New collaborative commission explores spaces between military, custody and civilian life
The Separate System, FACT

Screening at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Liverpool,  6 April 2017 6:30pm

The exact number of former Armed Forces personnel in prison in Britain is at present unknown and figures are widely contested, but it is believed that the number represents ‘a significant subset of the adult male prison population and by occupation, potentially the largest’[1]. With a move to now better recognise and support veterans within the criminal justice system, what does this identification mean for the individuals themselves?

FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) in Liverpool has been working to produce creative projects with military veterans since 2012, through the Veterans in Practice programme. This work has now been developed further, to understand the issues and contexts for veterans within the criminal justice system. FACT’s work with veterans within the criminal justice system started in 2015, and saw artists Larry Achiampong and David Blandy work with veterans at HMP Altcourse and HMP Liverpool. This resulted in FF Gaiden: Control, a short film exploring the tensions inherent within the dual identity of ‘veteran and offender’ through a series of personal testimonies from the perspective of the veterans themselves and their family members.

The Separate System (2017) is a new collaborative commission, produced by veterans through workshops at HMP Liverpool and HMP Altcourse with artist Katie Davies. Taking the form of a single channel cinematic film, the piece investigates the distinct, yet interconnected, spaces of the military, custody and ‘civilian’ life. Exploring these spaces and the experiences within them through the notion of work, an everyday activity that unites these worlds and is familiar to us all, the film communicates what we, as a civilian audience, do not understand about the unique set of relations, actions and responsibilities held by the individuals within these spaces.

The Separate System will premiere at a public screening and artist discussion event at FACT on 6 April. Showing alongside FF Gaiden: Control, FACT’s pilot project working in local prisons, project artist Katie Davies will be joined by Larry Achiampong and David Blandy for an artist discussion chaired by Dr Emma Murray, Senior Lecturer in Criminal Justice at Liverpool John Moores University and Director of the Reimagining Conflict: Policy, Pedagogy and the Arts research centre.

Participating artist Mark said: “I really enjoyed participating in this project. It was a brilliant opportunity to use equipment I have not used before and has left me interested for more. When we finally saw all the weeks of discussions and filming come together and to watch the completed piece, it gave me a great sense of achievement and I felt a bit overwhelmed. I hope it comes across as powerful as it did to me, to other people who view the film. It was a privilege to be involved and have a voice on my experiences in the service and in the community and in prison.”

Project artist Katie Davies said: “I found it incredibly fulfilling that the discussion of representation sat at the heart of the project’s collaborative process, allowing the men to have an autonomy on what was depicted and how this formed the basis of the final film. Our conversations about filmic language became a way of shaping how their personal narratives were included, and ultimately understood.”

Keith McDonnell, Gym Manager at HMP Altcourse said: “The project has helped to widen the artistic opportunities available to veterans and was another great success. The feedback from the veterans involved in the project was extremely positive. The sense of achievement and the creation of something purposeful and meaningful have been evident throughout each workshop. The veterans have expressed their thanks, happiness and pride in creating a piece of art which serves to illustrate their experiences and show the general public what it is to be a military veteran.”

The Separate System is commissioned and produced by FACT. Supported by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund and Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Katie Davies working with Andy, Billy, Callum, Danny, Gaz, Gaz, Jay, Jonno, Mark, Mark, Paul, Rob and Trevor.

[1]Howard League for Penal Reform (2011) Report of the Inquiry into Former Armed Service Personnel in Prison

The Separate System (2017) Katie Davies working with Andy, Billy, Callum, Danny, Gaz, Gaz, Jay, Jonno, Mark, Mark, Paul, Rob and Trevor. Commissioned and produced by FACT. Supported by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund