Shortlisted: Calouste Gulbenkian Award for Civic Arts Organisations 2023

Open Clasp were one of 10 arts organisations to be shortlisted for the award which exemplified best practice in co-creation across the country. The independent panel, chaired by Baroness Deborah Bull, selected the recipients from over 336 high-quality applications in recognition of their work transforming their local communities through art and co-creation. 

“The panel and advisors were impressed by the transformative work that Open Clasp presented. It is clear to see the impact on a personal level for the women Open Clasp support but also at a policy and political level. They were impressed with Open Clasp’s connections and partnerships with the wider social sector. We wish Open Clasp every success in continuing to raise awareness and effect personal, social and political change.” 

Gold Star Members

Our gold star members are our co-creators who go the extra mile following the workshops. They stay close to the company, advise and directly inform the work being created. Our gold star members sit on post-show panels, advocate and inform our company policies and strategy.

Read what Vanessa and Cheryl have to say about the impact working with Open Clasp has had on them.

 “The best part about Open Clasp is they never judged me. They were compassionate and always give me time. I loved taking part in the process. But I’m going to be honest it was painful, emotional and heart-breaking.” 

“Working with Open Clasp I have overcome a lot. I was able to write a letter and meet the social worker who removed my children. She also watched the play when it was online. The process was hard at the same time due to our experiences and the trauma of losing our children. The effects of domestic abuse, even after trying to leave after the loss of our children, how they still manipulate us. When I was in that situation I felt as though no one was listening to me. This is a once in a lifetime experience and I am so grateful I was given the opportunity to be part of it.” 

Vanessa, co-creator on Lasagna and Gold Star Member

In 2013, I went to prison for 3 years. In that time I met Open Clasp. They wanted to know what got me to this place and about my life, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to but the love and respect they showed me, I gladly poured my heart out. The best bits for me was getting everything off my chest, I really felt I’d been in therapy, but the best type of therapy. I think me and the girls helped Open Clasp to get a better understanding of our lives and the awful things that have happened.

I don’t know what would have happened to me if I didn’t meet this company and I certainly don’t know what would have happened to me if I didn’t meet them again once I came out. Open Clasp was my savior of my relationship to bring me and my daughter back together through the play and we acted it ourselves. This is my family. 

Cheryl, co-creator on Key Change & Don't Forget the Birds and Gold Star Member
Two women looking at each other, both holding a vase of red roses. Background is blue.

The impact of our work has brought us recognition in the intersection of theatre and social justice. Theatre can and does save lives. You have to care to make change. Through our work audiences’ step into the shoes of the characters on stage and see the world through a gendered lens. Our outcomes fall into 3 areas;

  • Powerful personal change for the women we work with. They experience greater self-esteem, personal empowerment and confidence, learning new skills & approaches through our creative workshops and activities. In some cases, participants gain an accredited qualification.
  • Institutional change as we bring the lived experience of women & girls into debates, discussions and training which we deliver using theatre for prison staff, police officers, social workers and other professionals who can aid social inclusion.
  • Policy level change as our work informs the public and educates policy makers.

Transformative Training

“Since the training [using Rattle Snake] I am more conscious of the issue, am able to identify ‘tell-tale’ signs at a much earlier stage, and support my team to start and ask the ‘right questions”. Children’s services staff member Durham County Council.

Our work has a transformational impact on professionals and directly impacts policy change. Two examples are;

Us Too: Alisha’s Story is our training cocreated with women who have a learning disability or autism and have experience of reporting sexual violence and / domestic abuse to the police. It was created with academics who highlighted gaps in training for police officers and staff. Our training sought to support initially 200 officers and multi-agency safeguarding staff to make positive changes to their practice. Training was delivered in May 2023 by our team who have specialist knowledge and skills in theatre and drama, psychology and supporting survivors of sexual violence. The training led to immediate changes to the council’s safeguarding polices and further plans to integrate the experience of victims with a learning disability or neurodiversity into their practice and procedure. That training is designed and tested we now need to ‘package it’, reach more people & generate income.

Rattle Snake has been viewed by 27k people in 35 countries and has participated in the UN Campaigns to End Violence Against Women & Girls with Rattle Snake BSL and Arabic Subtitles. It can be licensed to organisations and workers supporting victims of gendered violence, to educate staff and policy makers across the Criminal Justice System and has been used by the company to train, using theatre and drama techniques, 2300 people (to date) in Coercive Controlling Behaviours including police forces and social workers.

“I attended your play yesterday and it blew my socks off! This was, by a country mile, the most engaging, impactive and thought-provoking training session I have had in my fourteen-year career in the police.” Police Officer, Durham Constabulary.

Endorsed by the government’s Domestic Violence Commissioner, it continues to change lives.