Lock Her Up

Lock Her Up: a sound installation exploring women’s experiences in prison

We partnered with Fuel to commission a new sound installation, Lock Her Up. Comprising three new pieces of work, prompted by research by Professor Hilary Marland and Dr Rachel Bennett, Lock Her Up was created by artists responding to archival histories of incarcerated women and conversations with Rachel and Hilary.

Lock Her Up comprised three individual ten-minute immersive audio pieces developed by Sabrina Mahfouz, Rachel Mars and Paula Varjack, created in collaboration with sound designer Gareth Fry.

  • Sabrina Mahfouz, This is How it Is How it Was – examining maternity and motherhood in prison.
  • Rachel Mars, No Soft Place – focusing on women’s experience of solitary confinement.
  • Paula Varjack, In the Times After the Raids – exploring a woman’s mind and agency in the moments prior to rebellion.

The commission invited the artists to illuminate the past, and reflect on where we are today, to help us imagine a future. We used the springboard of the University of Warwick’s week at Tate Modern, as part of the Tate Exchange programme, a provocation on The Production of Truth, Justice and History, to launch the work in June 2018.

Professor Marland and Dr Bennett said,

“We are delighted to be working with Fuel because creative collaborations between artists and academics present a valuable opportunity to explore academic research from a fresh perspective. They allow us to bring historic materials to life using mechanisms beyond the written word and to communicate research in a broader and more accessible public forum.”

Fuel’s Director Kate McGrath said,

“There’s a sense from everyone we’re working with this season that we urgently need to understand where we’ve come from – individually and collectively – so that we can start to imagine and shape the future. These extraordinary artists give us insight, fresh perspectives, and ways of seeing. The theatre makers whose work we produce not only have powerful curiosity and insight but also the articulacy and generosity to share that with us, their audience, so that we might see, think and feel differently about the world – and find the inspiration to shape the future afresh.”

In 2018 Lock Her Up also appeared at Latitude Festival and Tonight We Fly in Leeds. Fuel and Sabrina Mahfouz presented and discussed the audio pieces at a workshop on maternity care in prisons, A Century of Maternal Experiences of Incarceration, organised by Rachel in June 2018. Rachel Mars discussed the production of her audio piece at the conference Healthy Inside: Arts, History, Policy and Practice in Prisoner Health, that celebrated and debated the project’s collaborations with our arts partners at the Shard in December 2018.

Lock Her Up is funded by a Wellcome Public Engagement Award attached to the Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland 1850-2000 project and Fuel’s Wellcome Trust Sustaining Excellence Award, which supports the development of their work in bringing together artists, scientists and audiences, so that we might collectively better understand the world.