Logo for Creative Aid: creative project for care-experienced people in prison

Creative Aid

A co-creation project with care-experienced young men in Deerbolt Prison, supporting the young men to be recognised as artists.

Care leavers are over-represented in the prison population; one third of the prison population in Deerbolt Prison, County Durham, are care-experienced.

Being creative has been shown to improve safety and wellbeing in prisons, help people in prison build relationships with family members (Creativity in a Restricted Regime, National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance), and have a positive impact on rehabilitation and relationships within the criminal justice system.

Following a creative consultation with young men at HMP Deerbolt, Blue Cabin and Nepacs were awarded funding by The National Lottery Community Fund, Reaching Communities Programme, to deliver a three-year project called Creative Aid.

The project includes artist-led workshops and support for participants, who are aged between 16 and 25, to achieve an Arts Award accreditation.

The aims of Creative Aid

Our short-term aims are to:

  • support participants to develop their confidence and sense of pride, wellbeing and emotional literacy
  • help them to explore their life stories and develop their relationships with others, including family members and peers in Deerbolt
  • support them to develop their skills, knowledge and understanding of the arts
  • support participants to achieve an Arts Award accreditation.

And our long-term aims are that Creative Aid participants:

  • are recognised as artists and feel a sense of belonging in society
  • make pro-social choices, to refrain from reoffending, and engage in positive activities (both while serving their prison sentence and on release)
  • increase their confidence to access the ‘arts’ in the community
  • use their Arts Award achievement to lead onto further education or employment opportunities
  • experience improved relationships with family and significant others.

The creative consultation

Creative Aid is based on the findings of a creative consultation by Blue Cabin and Nepacs which Blue Cabin Associate Artist, Nic Golightly, carried out remotely with 12 young men at HMP Deerbolt.

The aim was to find out what impact being creative has on their lives, and discover what they would like to achieve through creative activities longer term.

“…[Art is] helping you talk when no-one else is around. It’s an expression in many ways…”

“[I would like to do] meaningful drawing. Things that I’ve gone through and faced.”

Read more about the creative consultation here>>


What’s happened so far?

In the first year of the project, 10 lads* have explored different artforms with Nic Golightly, Sarah (Nepacs support worker) and three visiting artists (Blue Cabin Associate Artists, Ruth Mary Johnson and Lisette Auton, and Newcastle-based visual artist, Nick Kennedy).

The lads have explored artforms including poetry, scriptwriting, typography, graphic design and portraits with visiting artists. Their artwork has gone on show in the reception area of the prison, and six of the participants are working towards their Bronze Arts Award.

*Lads is the term we use to describe Creative Aid participants, preferred by the lads themselves.

What impact is Creative Aid having?

The artworks created reflect a development in the group’s skills and confidence; they take pride in their work and have been supported to share their emotional insights both individually and as an art collective.

Creative Aid is having a positive impact on the day-to-day lives of lads taking part and it is regularly noted within case notes that their moods are bolstered as a result of taking part in a Creative Aid session.

Positive relationships are being built and one member of the initial group has put himself forward as a peer mentor for new participants in year two.

What’s coming up in year two of the project?

Over the next year, the group will explore options for sharing their creative work, including an artists’ book and an online gallery. Our visiting artists will develop creative packs, allowing more young men in the prison to benefit from the creative activities, and we also hope that six of the initial group members will achieve their Bronze Arts Award.

And a new group of lads will begin to work with our artists, starting their own journeys towards being recognised as artists.

Find out more

To be kept updated on all our work, you can follow Blue Cabin on Twitter at @wearebluecabin, or on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/blue-cabin. You can also sign up to receive our e-newsletter here.

If you’d like to know more about Creative Aid, email Jane@wearebluecabin.com.

Project Partner