Charity Awards 2024

Arts, Culture and Heritage 2024 Winners: LUNG Productions

Why they won

  • Best practice: The Woodhill play was sensitively co-produced with families of prisoners who died by suicide
  • Sustainability: The prison officer training is available to all prisons and is now being rolled out across the country to 50,000 staff
  • Scalability: The play will tour the UK again in 2025, reaching 10,000 more people in 18 cities. It has also been published internationally so that others can produce it

There is one prison suicide every three days in England and Wales, and HMP Woodhill had more than any other, with 33 people taking their lives there.

Lung ProductionsLUNG Productions is a Yorkshire-based campaigning arts charity that wanted to shine a light on the problem and try to tackle it. After consulting with experts including the former chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, the charity launched ‘Woodhill’, its most ambitious campaign to date, which involved three strands of work.

The first was a documentary play co-written and produced by relatives of those who had lost a loved one at the prison to suicide. The show toured to 3,573 people across the country and used storytelling to raise awareness and mobilise audiences to campaign for penal reform, by signing the No More Deaths petition launched by INQUEST, and a letter to the justice secretary. It is due to be shown at the United Nations this year and the play is now published by Faber & Faber, reaching 100,000 readers across the world.

In partnership with the University of Nottingham, the families also co-created training videos which were screened to more than 500 decision-makers, such as the UN special rapporteur on prisons, with a view to rolling them out to prison staff nationally.

And lastly, the families presented a policy brief to 76 parliamentarians containing tangible reforms to make prisons safer.

The project, which cost £140,000, used a theory of change to set target outcomes and academic research to track progress.

The project forged enduring bonds between participants. The families, who had never met before, took part in 21 sessions each lasting six hours, and 150+ hours of interviews to build the content of the script. All had access to a registered therapist to support them in processing residual trauma.

‘Woodhill’ received critical acclaim and prompted meetings with MPs who went on to submit parliamentary questions, helped to persuade the Ministry of Justice to share the training videos with 50,000 prison staff, and convinced HMP Woodhill to repair their broken phones.

At the height of the media coverage of ‘Woodhill’, the Chief Inspectorate of Prisons ordered an unannounced, on the spot investigation of the prison. It was found to be failing and served with an urgent notification. Prisoners are currently being transferred out of the prison and an action plan is being implemented to make HMP Woodhill safer.

In 2025, the play will tour to 18 cities across the UK, reaching 10,000 more people.

Charity Awards judge Anne Fox, chief executive of Clinks, noted that arts in the justice system is underfunded and undervalued, and it is very difficult to achieve cut-through with the current government. She pointed out that books and guitars were banned in prisons a few years ago, so LUNG fully deserved recognition for the campaign’s achievements.

Judge Daniel Chan, senior manager at PwC, added that the quality of the documentary play was clearly very high, receiving five stars from several critics, and the wider impact of the campaign on such an important issue made it stand out.

CC Reg no. 1187346

Highly Commended

Cockpit Arts

In 2018 the Greater London Authority reported that 67% of all workspaces for artists had permanently closed. Cockpit Arts had provided studio space and courses for craftmakers from its building in Deptford for 20 years, but was already operating at full capacity and the premises were run-down and not fit for purpose. Cockpit’s vision was to create a thriving hub for craft. The charity secured funding from the council and several foundations and topped up with a small mortgage. The new £3.24m centre opened in December 2023, providing affordable studios for 20 more artists; new woodworking and leatherworking hubs; London’s first public craft garden, and a learning centre.

Visit their website

Derby Theatre

Engagement in the arts in Derby was significantly lower than the national average, and Derby Theatre wanted to create a stronger, more diverse and more resilient cultural scene by engaging underrepresented communities and audiences in the artistic process. It reached out to community groups, artists and partner organisations in the city in order to plan and co-produce a comprehensive programme of events and activities which lasted four years. Derby CAN included several performances and productions; an outdoor festival and circus show, a two-day Mela and world music festival, arts and community skills workshops, a community leadership programme, a series of short films, and much more. More than 31,500 people saw or engaged with the project and an independent evaluation confirmed that it did indeed improve access to the arts in the city.

Visit their website

Supporter and Arts, Culture and Heritage Category Sponsor: