Healthy Inside: Arts, History, Policy and Practice in Prisoner Health (Policy workshop, London)

Policy Workshop

Healthy Inside: Arts, History, Policy and Practice in Prisoner Health

Warwick Business School

The Shard, London, Thursday 13 December 2018

9:30 am – 5pm



Provisional Agenda for this policy workshop.


  • Dr Rachel Bennett / University of Warwick
  • Professor Virginia Berridge / London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Liz Brown / Actor & groupworker with Geese theatre company
  • Peter Cann / Writer and Director
  • Associate Professor Catherine Cox / University College Dublin
  • Anita Dockley / Research Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, UK
  • Dr Helena Enright / Freelance theatre practitioner
  • Anna Herrmann / Joint Director of Clean Break theatre company
  • Saul Hewish / Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Rideout (Creative Arts for Rehabilitation)
  • Jamal Khan / Poet
  • Professor Hilary Marland /University of Warwick
  • Rachel Mars / Performance Artist
  • Derek Nisbet / Co-artistic Director of theatre company Talking Birds
  • Molly Sharpe / Producer at Fuel theatre company
  • Janet Vaughan / Designer and Co-artistic Director of theatre company Talking Birds
  • Dr Oisín Wall / University College Dublin
  • Andy Watson / Artistic Director of Geese theatre company

Speakers full biographies


Throughout 2017-18, our Wellcome-funded project Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland, 1850-2000 has undertaken several public engagement projects across and within academic institutions, working with arts and policy partners in the UK and Ireland.

Generously funded by the University of Warwick’s Impact Fund, this conference mainly brings together work based at Warwick. This is with the honourable exception of Disorder Contained which was a thoroughly joint endeavour with colleagues at University College Dublin. However, the conference also acknowledges the complementary work carried out by our project partners at University College Dublin, City University Dublin, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Why is history important? In what ways can the past speak to the present?  Who writes, interprets and ‘owns’ history, and what responsibility lies upon those interpreting it? Can history bring something new and fresh to work with the arts in criminal justice settings?

These are just some of the questions pondered by the artists and arts organisations as we asked them to work with and respond to our historical research on three key areas of prison health:

  • Mental health in prison, particularly around solitary confinement and the introduction of the separate system in the mid-19th century with its devastating impact on inmates’ minds.
  • Women’s experience of healthcare, both physical and mental, of childbirth while incarcerated, and of their relationships with their children while in prison
  • The role of food and nutrition in mental and physical health while in prison.

We have been surprised, challenged, and ultimately thrilled by the work produced by and with our partner organisations and we are delighted to share it with you at our conference.

  • Talking Birds’ one act play, Disorder Contained, which interpreted a mass of our research around the introduction of the Separate System in the 1850s and which was performed in Coventry, Dublin, Belfast and London
  • Fuel’s audio installation Lock Her Up asked artists Sabrina Mahfouz, Rachel Mars, and Paula Varjack to work with sound designer Gareth Fry to create responses to our research on women’s experiences of prison.
  • Geese Theatre’s creation of a piece of Theatre of Testimony, On the Inside, working with the women and staff at HMP Peterborough to juxtapose lived and contemporary experience with historical materials.
  • Rideout’s work within HMP Hewell and HMP Stafford, Past Time, which, taking the subject of food in prison, reflected and recreated history as the men became creative historical detectives.

The question for us, and you, is where next? What to do with the accumulated knowledge and materials – how can we use them more widely to shed light on the criminal justice system and those who live and work within it. How can our experiences and what we have learned have a wider relevance? Let’s see…

Conference Pre Reading

Prisoners’ rights to healthcare in the nineteenth century   

Mental health in prison  

Solitary confinement

Mothers in prison 

Women’s behavior in prison   

Women in Prison

Prison and hospital food

Following the conference, a publication, History, Arts and Public Engagement, drew together learning from our collaborations with arts organisations.

Image Credit: Dormitory at HMP Grendon 1985 (CC National Justice Museum)