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



Taking up temporary residency at the National Theatre (Dorfman Theatre), Southbank again this year, somewhat ironically it hosted our discussions around MOVING. HOME. The symposium was the last in a trilogy of events spread throughout 2016 that celebrate Safe Ground’s 21st birthday. We used this important milestone in our unfolding history to take a moment to examine the terrain on which we seek to progress. The aim of MOVING. HOME. was to captivate, challenge and provoke ideas. What does home mean at this juncture- for the people we work with? For criminal justice charities? For organisations delivering arts based education? Is a home possible in a world that is constantly changing and where people are constantly relocating? Does anyone have a right to a home? Shouldn’t charities be constantly reviewing and refreshing their purpose and value? Why should people leaving prison be guaranteed somewhere to live?

The event was a tremendous success and in terms of production and professionalism a step further on from last year’s Great Minds event. The audience was very engaged and committed to participation. We have had a lot of positive feedback, with a majority of attendees who have provided feedback stating how they were challenged by or encountered new understandings of the idea of home.

This year’s event was full of risk that ultimately proved very fruitful. We had two programme alumni performing their own self-penned works for the first time on a public theatrical stage. We employed the use of the Long Table discussion technique. Essentially, participants are seated at a ‘dinner’ table. As invited guests (the panel) have permanent seats. The other ‘empty’ seats will come to be occupied, in revolving fashion, by members of the audience joining the conversation at any given moment, by taking a seat and subsequently be tapped out and replaced by another member of the audience. Charlotte Weinberg led the last, but not least, interactive discussion of the day in the form of a ‘fishbowl’ exercise, that according to feedback was the most popular part of the day’s proceedings. Ten people from the audience were gathered in a circle on stage by Charlotte and asked to reflect amongst each other on the disruptive participative action that preceded the fishbowl. The audience were to instructed to observe in silence. Then it was reversed – the circle of ten sitting in silence as the audience responded to their reflections. It proved to be very dynamic.

Our aims this year were to: (1) reach new audiences, (2) celebrate our 21 years and present people with some challenges from the field, (3) encourage people to engage with us and understand our work and (4) consolidate our relationship with the National Theatre. We were successful in achieving all of these goals, and we did this by showing people how we engage people we work with, demonstrating alumni skills and talents, challenging public perceptions of who is in prison; and as one attendee put it: “I remain struck by how the content of the day seemed to avoid being linked overtly to particular work/ delivery plans. It seemed to value exploration of ideas for its own sake, and making space for that to happen. And in this it was expertly facilitated.”

See the photo gallery of the day below:


  1. Jason Smith says:

    Awesome. much love to you all!

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