Porto diaries



Diary by Ed Santman ————————————————————–>

After meetings of the partners in the UK, North Ireland and Poland some urgent questions came up. Having worked in a prison setting as an art teacher for so long I have seen the benefits of it. When I started working in a prison some fifteen years ago, I myself was a bit sceptical about the work, but this changed within weeks. I found out that for several inmates this was more than spending time, it was good for their self esteem, also for good results they had to concentrate, be committed and focussed, and show perseverance, all important skills for life.

Ever since my first day working in prison not a day went by without an inmate telling me how important this creative moment in the week was for him and how much he was looking forward to it each week and I know they were not just being polite.

A colleague of mine once said “a drawing doesn’t lie” and there is some truth in it. If it is something you seldom do you have no tools to disguise yourself. Some of the results I saw were technically imperfect but they came straight for the heart and that made them so powerful.

Later when I started doing theatre and music projects in prison I found out this goes for all the arts. Some inmates became really committed to their artwork and in some occasions it actually changed them. During the PICP project we paid a few visits to prisons. The female prison in Dublin, the male prison in Port Laoise and Porto.

In Dublin there was a very progressive regime but I had the feeling that the inmates didn’t use the chances they were offered. I had the impression that their motivation was to low. In Porto I was shocked to see Maria suddenly in tears. In prison she met a boy she has been working with inside and later outside of prison. She was shocked to find out he was back in prison again. This reminded me of the discussion during the meeting in Ireland of the definition Kirsten Anderson had given of “desistence”, should we define it as turning your back to crime or as the process of turning your back to crime. The later I am afraid. The arts can be a very powerful tool and give a very empowering experience but we have to do even better and find ways to make it a life lasting experience.

“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

Diary by Kiran Shriemisier ————————————————————–>

Meeting “Partners in Crime Prevention” hosted by PELE, Porto PT.

Present are:

Changes and Chances (NL); Ed Santman, Erica Kubic
Young in Prison (NL); Lucas Defares, Colins Opiyo, Kiran Shriemisier
Ministry of Justice (NL); Mirthe Wacki, Leon
ECS (IR); Jane Raynolds, Kirsten Kearney, Heather Wilson
Prison Education Service (IR); Paula Rafferty
Plockie Centrum Edukacyjne(PL); Marzena Mikolajewska, Cezary Mikolajewski, Hubert Skrzynski
Gymnasium & Lyceum Avlona Prison (GR); Ioannis Papadimitriou
PELE (PT); Maria João Mota, Maria Vasquez, Abel Fernando Andrade Moreira de Sousa
Thursday 18th September

  • We all gathered in the Fabrica Rua Da Alegria, where PELE welcomed all the partners. We first had a tour through the building where we met other organizations and see their work. After the tour we gathered in the office of PELE, where the meeting kicked off by Joao and Maria, who firstly explained what PELE stands for and the work it is executing in the community of Porto and in prisons. To illustrate this, we did a workshop in which we did theatrical exercises about being comfortable and taking perspective. In between the exercises we did evaluations of what was going on and how it felt.
  • Paula continued on the partners textile piece, discussing the exact shape and fabric to go with it. The decision was to make the textile piece shaped in a spiral, because it stands for a whole, for continuity (based on Fibonacci’s golden mean). Every partner should brainstorm about the content of each piece, that will be further produced in Poland.
  • After a short tea break YiP did a creative interlude (energizer)
  • Ed Santen followed up on the website and the manual content. The question was how to put all the best practices and experience together in a manual. Maria hung up two sheets of paper to identify the successes and the struggles we face when working in to prisons. A template is going to be created in which the partners can add on exercises and best practices. This template will be emailed and be accessible for all. The idea for the website is to generate content based on diaries that will be written (such as this one).The discussion was about the length, which we all concluded that there shouldn’t be strict criteria for it. The website is still under construction and will be soon online. The point was the planning for future meetings (Poland, Greece & Holland). Hubert stressed out that all the partners should email the participants going to Poland within two weeks (including ID numbers etcetera).  Furthermore, the partners discussed the planning of the workshops within hosting countries. Further closure about this will be given.
  • Due to time there wasn’t any more time to discuss the agreements on the budgets. This will be discussed the following day.
  • Dinner @ Duas de Letras. We all were able to meet Abel and Tanja who were participants of the Entrado play PELE did in male and female prison. Both of them are now ambassadors of the organization, and PELE seeks to find some formal work relation with them. After dinner we ended the evening by watching “12 angry Lebanese men”. This documentary was about 12 men participating in a theatre play in Lebanon. Very interesting to see how theatre really changed their perspective of their own life. I instantly saw parallels to the work PELE is doing in prison, working with male and female prisoners and theatre.

