Look Out lectures- what role can the Arts play in prisons?

This week’s guest speaker- the second of the current programme- was Angela Findlay.


Angela is a multi-faceted artist who alternates between painting canvases and working on mixed-media projects, working with unusual materials. She is also a lecturer and professional public speaker. Her talk was based on her fly-on-the-wall experience as a resident artist in prisons: at the age of 21 Angela walked into Long Bay Gaol in Sydney with a portfolio of her murals. Two weeks later she was locked in a huge walled yard with two Brazilian cocaine smugglers, a bank robber, a murderer and a motley selection of paints and brushes. ‘I had this overwhelming sense of “This is it!”’ she recalls. Angela worked for the next 20 years with and within prisons and Young Offender Institutions in Australia, England and Germany.


Angela offered first-hand insights into the minds and lives of offenders and explored the reasons why our prison system is failing. Her art projects demonstrated not only novel approaches to tackling re-offending but also dispelled the idea that the arts are a soft option.  With powerful images and stories, Angela challenged pupils’ attitudes on the highly topical themes of guilt, punishment and redemption. In a lively and entertaining talk, Angela shared many examples of prisoners’ work with us, and (shocking) facts and statistics on re-offending rates, costs, and the demographics of the prison population, leaving us all with much deeper insights into the minds and lives of offenders. Her argument- that the arts can address, and change criminal attitudes and behaviour- was a persuasive one and generated some lively discussions and some excellent, searching questions.


What the Pupils said

“Very eye opening in terms of how fundamental yet broken our prison and correctional system is.”

“I really enjoyed the talk – was genuinely quite surprised on how much it made me think. Great talk!”