News: recent work

Working with Male Prisoners at Risk of Suicide and Self Harm

Keshena Bowie

Our Director of Programmes, Louise Heywood, has written an article for Arts Professional about our recent work with male prisoners at risk of suicide and self harm. 

Journeyman is a five-day project with adult male prisoners deemed to be at risk of self-harm or suicide, delivered in partnership with the Safer Custody teams in prisons. First delivered last year, and funded by the National Offender Management Service, it focusses on connecting with others, letting go of negative beliefs, goal-setting and developing new skills.

You can read the full article here:

Resilience and our Conference Training Work

Keshena Bowie

Our CEO and Artistic Director, Andy Watson, has been reflecting on our resilience over the last 30 years and has written the following blog about our conference and staff training work:

Geese Theatre Company works in a very challenging sector – the criminal justice system. As we approach our 30th birthday we have taken a moment to reflect on our history and some of the many people we have worked with. Some of those stories will be gathered here throughout the year.

As we talk to people about the organisation celebrating 30 years, a common question crops up: “How have you survived?” Delivering arts projects in criminal justice settings is subject to changing ideas from government, governors, commissioners and public opinion and our core audiences are seldom in the position to become legacy donors or to pay for a front row ticket. Whilst now there is a lot of interest in the sector we are also aware that may not always be the case.

‘Resilience’ and ‘sustainability’ are current buzz words, with an increasing acknowledgment that the way the arts is financed is changing. As an NPO we receive approximately 10% of our income from the Arts Council. Another 20% comes from grant making trusts. This vital funding enables us to pilot new ideas and support our core work with people who have committed offences or who are at risk. The remaining 70% of our income is earned and we are fortunate to have a reputation where prisons, secure hospitals and community organisations will pay towards the projects we deliver with them.

However it’s unlikely that we would still be in existence if we hadn’t developed a third strand of work – bespoke conference performances and training events for professionals. These are commissioned by organisations to support their programmes, enhance their appreciation of particular issues or increase the skills of their staff. We accept commissions from a wide-range of organisations with the understanding that every commission must have a clear link to our core work.  Adopting a theatre style similar to our prison performances we closely mirror experiences that audiences may face in their professional role and encourage them to actively engage in debate about the dilemmas presented on-stage.

“It was by far the most effective and thought provoking training I have attended during my police service”

This work started early in Geese’s history. In the late 1980s we were invited to present some of our prison performances at staff events. For example, our prison production Lifting the Weight explores issues around resettlement for prisoners and was presented to audiences of probation officers to enhance their understanding of the barriers facing their clients.

A significant moment came in 1993 when we were commissioned to create a performance at the Probation Chief’s Association annual conference. This placed the company in front of every senior probation manager in the country and provided an excellent introduction to the value of arts in criminal justice settings as well as enabling us to showcase the use of theatre as a training method. 

Last year, we worked with approximately 5000 staff with commissions from Clinical Commissioning Groups, social work teams, police forces and the judiciary.

Most recently we have created Safe Stages, a performance which explores the reality of safeguarding within arts venues. Devised in partnership with a large local theatre, Safe Stages encourages whole staff teams to reflect on how to put policy into practice.  The piece challenges audiences to recognise indicators of vulnerability and abuse, identify barriers there might be to reporting and consider what a proactive, as opposed to reactive, approach to safeguarding might look like.

"An expert, engaging and ultimately moving exploration of a difficult subject. Really made the policy live...when can you come back?"

Key for us is that we only take commissions when we feel that our knowledge of our core client groups and the systems they are living within can be brought to life to the benefit of the commissioning agency.

For example, our 30 year history of working with people who have perpetrated abuse means that we have insight into their motivations and strategies which we can accurately portray on stage for organisations wishing to enhance their staff understanding of safeguarding issues. 

Equally, the model works because the relationship is mutually beneficial – by developing training work for professionals we are able spend time researching and developing our understanding of their particular sector which can then inform our core work.  

For us, building a resilient business model is not about ‘selling’ our work to anyone who might want it, but about really understanding how the specialist knowledge and expertise we have built up over the past three decades can truly add value to the development of professionals from other sectors. 

To enquire about our Conference and Staff Training work, email info@geese.co.uk or call 0121 4496222

Annual Highlights 2015/16

Keshena Bowie

Our Annual Highlights for 2015/16 have arrived!  Flick through for information about our recent work in secure settings, our staff training performances, and for some beautiful images of Changes UK and Reach out Recovery performing at Birminghan Repertory Theatre, as part of a project that used mulitple art forms to explore the journey of addiction and recovery, funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

We made a very short film

Keshena Bowie

We made a very short film about our work with people who are in recovery from addiction, to support our Christmas campaign Give Geese this Christmas.

Geese develops strong partnerships in the community to reach people who are homeless, in recovery from substance misuse or have other complex needs, and your help could give more people the gift of a Geese workshop this Christmas (as well as being an excellent gift for a friend or family member!)

‘For me the last two weeks have been inspirational.  What a fantastic company of people, to give us an opportunity to have a voice and let go of the labels…  It’s been great!’ 
Andy, Participant from Reach out Recovery, July 2015

Making a donation to Geese this Christmas, however small, will help us to continue this work in 2016.  Please click here to donate.

Many thanks and Merry Christmas from all at Geese!