About the project

Introduction to the Women/Theatre/Justice Project and Clean Break 

Clean Break is a women-only theatre company that grew out of a prisoner-led drama workshop in HMP Askham Grange (UK) between 1977-79. Since then, Clean Break has evolved from a cooperative of women with experience of prison, into an internationally-recognised theatre, education and advocacy organisation that places stories of women, crime and punishment centre stage. The company, based in its purpose-built, women-only centre in North London, has provided extensive and free education, training and support for thousands of women referred by prison, probation and voluntary sector services. It has commissioned and produced over seventy original plays written by women who have experience of the criminal justice system or by professional writers, mentored by the company, who have undertaken research residencies in prisons or as part of Clean Break’s Members’ programme. This collection of plays offer a sustained and nuanced engagement with the personal, social, cultural and political implications of the incarceration of women in the UK across the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Flyer for In or Out
Flyer for In or Out? Written by Eva Mottley and Jenny Hicks, 1980

TheWomen/Theatre/Justiceproject aims to:

  • Examine Clean Break’s impact on contemporary British theatre and the lives of the women it works with.
  • Examine Clean Break as an organisation, run by women for women, with distinctive organisational practices characterised by learning through listening to the voices of those involved in its work. It considers the implications of these practices for management and leadership more widely. 
  • Create opportunities for artists, academics, women with experience of the criminal justice system and those who work with them, to share their expertise through seminars, training, podcasts and teaching resources. 

The research is supported by the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance and Women in Prison.

The company at the Donmar warehouse.
[BLANK] by Alice Birch, directed by Maria Aberg, Donmar, 2019. Photo by Helen Maybanks. 

For more detailed information about the rationale for the research, key thematic strands, how we have carried out this research and additional resources, please see Research.

For more information about the seminars, trainings and other public events we are hosting in collaboration with partners across arts, higher education and the voluntary sector, please see Events.