News by Andy Watson

Black Lives Matter

Andy Watson

Geese Theatre Company works at the intersection of two systems: the arts and the criminal justice system.

We know that at every stage of the criminal justice system, from stop and search through to sentence length, Black people are disproportionately over-represented: Statistics on race in the CJS 2018  

We also know that Black people are under-represented amongst employees of National Portfolio Organisations, and even more so when it comes to leadership roles such as Chief Executive or Artistic Director:  ACE Equality and Diversity Statistics.

As an organisation one of our core values is a belief in change. Primarily when we talk about this value, we are referring to the potential for individuals to make changes in their own lives. However, we also acknowledge that there needs to be fundamental change within the systems in which we deliver our work and that we must be part of that change. If we are not part of that change then we are part of the problem.

Our Black practitioners experience specific challenges when working within the Criminal Justice System. At a prison gate waiting to begin a project and two white practitioners are waved through whilst the Black practitioner is subjected to a thorough search and suspicious glances. Or when our team are waiting to leave a prison after a day’s work and our Black colleague is told by an officer to join a queue of other prisoners – a situation which was resolved only when a white colleague intervened. We see our own team impacted by it, and we see the client groups we work with impacted by it. 

We will not to be silent; we will not to be complicit; we will challenge intolerance, prejudice, and racism.

One of the key principles which underpins our work is that of being reflective. At this moment it is imperative that as individuals and as an organisation we spend time reflecting on our own prejudices and privileges and deepen our commitment to educating ourselves, equipping ourselves with knowledge and understanding of the historical systemic and institutional racism designed to create and perpetuate inequality, so we can be a greater part of the change we need to see within the systems we work in, and wider society. 

Some useful resources:

On racism in the UK Criminal Justice System:

  • For anyone who considers that this is an issue in the USA and that it doesn’t apply in the UK then we would recommend taking a look at the 2017 Report of the Independent Review of Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody and specifically chapter 5 which focuses on ethnicity. Amongst other key findings, the author of the report, Dame Elish Angiolini comments: “There is also evidence to suggest that dangerous restraint techniques and excessive force are disproportionately used on Black, Asian and minority ethnic people.”

  • For more information about the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic individuals in the Criminal Justice System we highly recommend reading The Lammy Review. Although published in September 2017 many of the issues highlighted are still very relevant today and most of the recommendations still need to be acted on.
     
  • A more recent blog post by Nina Champion, Director of the Criminal Justice Alliance, in which she argues that more needs to be done following the Lammy Review, to rebuild trust in the CJS. 
     
  • A 2015 edition of Criminal Justice Matters, titled #BlackLivesMatter, contains a series of articles exploring a range of issues around the disproportionality of Black and Muslim men in the UK Criminal Justice System.

Resources for education on the issues:

  • Do the work - a website that includes things to listen to, read and watch to help educate on racism
     
  • A GoogleDocs document with ideas of ways to help (petitions, reading and education material, places to donate, ways to protest etc)

 Where to donate:

Film-making Residency in Forensic Mental Health

Andy Watson

Our team have just returned from a brilliant week working with staff and service users living and working in a medium secure hospital in Hertfordshire - www.cygnethealth.co.uk. We had been invited to work with the service users to facilitate an exploration of their experience of stigma with the ultimate aim of making a short film.

Feedback has been fantastic and we would like to thank the patients and the OT staff who worked alongside us during the week for their enthusiasm, ideas and commitment. Some staff comments include:

"Geese have given both staff and service users a brilliant week where we have all learnt so much."

"Service users identified that the experience has helped them grow as individuals and developed in confidence."

"The Geese team worked brilliantly with both staff and service users."

More information about our work in forensic mental health settings can be found here

Engagement and CRC’s

Andy Watson

We were commissioned recently to develop a performance for a local Community Rehabilitation Company which would enable their entire staff team to think about their roles, especially in light of the split in Probation services which has come about as a consequence of the recent Transforming Rehbilitation agenda. Our performances for staff are designed to create spaces in which people feel able to have meaningful conversations, creating a forum in which complex questions can be debated openly. This piece also asked challenging questions about the nature of building relationships with people when time is limited; the value of communication as opposed to completing paperwork; how probation can work with the whole person, not just the bit of the person that has committed an offence; and how probation staff can be a pivotal component in the desistance journey. In addition, our brief was to motivate and enthuse the staff team about the value of their work. This morning we received feedback from the delegates: 

It was a creative approach that really forced the audience to think about their responses and the fact that it was brilliantly rehearsed, that so much work had gone into producing it; slick

What stuck out for me was the in-depth understanding of our roles, from lots of perspectives.

Fantastic. The way they portray staff and offenders was just spot on. 

It was the most interesting part of the whole day. I was really impressed by their knowledge of our terminology and what the service is going through. It made it more believable. 

Interactice and fun!

Very thought provoking...

Without exception, everyone enjoyed the presentation and above all, found it a very useful learning opportunity. 

Journey Woman - a week long project in HMP Drake Hall

Andy Watson

We have just finished working with a group of women in HMP Drake Hall, where we delivered our week-long project, Journey Woman. Always a challenging week for both the facilitators and the participants but ultimately incredibly rewarding. As one participant put it in her evaluation:

I was wary about coming as I've never done groupwork before and I wasn't too keen. But I can say 100% I thoroughly enjoyed ALL OF IT. The Geese facilitators are amazing, easy to approach and I loved their acting skills. I saw a lot of myself in the past and the present...

Work with women offenders has long been a part of our history and is always delivered by our female practitioners. We deliver projects in the community (and are currently working in partnership with Anawim in Birmingham) as well as in custodial settings and we are part of the network organisation Women's Breakout which is an incredibly useful resource for people working in this sector. We have always believed that our work with women needs to take a different approach to our work with men, which is why we developed Journey Woman and it is interesting to note that a new Clinks document, Who Cares - Where Next for Women Offender Services?  echoes that view: 

It is about the woman's right to get as many services that are women-focused, rather than being at the tail-end of something that has been developed for a man. 

Stay at Birmingham REP

Andy Watson

Last night we performed 'Stay' at Birmingham REP. 'Stay' was devised for work with male perpetrators of domestic abuse and this was the first time we have delivered it to a public audience, outside of a criminal justice context. A little bit of an experiment to see whether or not our work, which is devised for very specific audiences and settings, translates to other audiences without losing meaning and impact. The performance sold out, which tells us there is a demand for people keen to see our work. So far feedback from audience members has been very positive, with comments such as: 

Saw Stay at BirminghamRep last night. A fascinating insight into GeeseTheatre's work on domestic violence.

Uncomfortable, powerful, challenging and incredibly well done...

So worthwhile showing 'Stay.'  Unpleasant viewing but excellently done, helped develop my understanding.

Great to get a rare opportunity to see Geese Theatre doing their stuff last night. Inspiring.

Thank you for sharing some of your work with us last night. Very challenging and emotive.

Stay was simply amazing in so many ways. Well done @GeeseTheatre

It was engaging, challenging, emotive and inspiring and I think it translated very well to the public forum.

It was brilliant and though a desperate topic to cover, it was really enjoyable.

If you were in the audience last night we would love to know what you thought.