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.


After Time: The Documentary Shorts


Join us at a screening of four documentary short films, created by Dorothy Allen-Pickard with additional footage shot by Jack Wells. A post screening Q&A with the performers and filmmaker will be hosted by actor Paapa Essiedu (I May Destroy You, Gangs of London, Hamlet).

April 1st 2022 | 6-8pm | Close-Up Cinema, Shoreditch | £15

Tickets here

Spaces are limited so book now

Starring four talented Kestrel alumni, Marc, Ricardo, Nathaniel and Brian, the films form part of the wider After Time project, which aims to explore the experiences of men after they leave prison across multiple mediums. These films serve as a sister project to the fictional After Time monologues, written by playwright Simon Longman, and performed in 2020 & 2021.

The films are a powerful and personal portrait of the four performers, all of whom are valued Kestrel alumni & collaborators, as they reflect honestly on their hopes and challenges since leaving prison, look back at their time inside & share their perspective on the UK’s criminal justice system.

Artistic Director – Goodbye Arabella, Welcome Eleanor

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.

Welcoming Marc Conway to the Board

We are delighted to welcome Marc Conway, Prison Engagement Officer for The Prison Reform Trust and a Kestrel Alumnus to our Board of Trustees. Here he is (right) with Ricardo Thomas in rehearsals for Broken Dreams, performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London in 2017.

New Artistic Director

We have now appointed a new Artistic Director, who will start work in August. All will be revealed then.

After Time 2

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.

Click here to find out more and see an edited version of the event, performed on Zoom. 

Bulb Sale 2020

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.

Signal Fires

Kestrel join a host of other companies to tell stories around the fire. More information here.

You can read more on the blog here.

A tribute to André Ptaszynski

Andre at fundraiser

André with his wife and fellow board member Judith, talking to Kestrel alumnus Nathanial at last year’s fundraiser at Regent’s Park.

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.

Flown in via The Kestrel Pub

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.

Rise and Bloom

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_

Puppet Stories in HMP Bullingdon 2020

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.

Drama Club in HMP Springhill 2020

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.

Rio’s Extraordinary Christmas

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.

You can read the testimonials from the actors, musicians and audience here, and find out more about this project here.