In November 2019, Dr Gary Anderson and Dr Niamh Malone ran a 6 week pilot project with 9 adult learners in HMP Risley, Warrington. The project introduced adult learners to a selection of Western philosophers and key critical theories. The design of the course was a result of the collaboration between learners and tutors, and their shared priorities for selecting key philosophers. The relationship between the structures of society and how this is reflected in philosophical thinking and performance formats framed each of the week's sessions. Liverpool Hope University students on the BA Drama and Theatre degree pathway, participated in the classes held within the prison. This was an excellent opportunity to bring two learning communities together, with both the adult learners and university students sharing the educational space.

The project was so well received by the adult leaners in Risley, that on their request, we were asked to return and deliver another 6 week programme. We were half way through when, unfortunately, our visits had to be suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions, but we are due to return once the lockdown is lifted.

We are also currently working on providing a 10 credit university accredited academic course, which will help adult leaners consider the option of further and higher education on their release.



Responses from Participants

JAN-FEB 2020

Liverpool Hope University and Novus

Responses to Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be’

So bro; how's it gonna go?

What ya sayin', fold or flow?

Persist and resist, raise a clenched fist

Or cease and desist, cease to exist

Stick or twist...a noose round your neck

The first pirouette, of an in-cell silhouette

Like the lad on E1, his sentence now done

Leaving feet first, with a toe tag, in his none name-brand body bag

Perchance to sleep, no longer afraid

No longer fearing the post mortem blade

RIP means Risley In Perpetuity

No rest, from the shared hell of a shared cell

The shared smell of another man shitting, forever and ever, Amen, bro'

To be controlled or take control.

Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains. This bondage comes in the form of the enforced ignorance of religious thinking, plus the corruption of self-serving politicians and leaders who are selfish. We are faced with extreme inequality in the imbalance of power and wealth. Can man be set free of being and enslaved peasant by those who are in power? To be free is for one to behave in accordance with one's own inner nature. We cannot be free if we are constantly limited by the actions and beliefs of others. Can man be set free by sleeping? Thus entering into the dream state which possibly could be controlled through lucid dreaming. Or can man be free in your conscious state by opposing and not abiding to be controlled by the state of government affairs, rules and regulations? We are brainwashed to live and be a certain way which may not be true to your own unique nature and beliefs Certain beliefs and ethics are instilled unto us from a very young age through school, whereby someone else tells you what is right or wrong and what is good and bad. Why do we have to do as you are told with no valid reason which is true to oneself? My question is: Why can't I find my own purpose in life rather than being told how to be. We are lead to believe that the answers (of happiness or life) are external , but MY truth is that all answers are within. I personally decided to drop out of the conformity of society and find my own reason to life. My idea of being good is to be good to people and to our nature, the world we live in. My philosophy for life is to : judge not - love more - share knowledge and - learn to let go. That's the moral of my story. live and let live. Know thyself.

Labour's IPP, Justice of Injustice!

Abolished in 2012, yet 223 people are still serving this sentence, and 9 out of every 10 people are way over their tariff! the prison system get 40% more money for every IPP prisoner, so it's big business! We get one chance of freedom every 12 to 18 months, it's continued oppression "yet no progression"! It's not just IPP prisoners that suffer, their families suffer as well, we get no support apart from the 2 weeks before parole, its proved its not fit your purpose, but it's all about money.

Most IPP prisoners feel like they're not relevant, hope once a year! "Is it to be" "or not to be" or is this how its meant to be! so turn to drugs, so self harm! Most feel bitter! People are making millions on the back of our misery! Where is the hope! 2 hours every 12 to 18 months for your life to be dissected! But it's all about money! Where is the guidance or the support, we need legislation put in place to sort out this injustice they call the IPP!

Responses to The Philosophy Book (2011,London: DK)

Pythagoras – mysticism and reason

1. The reason I chose Pythagoras is because he is deeply religious and superstitious which I can relate to very much because I also class myself as being spiritual – religious to some extent and – very superstitious.

2. I can relate to a lot of his ideas and beliefs which I have learnt for myself through my own life experience – questioning everything and seeking my own truth.

3. I have had my own revelations through the mystical and science of this world.

4. Pythagoras has two sides of beliefs the mystical and the scientific which he did not see as contradictory. Therefore this can raise a lot of ideas about questions about ourselves and the world we live in.

5. Pythagoras inspired me that the truth can be self evident, by observing and noticing patterns of our nature. He also demonstrated the harmonic relationship of the stars planets and elements through the exact science of numbers and how they govern harmoniously.

6. Pythagorians had a profound effect on philosophical thought.

7. I want to be enlightened by means of demonstration rather than imagination by descriptive or figurative language! Seeing is believing! (Is my motto).

8. People of today have mastered the art of reality therefore rationality has been considered to be the highest part of human nature.

9. We have been taught to shut down the idea of experiencing and perceiving the world in different states of consciousness yet we and science know that there are many more states of consciousness to experience…and learn from. But instead these mysterious experiences and states of consciousness have been brandished, abandoned and rejected as fiction in the [symbol].

10. Aldous Huxley who was a writer, argued that ‘all humans have a deep seated urge for self transcendence’. He then went on to write how people feel extremely inadequate of their personal existence which brings them the misery of being suppressed and insulted human beings.

