Art at the Maze and Long Kesh Prison
Art and craft classes were held at the Maze and Long Kesh Prison as part of educational programmes, some by the prison authorities and some by the prisoners themselves. Prisoners could gain qualifications in both GCSE and A Level Art, and formal courses in art history were also offered. In addition, arts and crafts were pursued at an informal level within the prison. Murals were painted on the walls of both the H-Blocks and the Nissen huts within the cages/ compounds. Handicrafts made in the prison could be sold on the ‘outside’, with proceeds going to prisoners’ families.
In 1996 the Prison Arts Foundation (PAF) was founded, with the aim of providing access to the arts for all prisoners, ex-prisoners, young offenders and ex-young offenders in Northern Ireland. During the latter years of the Maze and Long Kesh Prison, the PAF promoted access to the arts by organising professional artist residencies and workshops in the H-Blocks.
Security considerations placed constraints on materials permitted and the type of art and crafts that could be produced in the prison. For example, glass and ‘inflammable’ paint were not allowed. However, the availability of tools and materials varied across the site and over the years. And prisoners also improvised with materials to hand.
Learn More Here
Ó Muilleoir, M. (2009) The Art of War: A Troubles Archive Essay
Moloney, M. (2009) prison art: A Troubles Archive Essay
Hutchinson, B. (2009) Transcendental Art: A Troubles Archive Essay
Prison Arts Foundation
Prison Arts Foundation
Coiste, 2020. Irish Republican Prison Craft
Geordie Morrow art exhibition at Ulster Museum recalls Maze prison in 1970s
There was a real kind of sense of frustration
Prisons Arts Foundation then invited lots of artists to come in. Really, really absolutely brilliant, brilliant thing to do.
Watch the clips of Fionna and Amanda. What were some of the challenges – and benefits – of teaching art at the Maze and Long Kesh Prison?
This magnificent thing here is a very expressive drawing
Cell one on the wing was the handicrafts cell
We were making harps and crosses
Watch all of the clips. What were some of the benefits to prisoners of art and crafts at the Maze and Long Kesh Prison?
Links to NI Curriculum
CCEA GCSE History: Unit 1; Section B; Option 2: Changing Relations: Northern Ireland and its Neighbours, 1965–1998
Questions based on GCSE CEA history exam papers
How useful are the clips of Fionna, Amanda and Brian for an historian studying the value of art education in the Maze and Long Kesh Prison? Explain your answer, using the clips and your contextual knowledge.
How useful are the clips of Michael and William for an historian studying the value of art and crafts in the Maze and Long Kesh Prison? Explain your answer, using the clips and your contextual knowledge.