Young People’s Art Workshop: Who is Criminal Now?

‘We got to learn something new, and I don’t think it gets much better than that’

As part of the Echoes of Holloway Prison events programme, artist Alice May Williams and staff from Islington Museum led a two day workshop at Platform Youth Hub, with a group of young people.

The session began with a discussion about who and what behavior we criminalize. The young people explored the history of protest and social injustice tied up in Holloway’s story, pairing each discussion with a different creative response. The young women produced a range of protest art, poetry and manifestos to share the issues they care most deeply about. 

The final focus of the workshop was to explore the future of Holloway, in the context of its closure, the Reclaim movement and the personal testimonies collected by the Echoes of Holloway Prison project. The young people re-imagined the site of Holloway Prison, as they felt it should look going forward. Their particular focus was on offering a hub that could support local women and their families. 

The young artists produced a thoughtful display celebrating the DIY aesthetic of protest,  showcasing the issues they feel passionate about, which is currently on display at Islington Museum. 

Alice May Williams describes the experience of leading these sessions: 

As an artist who is interested in archival materials/local history and feminist social issues, it was a true honour to be asked to lead these workshops on behalf of Islington Museum. 

Through the localised lens of looking at the history of Holloway Prison we were able to explore such a rich and important gamut of ideas around women and incarceration, political prisoners, mental health and the wider question of who or what, is ‘criminal’ at any moment in time, and how that shifts with society.

My thinking around the issue was greatly informed by Caitlin Davies’ excellent book ‘Bad Girls’ along with recent activism by Sisters Uncut and Reclaim Holloway. Preparing for this workshop and making work with the young women at Platform has reinvigorated my interest in the subject and also led to some very inspiring creative outcomes from the group.

I look forward to delving deeper into the issues which sprang from this conversation and also to future workshops in collaboration with Islington Museum.’

The young people’s display accompanies the Echoes of Holloway Prison Exhibition at Islington Museum until the 8th October 2018.

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