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Drama programme supports learners’ wellbeing

The Novus team and HMPPS colleagues at HMP Hindley partnered with Odd Arts on a unique drama programme that supported learners’ wellbeing and mental health during the pandemic.

Odd Arts deliver issue based creative programmes with vulnerable and excluded groups. Their projects use specialist applied theatre and creative arts to give people the skills, hope, voice and confidence to make positive change to their own lives.

Odd Arts secured funding to deliver a pilot project to support the wellbeing of people in prison in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Working in partnership with Novus and HMPPS colleagues at HMP Hindley, the team developed a new way of working to deliver their programmes in a Covid-safe way to align with the current restrictions and adjusted prison regime.

In person delivery was key, to keep to the core of the drama based programme and support the overarching theme, which was improving wellbeing. New sessions were devised to respond to the reduced numbers and to factor in the new parameters presented.

Two drama facilitators worked with one learner per session, using drama techniques to increase confidence, self-worth and sense of purpose, improve wellbeing, including coping mechanisms, build social skills and help reduce risk of self-harm, anxiety and stress.

Six learners took part in the programme, with all participants actively engaging and speaking openly about their personal wellbeing in the workshops.

Learners who took part in the project said:

My confidence has grown since getting into prison, especially doing drama. I didn’t interact with people before ‘cos of anxiety, I would just get into trouble. I’m more open to talking to people now. I wouldn’t have done this before.

“I’ve opened up so much; gone from why, wondering “what is this?” to feeling so much more confident, speaking up, chatting away. At first I was shaking like a leaf at the thought of ‘drama’, now I’m looking forward to every exercise. I don’t want it to end. I have told my mum all about it. I’m proud of myself. I have completed a prison application form to request more sessions, I want more sessions like this!”

Sarah Hartley, Novus Operational Lead for Creative Arts, Enrichment and Families, said:

"The programme is a great example of an alternative type of delivery that can be achieved, even in the current restrictions. The response from the men who took part has been fantastic and it has been rewarding to see first-hand the growth of each learner through their participation.”

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