Using the Arts

Using creative practices is a core element of the Partnership’s approach.light woman

The Arts can help people to really engage with issues and explore things from a different perspective. It provides a relaxed, non-confrontational (and fun!) platform from which to work and is therefore an ideal way to engage with disadvantaged and vulnerable people who may not otherwise open up.

The Arts  is transformative and can turn the most difficult consultation into a truly empowering experiencing, often giving a voice to those who may otherwise go unnoticed. Above all it puts positive experiences into the most difficult, impoverished and often traumatised lives.

elephantWe know that creativity and the use of the Arts is one of our most successful methods of intervention, particularly when working with young people, as demonstrated by the depth and variety of our projects over the past few years.

Our current pieces of work are outlined below.

Journeys and Stories

Journeys and StoriesElizabeth Fry and Thames Valley Partnership have been working together over a number of years to provide creative activity for residents at the hostel. The artwork currently displayed on the walls is the outcome of a 2 year project, Women at the HeArt, and has led to funding from Arts Council England to support our current project: Journeys and Stories.  These sessions were led by experienced artists Christine Wilkinson and Carla Conte and culminated in two public exhibitions at Reading Museum and MERL (Museum of English Rural Life).

Journeys and Stories used the skills of professional visual artists and museum curators to enable female residents and staff at the hostel to tell their stories through creative activity. Sound artist Linda Mason recorded some of the women’s stories so that the spoken word was included in the exhibitions, enabling residents’ voices to be truly heard by visitors to the museum.

Reading Museum ExhibitionSessions ran from November 2015 until end of March 2016, with the exhibitions on display during April through to August.  A selection of activities that the women participated in were:  working with wood, printing, painting, collage, book making, using textiles and sewing, painting on acetate and making images of themselves.  They also visited Reading Museum where they were taken round by 3 different curators to look at the various collections.

Quotes from participants:

This is therapeutic and has made me calm and relaxed.

This is the only group I enjoy.

That’s what I call satisfaction!! 

It’s been a perfect day – a marvellous occasion.  (Museum visit)

The Exhibition at Reading Museum launched on April 5th and will be open to the public until July 2016.  After this, selected pieces will be on display at the newly refurbished MERL.

Staff in the hostel also benefitted from the project: Alison Leverett-Morris led 6 Action Learning Set sessions with staff as part of their professional development.  This is a unique approach to staff training and encompasses a creative approach alongside listening skills and supports the role of key workers at the hostel.

Journeys and Stories was funded by Arts Council England and managed by Thames Valley Partnership.


Modelling Change Update

Modelling Change uses the creative arts to engage and empower girls aged 16 to 19 in the Oxfordshire area, through the agencies and organisations that support them.  Skilled artist facilitators lead a mix of arts based activities and workshops on a weekly basis.  Engaging with creative activity has shown to have a positive impact on self-esteem and self-image, steering them towards more positive life decisions. Click here to view a  short film about the project.


The project has been running since October 2014 on a weekly basis during term time and participants experience a wide range of creative activities including printing bags and banners; using wood, wire and nails;  mosaic and mask making;  collage and paper work; painting and graphics; writing and drama games.   The group has worked towards gaining Bronze Level Arts Award, visited a performance at Pegasus Theatre and been part of the procession at the Cowley Road Carnival in July 2015.  During International Women’s Day in March 2015, the group exhibited some of their artwork at an event at Modern Art Oxford.  Modelling Change girls also really enjoyed participating in making lanterns for the Oxford Festival of Light held during November 20 to 22.  Thanks to Fusion Arts for their support!

Modelling Change is part of the second phase of the research project led by the University of Sussex into the use of creative arts with vulnerable groups.

Sessions continue  – please contact Judy Munday for more information and a referral form

Read the latest Criminal Justice Joint Inspection report on Girls in the Criminal Justice System here

Modelling Change is supported by investment from Arts Council England, Amey plc, J Paul Getty Trust and Oxfordshire Youth Justice Service.

PrintAmey Size 4 Cool Grey 9ECJP GettyOxfordshire Youth Offending Service


Healthy Me

Healthy MeThrough funding from Buckinghamshire Families First in 2015, a musician worked with The Oaks primary pupil referral unit work alongside both pupils, staff and parents to enhance parental engagement with the school and increase confidence in pupils.


Art-i-tecArt-i-tec was a West Berkshire Council’s Arts and Leisure Services project, working in partnership with the Youth Offending Team and Youth Support Team and supported by investment from Artswork.  Thames Valley Partnership co-ordinated the girls group who worked with 4 artists during a series of sessions in autumn 2014 and the early part of 2015, 2 participants gaining their Bronze Arts Award.  The project culminated in a sharing event on February 20th at 101 Outdoor Arts Creation Space, Greenham Business Park – the girls displayed their artwork and a boys group performed a dance piece.

Artists: Andy Fleming, Cath Baldwin, Katy Pike, Beth Flintoff

Click here to see a short video about the project made by film maker Linda Mason.

For more information contact or click here to learn more about our other Arts projects.


Women at the HeART (Mosaics)Women at the HeArt ran from 2012 until March 2014 aiming to give vulnerable, disadvantaged women more control over their lives, identifying ways of empowering them through the use of creative activities and reconnecting them with their families and communities. The project focussed on women with complex and unmet needs and offered innovative, cost-effective methods of intervention, opening doors and giving women greater access to support services.

Women at the HeART (Beads)Integral to Women at the HeArt was a mentee training scheme as part of our ongoing commitment towards continuing professional development for creative practitioners in the criminal justice field.

The dissemination event for Women at the HeArt was held during February 2014 at Meadowbrook College in Oxford and attended by a range of partners who were involved in the project and those who were interested to find out more about using creativity with vulnerable women.

Alison Leverett-Morris presented the Evaluation Report and concluded that

“Through creative arts processes, Women at the HeArt enabled vulnerable women, support staff and artists to develop new skills, gain confidence and experience a deep sense of personal growth and achievement in both personal and/or professional lives.”

Read more about the project from the evaluation report for Women at the HeArt which is now available to download from the following links:

Full Report
Executive Summary

Further  information contact Judy Munday, Arts Manager

Women at the HeArt was funded by Arts Council England, The Monument Trust and Thames Valley Probation.

 Women at the HeArt - Shoes“It’s been good to express yourself to how you’re
really feeling but can’t put it into words.”

“I felt completed engrossed and distracted from my life”

“I liked that we could ask for what we did in sessions – it made me feel respected”

“I really enjoyed being active and creative rather than things going round and round in my head ”

Women at the HeART (Spoons)“Women at the HeArt has made us think more about why we do what we do and how we can support these women.  Using visual creative expression techniques allows the veil to come down and to discover many different things behind ourselves and behind the women we work with. We are amazed at the beautiful pieces we have all produced!”    Support Staff Member

Something Brilliant at the barn

Visit our  dedicated arts section which captures  all the  findings  from our  creative Barnstorming day in March 2011.  It is packed with great ieas which will be of real  benefit to  anyone interested in working creatively with vulnerable groups.  

Watch  a clip of this day

“One of the things I really like about the Partnership is that
it does that really difficult work but with an interesting edge”

Ian Blair  (Lord Blair of Boughton), former Chair of Thames Valley Partnership


Publications for Using the Arts

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Links for Using the Arts


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