Alan Clarke explains the origins and aims of the Cred-Ability project.

Over the last few years a number of EC-funded initiatives, such as the PAN European Network, The Will to Dream, Movable Barres and Art & Culture in Prison1 have explored different aspects of prison arts. These projects have been extremely useful in confirming the effective role that the arts play in helping inmates cope with prison life and their rehabilitation into the world outside. They have also created an informal network of organisations committed to prison arts and identified key issues concerning its delivery. One factor which has consistently arisen is the importance of appropriate preparation, both for arts professionals coming into prisons and for those already working in prisons with limited experience of using art in this context. Given that the arts provide an alternative, less predictable approach than more traditional activities, they can often come into conflict with the security interests of many penal institutions. It is therefore crucial that those engaging in such activities are properly briefed and prepared, not only about the particular approaches they might use but also about the specific context in which they will be working. One bad experience can affect the prospects of many others working in the area.

Cred-Ability builds on previous initiatives undertaken by the Anne Peaker Centre for Criminal Justice and Escape Artists in England, along with the training programme created by the Prison Arts Foundation in Belfast for artists working in Northern Ireland’s jails. However, outside Britain, there are few accredited training programmes in place and it is this gap which Cred-Ability seeks to fill.

Funded through the Leonardo Transfer of Innovation programme and coordinated by Seeds for Growth in conjunction with The College of Teachers, Cred-Ability will adapt the materials developed in the UK for potential application by organisations in three other countries: aufBruch in Germany, which organises theatre productions in Berlin prisons; the Vilnius Pedagogical University, which prepares arts therapists to work in Lithuanian jails; and the Latvian Culture College, which trains teachers to work in a wide range of social and cultural contexts.

Once the initial identification and adaptation of the modules is completed, the three non-UK partners will pilot selected units in their own countries, as far as possible with those who will eventually benefit from such training. The units will then be brought together to create a comprehensive training model for artists and others covering all aspects of prison arts delivery, and disseminated across Europe via an interactive project website with e-learning facilities. Alongside this, a number of transnational workshops will take place where individual units will be practically demonstrated and explored. The project will culminate in a major international conference in the UK called Play’s the Thing, Summer 2014 − where the final version of the model will be presented and experts invited to evaluate its impact. The conference will also set up an ongoing international consortium to provide advice, training courses and workshops for future application.

A crucial aspect of this process is the international accreditation of the model. The original units were validated through the Open College Network, a useful tool for recognising adult education programmes in the UK but of limited application beyond this. The training units developed by Cred-Ability will be accredited through The College of Teachers, an experienced provider of in-service teaching qualifications worldwide. The model can then be officially accredited as a valid training programme for artists, teachers, prison staff and others across Europe and beyond.

Dr Alan Clarke is International Consultant at The College of Teachers.

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