Theatre is a tool to free the imagination for people of all ages and backgrounds. It is especially vital for prisoners, confined in a closed environment with a severely limited range of experiences in their daily lives. Theatre touches parts of the heart and mind that need awakening if people are to expand their lives both within prison walls and when they get out. It is a key to change. Roger Graef – patron of Kestrel Theatre Company
Kestrel employs professionals to work creatively within the criminal justice system, facilitating original pieces of work, mostly theatre and film. By empowering offenders to express themselves in a non judgmental, collaborative and enabling environment, our aim is to help them develop greater self confidence, mutual respect, and resilience. And by realising their creative potential, help them produce work of the highest standard.
The original cast from Broken Dreams on the set at the Royal Court Theatre in December 2017.
We are very excited to introduce Eleanor Henderson as the newly appointed Artistic Director of Kestrel Theatre Company, who has taken up the post as of August.
Eleanor is a highly experienced director & professional actor, working for nearly a decade performing in and directing projects in a range of settings internationally and across the country (in the UK including Soho Theatre, Salisbury Playhouse, Hammersmith Lyric, West Yorkshire Playhouse). Friends of Kestrel Theatre will know El from her work over the last few years as Associate Artist, successfully co-directing the 2019 Panto, ‘Rio’s Extraordinary Christmas’ (HMP Springhill), ‘After Time’, and co-running our weekly drama club project in Springhill. We are delighted to have her on board to lead Kestrel into a new era.
Of course, this means the end of the sensational leadership of Arabella Warner. Arabella has been Artistic Director of Kestrel for 10 years and has led the organisation with relentless energy, wisdom, vision and kindness. Her impact will be felt in the lives of all those she has worked with for many years to come.
“It has been a privilege to work as Artistic Director for Kestrel Theatre over the last 10 years. I hope we have done something to engage wider public audiences and change the negative stereotypes of what people in prison are capable of achieving, while at the same time bringing some colour and laughter into the prison community. Long may the work continue.” – Arabella
“My work so far with Kestrel has been some of the great joys of my professional life. I cannot wait to build on the legacy Arabella has created in collaboration with so many talented storytellers. To me, this legacy is one of both ambition and generosity. I hope to continue to push Kestrel forward with these qualities at our core.” – El
We look forward to keeping you updated with our plans for the coming year and beyond, as Kestrel continues to thrive and grow. This is just a short update for the moment as there will be more a more extensive goodbye in our upcoming newsletter to supporters and friends.
But for now, even though these words are not enough – Arabella, thank you. You will be so enormously missed.
El, welcome. We cannot wait to see what you do with Kestrel next.
We have now appointed a new Artistic Director, who will start work in August. All will be revealed then.
Following on from the success of our contribution to the nationwide initiative led by Headlong Theatre, Signal Fires in November 2020, in March 2021 and still in lockdown we worked with four more Kestrel alumni, to produce four new fictional stories about men dealing with life after prison.
Thank you to everyone who supported our annual Christmas bulb sale either by buying the pots or by donating. Henri and Caroline did us proud by hosting a bulb sale in their front garden in London, complete with carol singers – students from the Royal Academy, and together with our online sale in Oxford raised a little over £3,500. More funds means more projects with people with experience of the criminal justice system in 2021.
All of us involved in Kestrel were deeply saddened by the sudden death in July of our friend, supporter and long-standing adviser André Ptaszynski.
You can read our tribute to André here.
We have sending Playwriting and Drama Club resources to prisons around the country and were thrilled to receive some writing from a man in HMP Altcourse in Liverpool via The Kestrel pub (see picture). Thank you so much James for sending it on.
Some happy faces after we were thrilled to sponsor a delivery of brownies to HMP Springhill staff from the wonderful Rise and Bloom. You can find them on Instagram @rise_bloom_
We are thrilled that the Button Moon Trust have supported another series of puppet workshops from professional puppeteer Marcus Clarke (left) with dads from HMP Bullingdon. The results are made into DVDs which get sent home to their families.
Our weekly Drama Club has started again at HMP Springhill. We can’t wait to meet up again with some of the actors from our Christmas Panto, ‘Rio’s Extraordinary Christmas,’ as well as meet some new faces.
Our second collaboration with the wonderful Irene Taylor Trust, saw five performances of Rio’s Extraordinary Christmas, an original pantomime with a fabulous score written and performed by the men. You can listen to it here.
Thanks also to BACO mascots, miniature donkeys Mavis and Mabel who returned to lead families up to performances. Over 300 people attended.
The Kestrel team came a respectable 3rd in the 5-a-side tournament at Springhill. We joined two teams from Springhill plus teams from Aspire and RAW.
Read CLINKS new publication ‘Enhancing arts and culture in the criminal justice system’ outlining how important the arts are in prison is available to download here: https://www.artsincriminaljustice.org.uk/enhancing-arts-and-culture/.
Mention of Kestrel’s partnership with The Royal Court Theatre is on Page 19.