere Durham 2013

Five artists – Errol Fernandes, Dan Civico, Sarah Blood, Sheree Mack and Lindsay Duncanson – invited 60 offenders to each fill two Perspex boxes: one box depicted moments from their past, and the second showed how they saw themselves in the future. The boxes were displayed first in Durham Cathedral as The Other Side of The Wall, then at Durham prisons, before touring to venues around the UK.

“I really did have a wonderful time working with the young people, talking to families and visitors and meeting the staff… The young people had energy, ideas, passion.”

Lucy Duncanson, Artist

How our supporters made a difference

The generous financial and in-kind support we received from The New Bridge Foundation, Perspex and Waterstons, as well as grants from trusts and foundations that support our overall learning and participation programme, enabled us to devise and deliver these three long and complex projects.

This support made it possible for us to bring professional artists into prisons across County Durham, to complement their existing education programmes and give offenders the confidence and skills to help turn their lives around. Their help also meant these installations were seen by tens of thousands of people at Lumiere, offering festival visitors a chance to understand life behind prison walls and breaking down barriers between communities.

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