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A Matter of Life and Death

On 27th September 2018 we hosted A Matter of Life and Death in the intimate Sackler Space at the Roundhouse. We invited over 120 guests to join us for an afternoon full of debate, discussion, emotion and performances.

The afternoon started off with a performance from spoken word artist Lady Unchained, who set the tone for the afternoon with two powerful pieces about life and death and her experiences in prison. Charlie then took to stage to introduce the event, noting that there were two people in the room who had come from prison and would be returning to prison that night. We felt it was important to include those in prison in the discussion.

Lucy Baldwin, our keynote speaker, talked about the struggles and difficulties women, especially mothers, face in prison. She bought attention to the fact that women are normally the primary care givers for their children and are often left clueless about who replaces them in that role as they go into prison. They often experience guilt for this, which takes a toll on their mental health. As Lucy said, ‘Guilt is a life-threatening emotion.’

Kelly Roberts performed a piece about racism and fear. It was a passionate performance that bought up issues which were very much relevant to our first panel ‘Are Things Worse Than Ever?’. In this panel Stafford Scott noted the substantial issues with institutional racism within the criminal justice system, drawing parallels to the content of Kelly’s spoken word piece. Deborah Coles, director of Inquest, shocked us with the fact that there had been 2077 self-inflicted deaths in prisons since 1990; summing up the reason we held the event. Imtiaz Amin from the Zahid Mubarek Trust made one of the most important points of the day; there are already recommendations set out in order to fix the issues we have in the criminal justice system, but they are simply not being implemented.

After the break, Safe Ground graduate Jason Smith bought us back with a fast-paced and dynamic performance. Then the Long Table, which bought members of the audience down to discuss and debate the question ‘What keeps people alive?’ Many themes came up; purpose, arts, relationships and more. One guest at the table noted how important family was in an emotional speech, another participant noted how when you are in prison, you rely on the others around you the most.

Our fourth artist Jamal Khan performed his thought provoking piece ‘Caged Revolution’. Next, the Fish Bowl, those who were a part of the Fish Bowl expressed their raw feelings towards what had been discussed, one was even lost for words because of the overwhelming realities of the criminal justice system.

Finally, Richard Lambe performed an upbeat piece, before Charlie bought the event to a close. The event was dedicated to all those who had died in prison and the people and organisations who work to keep them alive.

Written by Olivia Penn.

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