Angela Findlay

Art Behind Bars

(The role of the arts in breaking the cycle of crime, prison and reoffending)

Prison isn’t working! Everybody admits that now. So what does work?

It is all too easy to dismiss prisoners as the ‘baddies’ of society and ignore the plight of Britain’s estimated 85,000 inmates. But with the help of compelling statistics and first hand insights into the real issues behind our high re-offending rates, Angela Findlay presents a persuasive argument for why it matters to all of us.

Angela’s talk is extraordinary and very thought provoking. At the age of twenty-one she walked into a prison with a portfolio of her murals under her arm offering an art project to the prisoners. Two weeks later she was faced with a 30’ wall, two Brazilian coke smugglers, a bank robber and a murderer. She instantly knew “This is it! This is what I want to do”.

Using painting as a tool, Angela worked alone in locked rooms with prisoners ranging from terrorists and rapists to petty thieves and drug addicts. Sitting in their cells or in the non-judgmental atmosphere of the art room, she became a confidante for many prisoners, gaining their trust, hearing their (sometimes horrific) stories and encouraging them to make changes in their outlook, attitudes and subsequently their goals.

Her extraordinary slides of prisoners and their art reveal how the power of creativity can break through negative patterns and conditioning and build the vital self-esteem required for true and lasting rehabilitation. Her ideas were recently recommended to the Ministry of Justice for its new education policies.

Angela’s talks are moving, informative and highly original. Interspersed with accounts of humorous or potentially horrifying situations she keeps audiences of all ages utterly engrossed. The talks challenge normal perceptions of good and bad, offering people the opportunity to (re-) consider a wide range of moral, social, and ethical issues. Her compassionate understanding of those deemed the “baddies” of society help young people to see how easy it is to be led down the wrong path and so inspires them to have the courage to follow their own hearts and find their true vocation.

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