Transformative criminological research celebrated at FACT 20th anniversary

LJMU’s role in a participatory art programme, shining a light on the experiences of military veterans in the criminal justice system, is celebrated as part of FACT Liverpool’s 20th anniversary.

Dr Emma Murray, a Reader in Military Veteran Studies in the School of Justice Studies, has been collaborating with FACT since 2014 and in 2019 became FACT’s Criminologist-in-Residence.

Dr Murray has redefined the role of an embedded researcher and has played a key role in the development of projects that have resulted in the coproduction and dissemination of research between arts organisations, penal reform campaigners and criminological researchers.

Her work and collaboration with FACT is being celebrated during their programme of 20th anniversary events, the first of which took place this autumn when she joined a panel talk with artists Alan Dunn and Jack Ky Tan. In conversation they discussed the potential for models of knowledge exchange based on long-term collaboration and the importance of art that works with communities.

Dr Murray reflected on her work with FACT for nearly a decade and how spending time in each other’s worlds, criminology combined with the Arts, has created a unique experimental opportunity to radically reform justice facing research and policy agendas, with and for justice-affected veterans in the UK.

She also talked about how this period working with artists, and the team at FACT, has changed her research methodologies for the better, allowing a more creative and collaborative approach to presenting veterans experiences of the criminal justice system that can influence those delivering and making decisions across the system to think creatively about emerging policy agendas.

Dr Murray said: “I can’t go back to who I was yesterday, I can never unsee what I’ve seen, I can never think about my own practice as a criminologist again without questioning, am I really engaging participants? Am I really asking the right questions? Have I spent enough time? How am I sharing their story? And that’s what I’ve learnt from all of the artists that I’ve worked with here. Before I come to the end of what I hope to do, I want to create the type of criminology that harnesses the methodologies that you [artists] all use and to get us to think very differently about how we engage communities and how we share people’s stories. My own practice was certainly lacking until I came to FACT. I am now working on a proposal which would bring the creative methods that I have learned, right to the heart of UK policy making for the justice sector.”

Lucía Arias, Learning Manager at FACT, said: “Just as Emma says, as a team, we cannot go back to who we were yesterday. Our collaboration with Emma has changed the way we think about the role of research within an art gallery and the potential of art as a social agent. Much of the learning from this partnership informs our everyday practice, from our duty of care towards participants and artists, to carve space for reflection, asking ourselves what and why we are doing these projects.”

Dr Murray’s work with FACT was shared as one of the case studies for the 2021 Research Excellence Framework submission in which LJMU was deemed to have world-leading research in all areas of assessment and was ranked in the top 50 higher education institutions in the UK for research power.

Culmination of research delving into the criminal justice system

FACT’s ongoing work within the justice system, delivered in partnership with LJMU and close working with Dr Murray, will be showcased across a series of exhibitions in spring 2024.

Multimedia artist Melanie Crean has created an artwork with incarcerated veterans and staff at HMP Altcourse, to speak about their identity, needs and their experience of the justice system.

Exhibited at the same time, artist Katrina Palmer turns her attention towards the staff within the justice system, presenting a book of collected texts written anonymously by prison officers, educators and managers.

Both artworks will be displayed alongside a multi-video installation by artist Pilvi Takala. Pilvi’s Close Watch (2022) is based on her time working undercover as a security guard in a large shopping centre.

Sound artist Ain Bailey has worked with the Novus Education Team at HMP Buckley Hall to produce a work with the men and their families, and Amartey Goulding is also collaborating with incarcerated men at HMP Altcourse and their families.

The exhibitions are free to attend, and overall look to examine how we might transform institutional behaviours of the people who hold power and those subjected to it.

FACT at 20

FACT has always pioneered collaborative artist projects that have brought the experiences and expertise of different individuals and groups to the centre of the artistic process.

An anniversary year of exciting exhibitions and immersive art experiences began in April 2023 and run until June 2024.


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