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Ex-prisoner workshop, Norway. Photo: Sally Elsbury.

Create is facilitating the establishment of an Arts and Prison Network for artists working in prisons across all artforms.

Curated by artist Aideen McDonald, the inaugural network meeting took place on December 10, 2010 at the NCAD Gallery. It included: presentations from Cathy Henderson on an Arts Council Artist in the Community Scheme funded project at Wheatfield Prison; a presentation by artist Sally Elsbury on working as a dance/theatre practitioner in prison contexts; and Artist in Prison Scheme Co-ordinators Veronica Hoen and Ellen Kelly on the jointly funded Arts Council and Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform - Visual Artists in Irish Prisons Scheme and Writers in Prison Scheme.

There was an opportunity for everyone present to describe their need for a network, in order that Create's support and development of the network would be responsive to and informed by the needs of individual artists and the Prison Education Service.


Aideen McDonald trained and works as a theatre practitioner and facilitator.

In 2007 she completed a Masters in Post Conflict Reconciliation Studies exploring the application of reconciliation and restorative justice theory to a theoretical model of prison reform.

In June 2010 Aideen was invited to present a case study on Maghaberry, Northern Ireland’s high security prison at the 6th Annual North South Criminology conference at Ulster University. She has also communicated with a number of penal institutions and prisoners across Ireland through their education departments whilst working as an Associate Lecturer with the Open University.

In 2008 Aideen completed an Arts in Conflict qualification and went on to work with young offenders at the central youth offenders centre in Belfast, Hydebank Wood. Using applied theatre techniques we explored and challenged the roles, representation and perceptions of young offenders, victims of crime and the criminal justice system. Aideen has also spent time researching in the central prison of Belgrade, Serbia observing similar work with the support of the Irish Arts Council.

Throughout 2010 Aideen has worked as an artist in residence for the Prison Arts Foundation (PAF) with prisoners from the REACH (Engagement, Assessment, Collaborative working and Holistic approach) landing in Maghaberry, Northern Ireland.

In 2009 Aideen was awarded the Arts Council’s Artist in the Community Research and Development award managed by Create to explore collaborative practice with  a group of young women considered ‘youth at risk of offending’ from Dublin 7.

Aideen McDonald is currently preparing the women to develop an interactive project with women from the Dóchas centre.

Sally Elsbury trained as Secondary Drama School teacher in England, and with Trading Faces Mask Co. UK. Sally is an independent mask theatre specialist working in Community Theatre in the UK and Ireland. Sally has over fifteen years of work experience in Theatre in Education, and her personal interest in Expressive Dance also informs her work. Over the past four years Sally has been involved in two European Prison Arts projects, and has visited and worked in more than ten different Prisons internationally. Her handmade caricature archetypal masks are focal to her physical theatre work

Veronica Hoen is the Visual Artists in Prison Scheme Co-ordinator. This scheme, jointly-funded by the Arts Council and the Irish Department of Justice, Equality and law Reform, allows artists to work with prisoners in one of the country’s prison/detention centres for a period of 10 days. It complements an existing arts and education programme taking place in the Education Units within the prison system. Successful applicants are placed on a panel list and as opportunities arise within the prison system, or as specific proposals are made, an appropriate short listed artist may be called on by a prison art teacher or supervising teacher to undertake a project within a particular prison or detention centre.
Cathy Henderson
grew up in Northern Ireland before moving to Paris and then to Dublin to study at the National College of Art and Design from where she graduated with a Masters of Fine Art in 1993.

Recent group shows include Vital Signs, Arts & Health in Context, Dublin and the Limerick City Open Submission Print Show.

Corporate and private clients include Guinness, Bank of Ireland and RTE and her work is included in private and public collections including The Ulster Museum, Electricity Supply Board, Queens University Belfast and St James’s Hospital Trust.

In 2007 she was artist in residence in Dublin City Council and in 2009 at St James’s Hospital, Dublin. These residencies resulted in two critically successful series of work which documented cleansing, maintenance and technical support personnel and used audio recordings in tandem with painted portraits.

In 2010 she was awarded a commission from the Museums of Northern Ireland to produce two original copperplate line etchings for the current touring exhibition of the work of watercolourist, Samson Roche and for inclusion in the permanent collection of the Ulster Museum.

Since 2006 she has completed five different workshops and residency projects under the  Arts Council Artist in Prison scheme and will be commencing a new residency project in November 2010 in Mountjoy Training Unit.

In 2010 she received the Arts Council’s Artist in the Community Project Realisation award, managed by Create to fund a large scale visual art project with inmates in Wheatfield Prison.

This is essentially a collaborative, multi-media, group self- portrait that participants have specified should represent them in a positive and 'de-institutionalised' way.

Ellen Kelly is the co-ordinator of the jointly funded Arts Council and Dept of Equality, Justice and Law Reform, Writers in Prison Scheme.

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CreateIreland If you're going to @TheBigChapel by @Asylum_Theatre tonight you're in for a powerful two hour performance. A brilliantly collaborative project as part of @KilkennyArts
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