A Changing Lives arts and heritage project for women with experience of the Criminal Justice system has won the Gold Award in this year’s Koestler Awards for arts in criminal justice.

The project which ran in partnership with Tyne and Wear Archives & Museums and funded by the National Lottery Heritage fund worked with women across nine Northumbria CRC hubs who were on probation last year.

The project took an innovative approach to rehabilitation using heritage, arts and culture to help women take positive steps and reclaim their identity.

The Koestler Awards for arts in criminal justice started in 1962. Each year over 3,500 people in custody and in the community share their creative work by taking part. The Koestler Awards provide feedback and encouragement to entrants of all abilities in visual art, design, writing and music.

There were 96 projects in total which won gold awards this year with over 6,500 award entries, so it is a real achievement for the project to win this award.

Dawn Harrison Service Manager at Changing Lives who led the project last year said:

“It is a real honour to see ‘Free but not Free’ win the Gold Award for The Koestler Awards this year and we are absolutely thrilled. This was a really special project for us and the women who took part. It provided many of them with opportunities and experiences they had never had the chance to be a part of before and it was great to see the positive impact this had on helping them take positive steps and move forward in life.”

The Free but not Free programme was developed after it became clear that many of the women involved were not represented in our arts and heritage culture and felt museums and or heritage sites were places they didn’t belong.

The programme focused on human potential and how positive change is possible for everyone. During the course of the eight-week programme, the women developed a real passion for heritage and arts culture.

As part of the programme, women became involved in all sorts of new experiences within arts and heritage. Working with local artists, poets and songwriters across the regions they, took part in poetry and songwriting workshops and produced their own art. This was then showcased at the Discovery Museum last November as part of a creative exhibition for the women to showcase their own archives to go down in history. Their artwork is now part of the Tyne and Wear Museums archive and will be there for future generations to access.

You can read more about the Free but not Free project in our previous article here.

For more information on Changing Lives Women’s services and the work we do with women who have experienced the Criminal Justice system please see here: https://www.changing-lives.org.uk/services/women-children/

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