Community Christmas Trees: Criminal Justice

This week, David Phillips, our Individual Giving Manager, brings us an update on the Community Christmas Trees fundraising campaign and talks about two of the many projects that it will be supporting.


Working for Hampshire Cultural Trust, I have the privilege of witnessing first-hand the impact that arts and heritage have on people’s lives. Experiencing culture and being part of a community of like-minded people are essential for us to understand the world around us and ourselves. However, I am also sadly discovering the ‘gap’ in accessing creative outlets and the misguided belief that the arts aren’t always essential. But you can help!

As part of the trust’s social impact work, we run projects to create opportunities to improve the health and wellbeing of people across the county, including vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups: because we know, from our own personal experiences and evidence-based research, that cultural activities do change lives.

One group we work with closely is people within criminal justice settings, supporting their wellbeing and helping them to learn new skills and engage in positive activities. Once in the criminal justice system, it can be very hard to gain perspective and access the emotional support needed to make positive changes.

Since 2017, the trust has been supporting women on probation through Creating Change. This programme uses drama, theatre and writing techniques to help participants identify, moderate and manage their attitudes, thinking and behaviours in order to make positive changes in their own lives.

Creating Change sessions address topics such as clear communication, healthy relationships, assertive behaviour and impulse control and aim to increase self-belief, confidence and self-esteem. The women who take part gain positive life skills through creating their own piece of performance art, giving them time and space to reflect on how they behave and interact with their families and communities.

We also run a series of creative workshop programmes with male prisoners at HMP Winchester. Each programme is bespoke and is based on the individual and collective stories, ideas, values and experiences of the group. Creating a safe, non-judgemental space for prisoners to express themselves and share their experiences gives them an escape from their situation and the opportunity to reflect. As a group, the men participate in creative exercises which lead to wider questions about their lives after prison. From these foundations an ensemble is built to develop content and imagery as a team. The results are often dynamic, awakening and funny and always cause spark for debate! This is a key aspect of the project leading to important social conversations, amplifying voices, challenging perceptions and shifting perspectives.

The spring 2020 programme was interrupted by COVID-19, but we are poised and eager for this programme to resume as soon as social distancing restrictions allow. This poem was produced by a group before lockdown.

We have installed community Christmas trees in some of our venues as a simple way to bring the community together and raise awareness of the amazing projects taking place.

If you would like to make a difference in your community, you can donate here and we will email you a bauble to print off and hang on your tree at home, or, when we re-open, you can visit us to make a donation and hang a bauble on our community Christmas trees.

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