Lockup Letters: Clean Break theatre connecting with women behind bars
Written by Constance Kampfner on 4 mai 2020
“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart”
Some sound and currently applicable advice from Phyllis Theroux for reaching others. One British theatre company wants to use letter writing to do just that. Clean Break – a company that works with women in the criminal justice system – are inviting members of the public to write letters to women behind bars. With the coronavirus pandemic, they are more cut off from the outside world than ever. Joint artistic director, Anna Herrmann, tells us about seeking hope for the future through this lost art:
“When we needed to close our building in Kentish town, we all had to rethink what we were doing, as everyone across the world did. We had to cancel projects that we were delivering in prison as well.
We were really conscious that for women in prison this was really going to be a moment of struggle. With their visits being cancelled, we were hearing that they were in their cells for 23 hours a day. It just seemed untenable to not try and do something.
For us, it felt that there was something about writing, around communicating, around saying that we see you, we know you’re there, you’re important, and offering messages of hope, support and solidarity.
And then, it’s important to us that our relationship with women in prison is built on equity. So for women inside it’s not just about receiving letters, it’s also about their own voice, their own words, and the power that they have to communicate with women in the community.”
Clean Break has partnered with It’s Not Your Birthday But… to set up the Write 2 Connect initiative. The letters written by the female prisoners will be sent to Clean Break’s members – women who have been or who are at risk of being involved with the criminal justice system – and other vulnerable women around the country.
Photos by Tracey Anderson.