My name is Dean Stalham and I am a writer and an artist- I sincerely believe that I was born to be just that- I wasnt born an offender- I became one- I’ve had a difficult life- I’m trying my very best to make amends for the mistakes that I have made.
Running Art Saves Lives has in essence saved my life- I meet wonderful talented people nearly every day of my life- if you let art into your life- as I have- your life WILL BE A BETTER PLACE- ART SAVES LIVES IT MIGHT SAVE YOURS.
Please feel free to contact me email@example.com- like a lot of other people who I shant name- I answer all emails and enquiries.
HUCK MAGAZINE AUGUST 2011
Of course, the true test of rehabilitation is when a person leaves the prison gates. Dean Stalham, a playwright, artist and founder of Art Saves Lives in London, offers support through creativity for marginalised people in society. “Art Saves Lives has an open-door policy,” he says, sitting in a lecture room at Goldsmiths University, where he is helping young offenders make a documentary. “Anyone can come to us and get their scripts read and acted out with proper feedback. I work with theatres to use their spaces for free, so my artists get to perform on a West End stage and that’s what really lifts their confidence and self-esteem to move on and do other things. [...] The art world is split into the inner circle and the outer circle, and there are more people on the outside looking in than there are on the inside looking out. That barrier has got to come down, because so many people have got talent. You can find people with talent everywhere, irrelevant of where they’ve been taught or trained. There are these television programmes that go on estates to find ‘the next big thing’ but it’s not helpful because they drop them as soon as the credits roll.”Dean spent fifteen years in and out of prison for a variety of crimes that culminated in a six-million pound art heist – including the theft of four Warhols, thirteen Chagalls and thirty-three Dalis. “It was a cycle I was involved in from the age of sixteen,” he says, “and writing, for me, has broken that cycle. It’s really positive.”
Dean won an art competition through a rehabilitative project at HMP Wandsworth and left prison in 2004 determined not to reoffend. He formed Art Saves Lives in 2009 to help others do the same and although it gets by on a shoestring, Dean’s endless enthusiasm and passion is pushing it forward onto exciting new pastures. “Our new theatre opens in July,” he says, “and I want it to feature completely new writing. I’ve had a few people who’ve been turned down by big theatres come to me, but this is not the rejects’ theatre. I want new, fresh, raw writing that people are taking chances with. I just want to see drive.”And despite waning interest from the fickle world of critics, Dean has continued to do well with his own work – his new play Secrets from the Long Grass runs at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre until July – beyond the ‘ex-offender’ mantle. “I learned very early on that I was going to be invited to the door, but I was not going to be invited in,” he says. “Criminals are talented people. They’re creative, because they have to be. Sometimes when you’re in an art class and you’re next to someone who can’t read or write – which is why, perhaps, they’ve always been involved in crime – and you see them pick up a pen for the first time, fucking hell, it’s amazing. Because you don’t know what’s going to happen. And then they say, ‘I used to like drawing when I was seven,’ and you can see them reconnect with something inside that has been lost for a long time. That’s fucking powerful.”