Friday 19th September

  • Half past 9 we were picked up at the hotel to go to Porto male prison. Upon arrival we were welcomed by the director of the prison. He gave the opportunity to ask questions and to give some general information about the prison, population and activities. The prison is overcrowded, housing 1200 inmates while it was built for 700. Most of these offenders are drug traffickers. Firstly we were taken to the different workshops in the prison, where the inmates produce several products. We had chance to talk to some of them about the work they were doing. Interesting for me was the vibe within the prison. In some ways it was less paranoid then I would have expected, compared to some of the prisons I visited earlier. The director accompanied during this tour. We have also seen the church and the music room. After this tour we were taken to a special drug free unit within the prison. This unit consists of 12 people following a strict regime of rules and regulations. Abel, who accompanied us, was part of this unit. It was quiet emotional for him, as it was his first time he was back into prison. After we visited this unit, we moved to a communal room, where we had a chance to meet the participants of the Entrado play PELE did before. Questions were asked about the process they had been through and the impact this had. The director was also present, and questions were asked about the possibility of future plays in the facility. Although it will be a hustle to get it done and perhaps will be smaller, the director said he would be keen to the idea of having another play.
  • In the afternoon we had a very interesting workshop on social return on investment. We first started the workshop with a Skype talk with Toby Eccles, one of the first to apply the concept of social impact bonds in the UK. We first asked questions on how this concept works. Afterwards there was more time to ask specific questions on the applicability to small creative organizations as ours. Questions were asked about the effect size, getting investors, and getting governments to buy in. After an half an hour the Skype chat ended.
  • Professor Americo Mendes, of the Catholic University of Oporto joined us to go further in depth about the impact bonds. He warned us not to get to excited about the idea of us finding a new solution that will fit the overall problem of funding. He spoke about the importance of the context in which a certain system is implemented. He took Portugal as an example and the way history formed the minds of the citizens. This sense of society that the citizens have can form the idea of being open or not to the idea of the social impact bonds. He was quiet pessimistic of it working in Portugal. Then again, he underlined that his purpose was not to be too critical to the social impact bonds, he was just being realistic.
  • The workshop continued and was lead by the general director of the prison services. He firstly explained how his prison (female) is and how art projects are being perceived by government. He explained why arts are so underrated and why there is almost no budget to finance organizations such as PELE. He pleaded for a more intergrative cooperation between several departments within government. If the ministry of Arts and Culture for example, sees it as their duty to organize arts within prisons, then the ministry of Justice saves money and would enable organizations such as PELE to continue their work. Although this is a very good idea, he didn’t see any drastic changes within a small time period, due to bureaucratic and political constrains that withhold such cooperation. He still is very optimistic about arts within facilities because he truly believes that this can change certain mindstates within prison. He has seen it with Tanja, once a participant of Entrado, and now one of the ambassadors of PELE.
  • After this very interesting workshop the partners decided to talk about the finances regarding the coming exchanges. It was told by them that it wasn’t of added value to be there, because it was just about confirming formal agreements made earlier.
  • Dinner @ Adega do Ribatejo

Saturday, 20th of September

  • In the morning at 9:45 we were picked up by Maria to go to Casa de Musica. Casa de Musica is a cultural community house, mainly specialized in music. We first started the day with a workshop done by the educational service of Casa de Musica. It was very funny to see them working, and being able to motivate us all to make music. It was a very nice experience.
  • After the workshop we were joined in by the Director of Casa de Musica, Jorge Prendas. He firstly explained about the building and his job in general. He went further into depth about the work they were doing in and outside of prisons. Mainly there are 3 kinds of projects they are involved in within prisons; small, medium to large. He explained more about the large project that they did with the play of PELE. Furthermore we spoke about the constraints that the projects face, when going into prison.
  • We ended the meeting by receiving certificates of attendance by Maria.
  • Sadly, after this Lucas and I had to go to the airport to catch our flight!

