This week, we are shining the spotlight on Clean Break, a charity based in London. Clean Break uses theatre to keep the subject of women in prison on the cultural radar, helping to reveal the damage caused by the failures of the criminal justice system.

Clean Break is a women’s theatre company, founded in 1979 by two women prisoners who believed in the power of theatre to transform lives. Their vision is of a society where women can realise their full potential, free from criminalisation. Through theatre workshops and projects in prisons and the community which build confidence, resilience and wellbeing, Clean Break transforms the lives of women who have experienced the criminal justice system or have been identified as at risk of entering it. The team ordinarily work with 70 women each week as part of their weekly Members Programme. They have 10 full time and 11 part time staff and are usually supported by around 40 volunteers.

“We pursue our vision by producing ground-breaking theatre which puts women’s voices at its heart and creates lasting change by challenging injustice in and beyond the criminal justice system”

Photo Credit: Clean Break

The Members Programme is delivered from trauma-informed, women-only studios in Kentish Town. The Programme runs in ten-week sessions, and each week Clean Break will host workshops in Introduction to Drama, Advanced Theatre, Writers Circle, and Health & Wellbeing, as well as running a Young Artists Development Programme. The sessions are designed to help members cope with the long-term issues that can underpin women’s involvement in the criminal justice system, such as mental ill health, domestic abuse or violence, poverty, or alcohol or drug misuse.

The Coronavirus pandemic has meant that Clean Break has been forced to make some big changes to their programme delivery. They swiftly moved their sessions online and began to offer member support remotely. This was a challenge as many of their service users already struggle with isolation; and the crisis also presents challenges in coping with long-term issues. The sessions now include: 3 online creative workshops per week, members support in the form of check-ins, Zoom 1:1’s, and care packages, as well as new creative projects which foster connectivity and community. The plan is to maintain this service until the team are able to offer a reduced, in-person version of their Member Programme that they can run alongside their virtual workshops.

The biggest organisational challenge has been financial. Clean Break’s largest unrestricted income is hiring out their building (ordinarily generating £125K per year) which came to an abrupt halt in February. Other financial challenges have included the loss of donations as funders have diverted money to emergency delivery; a reduction in capacity as Clean Break have furloughed 76% of their staff; and loss of further trading income as they do not expect to be able to run training courses or earn box office income from theatre productions for a good while yet.

“Emergency funding support from both existing and new funders has been essential to navigate this crisis and stabilise our organisation; funders such as the Rank Foundation have been absolutely vital in protecting our resilience, securing our future, and making sure that we will be able to return to a full Members Programme as soon as possible.”

For more information about Clean Break, please visit

You can also follow on Twitter @CleanBrk, Instagram @CleanBrk, Facebook, or find them on LinkedIn.

If you’d like to contact someone at Clean Break for more information about their work, or supporting them, please contact Head of Development and Communications Sally Muckley at