Theatre scheme gives ex-offenders in Sheffield a fresh start

A new initiative encouraging ex-offenders to tread the boards in a bid to live a life away from crime has been launched in Sheffield.

Tuesday, 12th January 2021, 12:01 pm

The Beyond the Walls Initiative is part of Shakespeare Unbard which works with those caught up in the criminal justice system offering them the opportunity to set up and run a collaboratively-owned theatre company.

Founder of Shakespeare UnBard, Rowan Mackenzie, has been working in prisons across England since 2017 and has won multiple awards for the theatre companies she co-owns with the actors inside.

The scheme funded by the South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit has now started in Sheffield and offers people from the age of 18 the opportunity to work together to produce one of William Shakespeare’s famous plays that will be performed to family members and friends.

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Rowan Mackenzie, who is setting up a theatre group with recently-released prisoners in Sheffield

Rachel Staniforth, Head of the South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit said: “This initiative is something really different and one that we were very keen to get involved with and bring to South Yorkshire.

“The revolving door of the criminal justice world for many people means that they never get the opportunity to change. This project will allow those who have served their time in prison and accepted their punishment, a time to reflect and change their future. It will offer them the new skills and confidence to change and be the person they want to be.”

It will give everyone involved the opportunity to try their hand at acting, boost their confidence and make decisions as a group as to how the production comes together. Absolutely no acting experience or knowledge of Shakespeare or of theatre is needed and full support will be given.

The Beyond the Walls initiative will run on Monday evenings. During the current lockdown this will continue on Monday evenings from 6pm via Zoom for anyone able to join via the internet.

Usually it will take place in Sheffield and the cost of travel to the venue can be provided for everyone taking part.

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner said: “This project is something really imaginative and different. I am pleased we can support it through the Violence Reduction Unit.”

To book a place contact [email protected] for a Zoom link.