I had a very inspiring meeting and it was wonderful for me to look into other peoples lives and discovering the changes they went through. Furthermore it was very nice to meet the partners of the other countries and discover that most of the successes and challenges we face are similar. I want to thank our hosts for being generous to us! Muito obrigado!

“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

Diary by Kirsten Kearney ————————————————————–>

Porto, Portugal, September 2014

Getting under the skin of Portugal

I knew nothing of Portugal. Not even how to pronounce our hosts names: pele (meaning skin) is not pronounced like the footballer. Apparently.

A Russian speaking Spanish. That’s how Portuguese was introduced to us and somehow that rings true. The Portuguese were warm, welcoming and helpful (overhelpful perhaps as an old man shepherded us slowly through the lashing Porto rain.)

Pele’s base, an incredible old sock factory turned into a place where creativity is let loose in all its chaotic, tangible beauty hosted us, letting practitioners remember what it feels like to take part, making fundraisers and strategists feel out of their comfort zones ‘playing’ creative dramatic icebreakers… [play? Play?! Isn’t life too serious for play?] Realising that if you get really into something (even traditional Portuguese drumming), you forget where you are.

That’s perhaps the power of creativity that I saw in the prisoners. One said that while working on Pele’s theatre project Entrado, he didn’t feel like he was in prison. Perhaps these moments are the most valuable, although least tangible of the things we achieve with the work we strive so hard to make happen.

I learnt from this visit, that we are all in the same boat. Perhaps one that has hit an iceburg or two. Each country faces the same dilemmas now. In the age of austerity, which is definitely affecting each country to a different extent, we are all, however, facing the challenge of getting anything to happen within the prison system, finding a way to bring the prison gate-keepers on board, and realizing, that the prison directors don’t actually hold all the power and their “no”, may be because they are being controlled from above as well.

Skyping with Toby Eccles was both a tiny flag of hope as well as more frustration – wondering how a social impact bond that is working in England, could possibly be transferred to an Northern Irish context, without the useful high profile investors and the large infrastructures. I saw how difficult it is to be small and niche, when what you need is to be large and professionalized. I’m wondering how to build power in numbers so we can be taken seriously within our own contexts. How do we scale up, when our work is so person-intensive?

I’m still at sea about how we measure impact. Powerful as testimonies and anecdotal evidence are, they don’t arrest the politicians in any way that makes them think more seriously about the creative and therapeutic interventions we are trying to stage.
Somehow in the middle of all of this, I’m learning to think like a tiger.

“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

Diary by MIRTHE WACKIE ————————————————————–>

LD Mirthe Porto


“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

Diary by Ioannis Papadimitriou ————————————————————–>

A very interesting meeting, a very interesting city!

I liked meeting so many great people from PELE, I felt immediately welcome in their working space. I felt jealous of their work with ex prisoners but also how “heavy” this can be. The prison visit was very interesting also. We were all deeply moved by Abel meeting again friends. Drugs are an enemy that you have to keep fighting all the time, all your life. Maybe we are offering prisoners less than we should.

The prison Governor welcomed us along with many people from the staff. Between the lines, I felt that the staff wanted more from the Prison, I tried to make this clear asking a few questions and I was not surprised getting the answers I imagined  I would get. But still, the value of arts is there, is it in our grasp? What can we do to reach it, to make work?

The meeting was well organized and the speakers and presentations were very interesting. The Skype conference with Toby Eccles was inviting and made us all think. Professor Americo Mendes, of the Catholic University of Oporto, gave us his approach, on society and citizenship,  it also made me think.

I felt more close to the partners and the work of people from PELE and I really hope this partnership will give them strength.

“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

Diary by HEATHER WILSON ————————————————————–>

Porto-visual diary-1Porto-visual diary-2


“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

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