Italy: The National Coordination for Theater in Prison celebrates its 10th anniversary

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The National Coordination for Theater in Prison celebrates its 10th anniversary

Open access to the Zoom live broadcast recording of the 21st International Conference "Dialogues: Pedagogy, Theater and Prison" is provided for this occasion


The National Coordination for Theater in Prison was founded in Urbania on the 15th and 16th of January 2011 during the eleventh conference promoted by the European Review "Catarsi-Teatri delle Diversità". It now involves more than fifty experiences from 15 Italian regions and its work has been recognised as best practice by the International Theatre Institute of UNESCO. The latter has collaborated to the creation of the International Network for Theater in Prison during the 2019 edition of the same conference.

The National Coordination for Theater in Prison (www.teatrocarcere.it) is chaired by Vito Minoia, expert of Inclusive Educational Theater at the University of Urbino Carlo Bo and director of the Education and Training Review "Cercare-carcere anagramma di". Since 2017 the latter has supported the review "Catarsi-Teatri delle Diversità" founded in 1996 with Emilio Pozzi and the significant participation of Claudio Meldolesi.

The conference has been organized in Cartoceto for 10 years and it is still taking place in the Province of Pesaro-Urbino. The conference of 2011 in Urbania served as an occasion to commemorate Emilio Pozzi - director of the review until he died in 2010 - and Claudio Meldolesi who died in 2009 and inspired the initiative "Imagination against Emargination". Giuliano Scabia, important reference person for the conference and the review, dedicated "Scala e sentiero cercando il Paradiso" (Stairway and Path Looking for Paradise) to them; the work is a story-event on his years of apprenticeship with his students at the University of Bologna.

The Italian Prison Theatre Network has achieved several goals. We will mention some of them, confident that they will pave the way for the pursuit of new artistic and educational goals within an innovative political and democratic context involving multiple protagonists: from the many prisoners (including minors subjected to judicial authority measures) to theater and prison operators, teachers, students and trainees.

The "Destini Incrociati'' National Festival/Event was first organised in Florence in 2012. It has been organised for 7 years and it is the most popular annual touring event. The first three-year Memorandum of Understanding for the promotion of theater in prison dates back to 2013. It involves the Ministry of Justice (first with the High Institute of Penitentiary Studies, then with the Department of Penitentiary Administration and the Department of Juvenile and Community Justice) and, starting in 2015, the University of Roma Tre as well (the Memorandum has been renewed in 2016 and 2019). The National Day for Theater in Prison was established in 2014 on the same day as the World Theatre Day (March 27) promoted by ITI-Unesco. The sixth edition was the last one before the pandemic and it took place in 2019; 102 initiatives contributed to the success of the event, they involved 64 prison institutions as well as other settings with the participation of public institutions and private companies from 17 Italian regions. Since 2015 with the support of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities the Destini Incrociati Project has focused on several local initiatives too, involving a network of 22 partners from 10 regions. The International Gramsci Prize was created in 2017 and it anticipated the creation of the International Network for Theater in Prison in 2019 (www.theatreinprison.org). World Theatre Day (26 March 2019) was celebrated in the prison of Pesaro rather than at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris thanks to Aenigma University Theatre and to ITI Italy. The Special International Prize for social engagement "Books for Peace"was awarded in 2020 and is promoted by a network of associations partnered with UNESCO.

As it has been impossible to hold the XXI International Conference as usual, "Catarsi-Teatri delle Diversità" organised it on Zoom on 29-30-31 October 2020 with the title "Dialogues: Pedagogy, Theater and Prison". For our ten-year anniversary we wish to provide free access to the recording of the conference and other related materials on the website www.teatridellediversita.it. On Saturday 16 January 2021 the Spanish Ministry of the Interior awarded its First Prize to "To the limit", a play that was performed last year by the inmates of the prison of Las Palmas (Gran Canaria) at the conclusion of a project dedicated to positive parenting in prison. The project was organised by the Hestia Association and the University of Las Palmas with the collaboration of the Voci Erranti Association. The latter is among the founders of the National Coordination for Theater in Prison, it is involved in projects in the prison of Saluzzo (Cuneo) and is directed by Grazia Isoardi.

Vito Minoia and Grazia Isoardi are members of the Planning Group of CNTiC (National Coordination for Theater in Prison) together with Ivana Conte (National Association Agita), Gianfranco Pedullà (Teatro Popolare d'Arte), Valeria Ottolenghi (National Association of Theater Critics), Michalis Traitsis (Balamòs Teatro), Valentina Venturini (Università Roma Tre).

The Planning Group of CNTiC wishes to thank all those who have collaborated with CNTiC during the last ten years pursuing so many significant results while working with a deep and shared sense of freedom, participation and exchange. All those who are interested in these issues are invited to follow the upcoming activities, starting from the 1-Day Event dedicated to the "Destini Incrociati" National Festival/Event (seventh edition) planned for next spring in Rome (date TBD - more information will be provided on the "Coordinamento nazionale teatro in carcere" Facebook page as well). The CNTiC also calls for member states - as the Council of Europe for Human Rights has repeatedly done - not to implement measures that could violate the fundamental rights of prisoners and detainees when contrasting the spread of Covid-19 that has hit several prison institutions (in this respect the initiatives to prioritize vaccination procedures in prison should also be mentioned).

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