Faye Claridge and Dr Ana Chamberlen, are awardees of the second round of NCACE Micro-commissions. They undertook a programme of collaborative conversations to share their experiences and research on imprisonment and wellbeing with the aim to develop understanding of how creative and research interventions in prison settings can be effectively measured for impact on health and wellbeing and how these can be best communicated and shared.
Faye Claridge and Dr Ana Chamberlen undertook a programme of collaborative conversations to share experiences and research on imprisonment and wellbeing. Together they contemplated the various challenges involved in mapping and measuring the impact of creative interventions on prisoner health and wellbeing. They explored the purpose of such measuring exercises and unpacked how these can be best communicated within the arts and academic worlds and shared with the wider public. The partnership supported the design of a plan for measuring impact from one of Faye Claridge’s current live prison-based projects, titled We Roar. This plan is being materialised in the coming months and couldn’t be completed within the limited period offered by the micro-commission. But both artist and researcher aim to continue their collaboration on prisoner arts and co-produced a symposium hosted within a large prisoner-arts festival which took place in November 2024 at the University of Warwick.
Collaborative conversations started with discussions around identifying measurement aims: what impacts should be measured and for what purpose, for example identifying a convincing objective for funder and/or raising awareness with public engagement. Conversations explored:
1. Examples of impact considered significant. Using the NCJAA evidence library as an overview of current sector and influencer priorities. Emerging institutional-focused questions such as:
Has the intervention or research changed policy/ management style?
Is anything being done differently as a result of the project?
2. Understanding the value of wider academic engagement: example of We Bear project response to academic paper and presentations (discussion on animal theme highlighting – and danger of reinforcing - inherent hierarchies and stereotypes). Each response leads to another potential research question.
Conversations continued, looking at methods of impact evidence gathering and identifying which could be applied to our live project example, We Roar.
Methods to engage participants, audiences and support staff were discussed and plans put into place to use as many methodologies as practical for evaluating meaningful impact on prisoner artists engaging with We Roar. A framework was created, using a suite of mentors, questionnaires, creative journaling and wellbeing scoring to capture data and anecdotal evidence at all project stages.
WIDER SECTOR ACTIVITY
Ana Chamberlen's ongoing work at the Department of Sociology & Criminal Justice Centre at the University of Warwick influenced the collaboration's development into a research-led, arts-based exchange. Her work, connected to an AHRC funded project titled 'Captive Arts' has contributed to these collaborative activities and led to a series of engagements that benefited from the NCACE micro-commission, including academic presentations on prisoner arts from Faye' Claridge’s work (Durham and Southampton Universities) and the writing of an academic publication drawing on artworks from Faye Claridge's We Bear project.
Faye Claridge supplemented the collaborative conversations with further engagement and training on evaluating impact, including:
- NCACE Meetup: Narrative, Storytelling & Impact event
- Clinks training event: Doing our stories justice: Framing stories of lived experience
- The Evaluator two-day webinar attendance
- Meeting about Ikon’s HMP Grendon Artist In Residence project
- Meeting about the Inspiring Futures research and its prototype evaluation app
- Visit to the Marking Time exhibition, Schomberg Centre, New York
- Visiting the University of Michigan for collaborative work with the Prison Creative
Arts Project (PCAP)
- Meeting about Ort Gallery’s Warmth Report impact measuring approach
- Talk presented for the Co-Creation Peer Network
- Talk presented for the Prisoners Learning Alliance
Both collaborators attended an impact ‘celebration’ event at HMP Hewell, including a follow-up discussion on how projects are recorded and shared, and to what end. Both also spoke at University of Warwick events that sought to consolidate research and public engagement connections between regional artists and academics in the Midlands.
Practical methodology testing in Faye Claridge’s international We Roar project is still underway, but three areas can already be identified as valuable to our practice and research:
1. There are practical and cultural differences in the UK & US
We discovered methods for evaluation gathering cannot be applied identically in the UK and the US, as key practical differences need to be addressed. In the UK, for example, direct postage mail to participants is straightforward, whereas in Michigan all mail is photocopied, which results in degradation of visual material and sometimes loss of information on page margins. Conversely, emails (via jpay) for conversation and data gathering are straightforward with US participants, but are not available for UK participants.
2. A ‘jigsaw approach’ to impact gathering is key
Some of the wellbeing scoring evaluation led to surprising results, for example around participants’ scores appearing to show a reduction in confidence at the end of project participation, while simultaneous evaluation using other methods showed an increase in feelings associated with confidence. This might be rationalised as showing projects create increases in reflection and self-awareness, but is most usefully considered evidence that applying multiple methodologies to impact data gathering is valuable and cross-referencing findings is key.
3. Data and quotes work together
In an extension of point 2, whilst creating We Roar public project engagement material (website, publication etc) and writing bids for further funding and support, the value of having both numerical figures and qualitative quotes to demonstrate impact is apparent. Being able to state that 100% would recommend the project and 100% have seen wellbeing improvements through participation, for example, is powerful. Statistics about participants that can be compared with wider prison and general populations, for example on health, socio-economic background and race are also proving valuable. Quotes have the dual benefit of allowing for more nuanced responses and foregrounding participants’ experiences, in their own words, offering a potentially more meaningful and detailed understanding of the nature of impact generated by such creative engagements.
PLANNED PUBLIC OUTCOMES
Conversations around approach and methodology are continuing and being tested in Faye Claridge’s live We Roar project and in Ana Chamberlen’s new research project, Captive Arts: Curating the Curious Symbiosis Between the Arts & Imprisonment.
As a result of the micro-commission and continuing collaboration, we’re planning the co-production of a symposium within a Festival of Prison Arts, supported by an AHRC Research, Development & Engagement Fellowship 2023-2025 and Arts Council England.
The symposium will be an opportunity for the micro-commission collaboration to be highlighted, using rarely heard audio and transcriptions from people in incarceration and seldom seen photographs from inside prisons, to build a picture of the specific context of this work and its value as an extreme testing ground for collaborative practice.
This will seek to contribute to wider understanding of whether wellbeing impacts of interventions and research can be effectively captured and shared using existing or new engagement methods. Transferable findings from this process will be applicable to multiple settings and projects wherever people are engaged and impact measurement is an objective.
Dr. Ana Chamberlen is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick and is researching in the fields of prison studies and feminist criminology. She’s author of Embodying Punishment (Oxford University Press 2018) and co-author of Questioning Punishment (Routledge 2023). She is currently Principal Investigator in the AHRC funded project ‘Captive Arts: Curating the Curious Symbiosis between Arts and Imprisonment’.
Faye Claridge is a freelance artist, director of Creeq (Creative Equality CIC) and engagement consultant. She excels in co-creation, often linking collections and heritage sites with diverse publics, including people in prison. Her socially engaged artworks have been selected for New Contemporaries and The John Ruskin Prize and exhibited widely, including at The Photographers’ Gallery, New Art Exchange, Towner Eastbourne, Compton Verney and with the Arts Council Collection. Her work can be seen on www.fayeclaridge.co.uk and www.creeq.org.uk and followed on Instagram and X @fayeclaridge @ceeqcreative.