Wales Millennium Centre to present illuminating exhibition of creative work by offenders

An inspiring collection of artwork, music and creative writing by offenders is to go on display at Wales Millennium Centre from 6 February to 13 April 2015. Curated by women from Gibran UK – an organisation supporting ex-offenders across Wales – the ‘Illumination’ exhibition will present pieces selected from entries to the 2014 Koestler Awards.

Illumination, which will be, prison arts charity, the Koestler Trust’s only exhibition of work solely from Welsh institutions this year, will present artwork and creative writing by prisoners, people in secure hospitals and people on community sentences. Supported by Gibran UK (based in Llanover, near Abergavenny) a group of female ex-offenders volunteered to curate the exhibition and create textile artworks in response to some of the written works.

Returning to Wales Millennium Centre for the second time with an exhibition, the Koestler Trust is a charitable scheme that has been rewarding artistic achievement in the criminal justice sector for over 50 years. The aims of the Koestler Awards include providing a positive goal towards which offenders can strive, a means of acquiring and practising new skills, and often discovering unrecognised talent and an outlet for creative energies and emotions.

Graeme Farrow, Artistic Director at Wales Millennium Centre commented: “The Koestler Trust is a wonderful charity, harnessing the power of the arts to inspire, engage and help rehabilitate offenders. I’m extremely pleased Wales Millennium Centre will be showcasing the hard work and talent of Welsh offenders and playing a part in celebrating their achievements through the ‘Illumination’ exhibition.”

Tim Robertson, Chief Executive of the Koestler Trust said: “Wales Millennium Centre is the ideal setting for the vibrant, touching and amazingly skilful art of Welsh offenders and secure patients. And what is truly ground-breaking is the way the exhibition has been curated by local women on community sentences – their beautifully careful choices of exhibits, and the marvellous textile artwork they have created in response. Welsh women on custodial sentences are taken away to England – because there are no female prisons in Wales – so it’s important and inspiring to see the life-changing work that can be achieved through community justice.”

Managing Director of Gibran (UK) Ltd, Gill Hurley, said: “We are delighted to have been invited to be the curators of the ‘Illumination’ exhibition at Wales Millennium Centre. A group of women who have been attending sessions with us as part of our Glad Rags project have been completing their unpaid work hours through participation in the project. This exciting opportunity to participate in this prestigious event has been invaluable for the women in developing new skills, confidence and improving their self-esteem. We are grateful to the Koestler Trust for creating this opportunity for women in Wales to gain new skills in poetry, creative writing and textiles art.”

One of the exhibited artists from HM Prison & Young Offender Institution Parc has said: “I would like to thank all the people that support and visit the exhibition. This is something that I never thought would exist before coming to prison, and has opened my eyes to the care and compassion of others that want to help prisoners rehabilitate. Thank you.”

The ‘Illumination’ exhibition, ties in closely with the other boundary breaking projects and events taking place at the Centre this spring, all of which have women at their heart. These include an all-female version of Richard III (Feb 10-23), Man to Man (20-27 March), a Wales Millennium Centre production touching on themes of identity and gender and WOW (Women of the World) Caerdydd, a festival celebrating, provoking and expressing female achievements, struggles and future challenges (20-21 Mar).

The first Koestler Awards exhibition to come to Wales Millennium Centre was the ‘Secure’ exhibition in 2013 which was also curated by offenders from HM Prison & Young Offender Institution Parc.

‘Illumination’ is at Wales Millennium Centre 6 February – 13 April 2015. Entry to the exhibition is free.