London’s Women And Justice Café: a Magazine turned London Arts Centre, The View is a platform by and for women with lived experiences of social reform and the criminal justice system.
Newly opened in Kings Cross London, The View Café provides a holistic and communal space hosting “workshops that aim to help women paint new futures and rebuild hope through creativity.” From the creators of the View Magazine, it is equally a social enterprise working to raise awareness about the issues faced by female survivors of trauma and abuse. They work with women that have experienced domestic, police, or state violence, as well as care leavers and asylum seekers, and campaign to ensure that the justice system is held accountable for its failings.
The View’s quarterly magazine also publishes contributions from women to assist their mental wellbeing, by fostering creative practice, challenging stigmatising views, and amplifying marginalised voices. They have received support from leading judges, human rights champions, and private sector donations. The View describe their mission as “Radical reform of the justice system considering the sex-based needs and responsibilities of women; alternatives to custody, investment in social justice and public health initiatives, and tackling the root causes of violence against women and girls, along with crime prevention.”
The centre consists of a café, small shop, gallery and seating space. All the art prints and cards on display are created by women in their workshops, alongside the leading contemporary artists that support them. The eye-catching and engaging pieces demonstrate the value of creativity for healing and socialisation, as well as being vehicles of expression, communication and connection. The artworks speak to truth, honesty, and power, while simultaneously expressing vulnerability and exploring themes such as identity, politics, psychology and the roles played by women within society. The funds raised through their exhibitions and auctions support their ongoing work which includes:
- Trials into the evaluation of alternatives to custody as an effective way of reducing re-offending.
- A digital app, to help people navigate the criminal justice system, from writing letters of complaint to digital copies of all policy and prison instruction documents, with a digital edition of the latest and back editions of the print magazine, their reports and publications.
- The consistent championing of the involvement of people with lived experience in research, design and delivery of alternatives to custody and policy that takes into account women’s diverse needs and gender differences – helping to potentially deliver better community sentences, as well as ensuring that they are relevant and deliverable.
- Funding pioneering research into the experiences of women from minority or BAME communities, and developing bespoke training for the judiciary, police and court staff to promote understanding of inter-generational trauma, race and cultural bias.
- Supporting and amplifying good practise in women’s centres and providing alternative solutions to incarceration.
The centre welcome anyone that would like to stop by – including those that identify as a woman, man or non-binary person for their fully inclusive art classes. They believe that women in prison and serving their sentences in the community need to be heard, and that the issues that affect them need to be highlighted. Sustainable change can come from within, by those who have been affected themselves.
Founded by 3 incarcerated women, the quarterly magazine embodies their challenges within a system that often institutionally re-traumatises its inmates rather than rehabilitates; it pays for contributions from women in the criminal justice system, and showcases their art, prose, and poetry to encourage them to own their narratives and tell their stories in their own words.
The View recognises that many women in prison have complex and untreated mental health needs. Almost £500m a year is spent on prison healthcare contracts and about £150m on mental healthcare, so why are women not receiving the treatment they deserve? Self-inflicted deaths are 8.6 times more likely in prison than in the general population and 70% of people who died from self-inflicted means while in prison had already been identified as high-risk.
Profits generated by the magazine and arts space are reinvested into much-needed advocacy, employment and skills programmes for women and children who have suffered violence and trauma, as well as research into the core issues behind the inequalities, which could lead to real, meaningful and systemic change.
“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it does not happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you cannot be ugly, except to people who do not understand.” – Margery Williams Bianco, from The Velveteen Rabbit (1922)