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Creative Licence project Creative Licence project

Creative Licence

a pilot project exploring employability within the arts sector for people with lived experience of the criminal justice system.

All work
A close up of John on placement. Image shows John stacking chairs.

Working in partnership with Unlock and HMP Oakwood, the project aimed to match men who are on Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) with arts organisations in the West Midlands to undertake work experience placements. The project provided an opportunity for a wide spectrum of people, many of whom will not have had the chance to enter the arts sector, kick-starting conversations about how we can begin to build bridges between prisons and the creative industries.

The following film captures the project and highlights John’s* placement at The REP:

“There is no doubt of the amount of benefits that are achieved when prisoners can access ROTL; building family ties, reintegration into the wider community and gaining meaningful employment. The prospect of this project was very exciting for us, and we couldn’t wait to be part of it. Not only for the positive impact it would have on John but also for strengthening the knowledge around ROTL and the importance of rehabilitation and ours and prisoners’ experience and views of the arts industry. We have watched John grow and develop throughout the project, and we are now confident he will use these skills when released from prison later this year.”

Charlotte O’Brien, Head of Rehabilitation – HMP Oakwood

“Creative Licence has been an excellent opportunity for us to help bridge the gap between custody and community. We’ve spent over 35 years working with people in prisons and have always known that employability plays a significant role in enabling people to make a success of that transition. Hopefully this pilot project will show that not only is it possible to provide serving prisoners with placement opportunities but that it can be an enormous benefit to both the person taking up the placement and the arts organisation.”

Andy, Artistic Director – Geese Theatre Company
A close up of John on placement

Professor Laura Caulfield and Dr Mary-Rose Puttick from the Institute for Community Research and Development at University of Wolverhampton, led on the learning and evaluation of the project, culminating in a report.

Read the report
A close up of John on placement. Image shows John stacking chairs.

To read a longer account of John’s experience on placement read the blog by Arts Council England.

Read the blog
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with thanks to our partners

We would like to thank everyone who has participated in Creative Licence and everyone who took part in interviews for this learning and evaluation project.  We also thank all those who have helped us make the project happen: Professor Laura Caulfield and Dr Mary-Rose Puttick, Unlock, Birmingham Rep, Belgrade Theatre, HMP Oakwood, HMP Sudbury, Paul Stringer, Hollie Smith-Charles and Lizzy Emmerton, and everyone at Arts Council England. 

The project was generously funded by Arts Council England.

*we have changed John’s name to protect their identity

  • We engaged with someone who has no experience of the industry and that is the only way the industry can move forward.

    – Birmingham REP – Creative Licence
  • It’s been brilliant. It’s put me back into society again. I feel normal. I don’t come to work and feel like a prisoner.

    – Participant – Creative Licence
  • It’s an important project, giving men opportunities to develop their skills and give something back to society

    – Director of HMP Oakwood – Creative Licence

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