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Theatre group commended for work with Barlinnie prisoners

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A COMMUNITY theatre group which supports people with mental health issues has been highly praised for its rehabilitation work within HMP Barlinnie.

Theatre Nemo, which has been staging workshops at the Glasgow prison for eight years, had been nominated for the Prison Reform Trust's inaugural Robin Corbett Award by Barlinnie Governor Derek McGill.

The Trust (www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk) created the new award to recognise outstanding rehabilitative work with prisoners by a small charity or community group, in partnership with prison staff. It was set up in the memory of Robin Corbett, chair of the Home Affairs Committee who for 10 years led the All Party Parliamentary Penal Affairs Group until his death in February last year.

Although the award was gifted to another nominee - crime diversion scheme KeepOut - Theatre Nemo received a highly commended prize from the Trust.

The Glasgow-based group was set up in 2000 by Isabel McCue after the death of her son, John who suffered from mental health issues and spent short periods behind bars.

Since then its team has been running workshops for prisoners, many of whom have social and mental health problems. The charity, which also works with hospitals and in the community, uses the creative arts as a means of expression, communication and as a powerful tool in people's understanding of the world around them.

Isabel said: "The workshops are designed to help prisoners feel better about themselves and gain more confidence. The people we work with have had chaotic lives and have a pattern of re-offending. We want to break this pattern and see how we can support them both in and out of prison.

"It's all about trust and building up a relationship. When they are released we work with them so they continue to be engaged with a wide range of artistic activities from drama, animation through to drumming."

Derek McGill added: "Theatre Nemo deal exclusively with prisoners with mental health and vulnerability and have long since established themselves as essential to change management in Barlinnie and beyond the walls once prisoners are released."

Theatre Nemo is currently working on a new joint project involving Barlinnie prisoners and pupils of Smithycroft Secondary School in Glasgow. The goal is to pool resources to chart the journey of establishment and explore the impact the prison has had not only those who spent time there but on staff, families and how it has been perceived within the community.

To find out more about the '130 Years of Barlinnie' project and others that have been implemented at the prison, visit: http://www.theatrenemo.org/Our-Work/Prison

Picture above shows (l-r) Theatre Nemo's Hugh McCue, Isabel McCue, Lady Corbett and Martin Macdonald, deputy governor of Barlinnie, in the House of Lords.

Clock Page last updated on 18/02/2013