Prisoners invite public to step inside their world at art gallery

UNLOCKED – an exhibition created by offenders at HMP Leicester, HMP Stocken and the probation services – will invite art gallery visitors to step inside the world of a prison.

As part of the Leicester-based exhibition, offenders at HMP Stocken have recreated a cell from the Rutland prison using interiors including a bed, toilet, mirror, desk, chair, television and personalised sundries such as toiletries. The installation at New Walk Museum and Gallery will cocoon visitors in the sounds of a prison wing via an audio background recorded at HMP Leicester. The visitor then steps out into the gallery to be faced with projections and audio visual on the theme of HOPE, the overarching theme for the exhibition.


Over the road at Soft Touch Arts Young People’s Arts and Heritage Centre, a virtual reality headset experience will take visitors “inside” an authentic prison cell in a prison to create a sensory sound and vision experience modelled on a prisoner’s first glimpse of their new home.

Also exhibited will be artwork from prisoners across the Midlands, including paintings, drawings, mixed media and sculpture.

The exhibition - split between the two galleries between 7 and 29 March – is an annual event in line with a three-year mental health research project. The first UNLOCKED  exhibition, in 2018, featured artwork which made national news and received an overwhelmingly positive response from the public.

More than 200 men serving sentences at HMP Leicester and HMP Stocken, as well as those on probation, have engaged in the project so far.

Soft Touch Arts are collaborating on a three-year research project with Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust (LPT), De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) and Nottingham Trent University into the positive impact of art on the rehabilitation and mental wellbeing of prisoners. The work focuses on the CHIME (Connectedness, Hope, Identity, Meaningfulness, Empowerment) model of recovery. The CHIME method has not previously been focused around the arts, nor considered in the criminal justice context.


Based on previous pilot projects, UNLOCKED aims to evidence the efficacy of the arts methodology through an academic study in partnership with Dr Victoria Knight, Senior Research Fellow, Community and Criminal Justice at De Montfort University and Benedict Carpenter Van Barthold, Principal Lecturer in Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University.

The project is a partnership between Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust (LPT), Soft Touch Arts, HMP Leicester, DeMontfort and Nottingham Trent Universities, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire & Rutland Community Rehabilitation Company (Probation) and New Walk Museum and Art Gallery.

It has been made possible with funding from Arts Council England, the Leicestershire police and crime commissioner, DMU Local, The Gordon Trust and the Noel Buxton Trust.

Posted on Thursday 5th March 2020

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