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Employment Opportunities in the Creative Industries

Sophie O'Sullivan, about 4 months ago

The National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance, managed by Clinks, have recently released a new guide on working in criminal justice sector: Enhancing arts and culture in the criminal justice system: A partnership approach. The NCJAA represents a network of over 900 individuals and organisations and supports all art forms across prison, probation and community settings. On the blog, we've previously discussed the impact of creativity and the way in which it can improve health, forge connections, enhance self-confidence and reduce reoffending. This piece, in light of the new publication, will focus on employment for people with convictions in the creative industries.

The NCJAA wants to focus on how we can work together more effectively across the arts, culture and criminal justice sectors to inspire exciting collaborations that push creative boundaries, showcase new voices, challenge public perceptions, and enhance rehabilitative experiences for people serving sentences both in prison and the community.

-Jessica Plant, Director, National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance

The creative industries are growing at twice the rate of the economy, and contribute £101.5 billion per year.* There is so much opportunity and potential in the arts and cultural sectors and, with the current movement in recruitment toward inclusivity, the NCJAA invite organisations to review their employment practices and consider whether there are any barriers for people with experience of the criminal justice system.

-Toolkit: How to deliver arts and culture in criminal justice settings (pictured above)

NCJAA's guide underlines how arts and cultural opportunities can help reduce crime by unlocking untapped talent, which improves wellbeing and boosts employability. The opportunities that are available are extremely diverse. On the blog, we recently featured Beating Time and the way in which they create employment and entrepreneurial opportunities through singing. In March, we went to see Clean Break's co-production with the Royal Court Theatre and we were struck by how the play shined a light on the challenging job application process and the additional barrier of a tick box indicating a criminal record. This is of particular importance as the Arts Council England are proud supporters of the Ban the Box Campaign, paving the way toward equal opportunity in the arts, media and cultural sectors. Many employers, outside of the arts sphere, are also joining this movement in order to access this fresh talent in an increasingly constrained labour market.


NCJAA's publication features several case studies of individuals who have gone through the criminal justice system and onto employment within the arts and cultural sectors. This is such a great achievement as the pursuit of artistic skill and creative passion can lead to an incredibly rewarding career and dynamic innovation in the industry as a whole. Here at The Exceptionals, we have found that 75% of people who leave prison have no employment lined up. Re-offending costs the state £13bn annually and employment more than halves re-offending rates. Employment is a means through which people can gain stability, rebuild their lives and look positively toward the future.


Michael's story depicts his journey toward arts engagement and positive future development. He worked with Synergy Theatre Project (a company that supports people in prison and on release) to develop acting, facilitation and stage management skills. Since his release in 2016, Michael has gone onto complete a stage management course and achieve a distinction. He will be stage managing Synergy Theatre Project's next show at Theatre 503 in February. Michael is also about to undertake a work placement at the National Theatre and hopes this will lead to a future career in the industry.

It was the only thing that helped me see I had a possible future outside crime, the arts enabled me to see I had something to offer, something I was good at.

-Michael, Synergy Theatre Project Participant

NCJAA's guide focuses on the collaborative process and partnership approach as this is the most productive way of providing expert knowledge and insight, enhancing creative output, ensuring sustainable cultural engagement, unlocking new talent, diversifying work and reaching new audiences. We have highlighted the plethora of benefits that long-term partnerships can have on the blog, which ultimately increase employment for those who have gone through the criminal justice system. We facilitate this work through our directory, which pinpoints leading organisations, employers and practitioners working with ex-offenders. Bringing people together results in the successful management of projects, helps maximise the scope of outreach and socio-economic impacts.

*Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. (2018) DCMS Sectors Economic Estimates 2017. Online: www. gov.uk/government/statistics/dcms-sectors-economic- estimates-2017-gva (last accessed: 24.05.2019)