Prisoner Art Celebrates Christmas

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Posted 7th November 2016

by Sally Varah, Chair of the Michael Varah Memorial Fund

Back in February 2016, the Michael Varah Memorial Fund (MVMF) invited women offenders taking part in the Artist in Residence rehabilitation programme — run for offenders at HMP Send Prison by Watts Gallery Trust and funded by the MVMF — to create artwork that captures what Christmas means for them at this stage in their lives.

Up to ten women attended these workshops to develop their artistic skills and to discover hidden creative talents. Throughout 2016, five different visiting artists delivered weekly workshops, teaching skills from drawing and painting through to ceramics and printmaking.

The resulting cards are available in the Watts Gallery – Artists' Village Shop (£2.99 for a pack of five cards), and the MVMF also has a wider network of retail outlets. Profits from the sale of these Christmas cards fund more workshops and materials at HMP Send. Our message to you this Christmas is: Please send these cards to your friends and family and to business associates.

Clare Brunner, Learning Coordinator at Watts Gallery - Artists' Village, says 'By purchasing a card, you will be recognising the therapeutic power of art for offenders and encouraging these women artists' motivation to learn and to build their self-esteem and confidence.'

For these women artists, the fact that their Christmas card designs sell in such quantities gives them hope and belief: belief in their talents and hope that they may be able to pursue a new pathway. Ultimately, that onward pathway might not be linked to art, but it is art that gives them confidence to take the first steps to a crime-free future.

Find out more about the MVMF at