Safe Ground - Using drama to educate prisoners and young people at risk in the community



Our story so far...


1993 – 1996

Safe Ground is founded by Antonia Rubinstein and Polly Freeman in 1993, then established as a charity in 1995.

1997 – 1999

Men in prison at HMP Woodhill create a drugs prevention video ‘Ryan’s Choice’ for year 6 school children (1997/98)

‘Parents for the 21st Century’ collaboration with the prison service begins in 1999. This helps absent fathers, whom are in prison, learn how they can improve their parenting skills for children aged 6 to 12.

2000 – 2003

Film ‘Blinda’ is created by men in prison at HMP Wandsworth – the story concerns Frank, who is serving a 3-year sentence and has cut off all communication with his 8-year-old son Wayne.

‘Blinda’ wins an International Visual Communication Award in 2001.

Family Man launches at HMP Wandsworth in early 2003.

2004 – 2006

Family Man and Fathers Inside are firmly established, raising the profile of parenting and family relationships in prisons.

Safe Ground train Prison Officers at HMP Wandsworth to deliver Family Man.

2007 – 2009

The revised Family Man programme has been successfully trialled in 6 establishments.

Safe Ground are shortlisted for The Centre for Social Justice Awards.


 Safe Ground train members of the Belgian Prison Service in using the arts to engage hard to reach learners

Creating Community Archives project begins at HMYOI Deerbolt, using archive materials to engage young men in prison in a dialogue with World War 2 veterans

Common Ground project begins, aiming to engage school children, older adults and people in prison in a creative dialogue

2011 – 2012

Transitions project takes place at HMP Wandsworth in October 2012

The project was a creative outlet, which produced short stories and film scripts, as well as film ‘The View’

2013 – 2014

Safe Ground on the Run raises £20,000!

New programmes in development include Man Up and Officers’ Mess

GROUNDation, Safe Ground’s first ever spoken word and poetry evening takes place at the LOST Theatre, Wandsworth

Safe Ground creates programme ‘The Cay’ and delivers rehabilitative culture training to the staff at HMP Balsam Ghut in the British Virgin Islands

A Justice Data Lab analysis finds that the one year proven reoffending rate for participants on the Family Man programme was 32%, compared to 39% for a matched control group of similar offenders


GROUNDation Poetry project wins a Gold award at the Koestler Awards in September 2015

Women’s programme ‘Our Own Stories’, a creative personal development programme for women, is piloted at HMP Styal, HMP East Sutton Park, HMP Askham Grange and HMP Low Newton


Safe Ground turns 21! An Open House event is held for the public to learn more about the organisation’s history

‘MOVING. HOME.’ Symposium is held at the National Theatre, exploring the meaning of ‘home’ with a range of panellists, including Safe Ground alumni and Baroness Helena Kennedy QC

A Justice Data Lab analysis finds that Fathers Inside participants are 40% less likely to re-offend than their counterparts.


Safe Ground win the Longford Prize for contribution to penal reform

Officers’ Mess is delivered at HMP Berwyn, with 86% of participants agreeing that the course made them think about how they respond in different situations


The Who Am I? programme in partnership with Ormiston Families’ Transforming Rehabilitation is rolled out in probation sites across the East of England.

Our Symposium ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ is held at the Roundhouse. We invite guests to discuss issues of punishment, prison, exclusion and harm. There are five performers, all with lived experience of the criminal justice system.


Screening of the award-winning documentary, ‘Tre Maison Dasan’ at The Roundhouse, depicting the experiences of children with incarcerated parents.

Safe Ground discusses ‘The F* Word’ (*feelings) and the danger it poses when in a segregation unit in a Category A prison.


Safe Ground was founded in 1993 by Antonia Rubinstein and Polly Freeman. We became a charity in 1995.  Both Antonia and Polly had significant skills in education, training, drama and family dynamics.

The early days

Initially, Safe Ground’s work was rooted in theatre. Our first venture was a production of ‘The Tempest’ at HMYOI Huntercombe, followed by ‘The Doors’, an original play inspired by ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, and developed by prisoners at HMYOI Feltham.

Antonia and Polly continued to create innovative arts based community programmes, including ‘The Seven Ages of Man’ and ‘The Flock’. It was while working with adult men in HMP Wandsworth that we got our name, after men in the workshops described them as ‘a safe place to be’.

Our programme development

In the late 1990s, the Home Office invited Safe Ground to design a family relationships programme for use across the English and Welsh male prison estate.

This investment lasted over 10 years, and resulted in the internationally known Family Man (FM) and Fathers Inside (FI) programmes.

Alongside the development of FM and FI, we have continued our commitment to community arts based programmes, delivering the Creating Community Archives project (2009-10), Common Ground (2010-11) and Transitions (2011).

Our community presence also saw the GROUNDation series of events bringing poetry written by men in HMP Wandsworth to the local community, through regular performances.

Since 2010 we’ve also been able to develop our programmes in response to and alongside our graduates, and also stakeholders in the varied sectors in which we work.

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