The Story Chair and three whispering trees were co-designed with women in touch with the criminal justice system, supported by Changing Lives Women’s Criminal Justice Hubs in the Northumbria Region.
In an 8-week programme, the women explored complex, emotionally difficult, funny, but most importantly real stories of life.
The Story Chair is an abstract representation of the twists and turns of the women’s lives, the need of a solid base and the lightness once stories have been shared; representing the realities the women experienced, while highlighting the interweaving nature of shared experience.
The exhibition is curated in collaboration between Changing Lives women’s criminal justice hubs in the Northumbria Region and Northumbria University, with support from North East Probation Services, National Trust, and Newcastle Cathedral.
The Story Chair programme aims to explore routes for innovation in women’s criminal justice support services, focusing on craft and storytelling practices. We designed an 8-week programme that provided space for the women to reflect, explore, play, and learn together. Through this, many of the women were able to learn to ask for support, build hope together, and explored ways of making choices and understanding their consequences. In the programme, we work towards co-creating safe and brave spaces with the women, so they can share their own experiences on their own terms. As one participant said: “there’s no denying the impact” of the programme.
Through a series of additional design workshops, the learning from the 8-week programme was distilled into design concepts to physically build a storytelling chair. This chair acts as an ‘infrastructure of inclusion’ as it will be a traveling exhibit for heritage, arts, or community venues. Conversations about hosting the chair are however only a starting point. We expect potential hosts to meet the women, and to have a plan for making their space more inclusive (eg. through policy or practice changes). As such, the wider project called ‘Crafting Infrastructures of Inclusion’ aims to facilitate change towards more inclusive and welcoming spaces in arts, heritage, and community venues for women in touch with the criminal justice system through co-created, critical action research.
Dr Angelika Strohmayer, Northumbria University
Dawn Harrison, Changing Lives Women’s Criminal Justice Services Manager, Northumbria Region
Andrew Weatherhead, Seaton Delaval Hall, National Trust
People who have themselves or have loved ones loved ones who may have been in touch with the criminal justice system
People interested in topics of social justice and the reduction of stigma
People interested in how to contextualise current experiences of marginalisation in historical context
Publicly accessible exhibition, see opening times of Seaton Delaval Hall
7th October – 12th November