11. Deep down we want more. There is a sense of feeling which is deeply infused in our beings that there is more to life than material things. There is something bigger and wider but we just can’t grasp it.

12. Abraham Maslow the psychologist though that ‘humans have a fundamental need for peak experiences which go way beyond the self and feel to be connected to something bigger than them’.

13. In mystical literature they say that moments of ego – loss are known as ecstatic feelings or ‘ecstasy’. The word ‘ecstasy’ derive from the Greek word ‘ekstasis’ which means ‘standing outside the self’, but today we are thought to actually think of ecstatic experiences as being very happy.

14. We all crave some kind of ‘flow’, or ways of transcendence through ego-loss, where by we get lost in the moment and lose track of time which makes us feel deeply connected to something greater.

15. But it is difficult to let go of our ego when civilisation imposes great demands of us.

16. We are also our own greatest enemies because we cut ourselves off from the cosmos by our own walls of fear and shame, which is brought on by our own worries and ambitions.

17. There are many ways we can shift this ego-consciousness and be fully absorbed in the ‘the now’.

18. Some people lose themselves in a healthy way through, music, meditation, exercise, sports and many more other ways which leads to self improvement or enlightenment. [footnote: Pythagorians believe that music connects our souls to the divine universe]

19. Whilst some other people unself or lose themselves in a toxic way, which is detrimental to their bodies and society, through drinking alcohol, taking synthetic drugs or self harming.

20. We all have our own ways of letting go every now and then, if we didn’t learn to let go then we would get exhausted and depressed.

21. The Philosopher Iris Murdoch wrote this: ‘We are anxiety ridden animals. Our minds are continually active, fabricating an anxious usually self preoccupied, often falsifying veil which partially conceals our world’.

22. It is important to take control of our bodies and manage our emotions so that we don’t fall victim to be controlled through political language, which George Orwell said: is designed to make lies sound truthful, murder respectable, and gives an appearance of absolute solidity to pure wind. So…..

23. It’s up to us as individuals to find our own balance in this orderly but chaotic world.

# knowledge is power – unknown

# The art of knowing is not knowing – unknown

# Happy is he who has overcome his ego – Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha)

# The more you search, the more you learn and the more you learn the more you search – Julio

Food for Thought

Further reading

+ Mysticism in depth (print out)

+The Art of Losing Control – A Philosopher’s Search for Ecstatic Experience by Jules Evans. (Book)

+ History of shamanism and mystical tribal rituals (print out). Ancient philosophy is said to have grown out of shamanism.

+Some things that bring pleasure entails annoyances that are greater than the pleasure itself – unknown philosopher.

+Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, unless it agrees with your own reason - Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha).

Sartre p268

Human essence – what is to be human.

Sartre – Freedom is the most important. Example – paper-Knife-Essence not existence.

Human – No particular purpose;

Existence precedes essence

Doing not being

In mind of God – human nature is the important

Sartre – No universal fixed human nature – we must define ourselves.

We must assign a purpose to our life.

Shape ourselves into what we want to choose to be:

Responsible freedom – impact of our choices on ourself and others too

‘Condemned to be free’.

1968 Paris Riots.

Text copy of working structure of the programme:

Philosophy* and Performance in Prisons

Jan-Feb 2020

Tutors: Dr Niamh Malone, Dr Gary Anderson

This is a shared learning environment where students from Liverpool Hope University and adult learners from Risley prison, will come to together to consider some of the key debates in Philosophy. We will also explore how performance offers people a platform to communicate what matters to them. We will look at how the arts support campaigns for social justice. It is a five week course. Each session will last 90mins.

*Philosophy refers to how we think about the world and what it means to co-exist alongside each other and with nature.

Leaners will be given short abstracts from key books to read weekly.


Tuesday 14 th Jan @ 1.30 – 3pm Ancient Greece – The Birth of Western Philosophy and TheatreHere we will introduce leaners to the western timeline of philosophy and how it started with the Greeks. We will discuss the public role of theatre and the overlap of politics/philosophy and theatre. We will negotiate with the leaners what philosophical periods they would like to explore over the following weeks. Below is an example of how this could be structured.

Tuesday 21 st Jan @ 1.30 – 3pm Spinoza "When the Mind imagines its own lack of power, it is saddened by it" The Dutch 17 the century philosopher Spinoza challenged established belief systems and understandings of the human in relation to God. We will use his seminal text one Ethics to inform our discussion. We will also look at how performance can be understood through a Spinoza lens.

Tuesday 28 th Jan @ 1.30 – 3pm Nietzsche “God is dead” This will examine Nietzsche’s influence on 20 th century thought. We will consider how his work was open to misinterpretation and influenced the rise of Nazism in Europe. We will look at some key styles of theatre/performance from the 20 th century and track their continuing influence.

Tuesday 4 th Feb @ 1.30 – 3pm Marx – The Workers Theatre MovementThis is where we will look at the influence of Marx’s theories concerning the economy and social structures within society. We will also discuss the emergence of The Workers Theatre Movement in response to the injustices and exploitations of the working classes.

Tuesday 11 th Feb @ 1.30 – 3pm Philosophers and the City We will look at how different philosophers of the 20 th and 21 st centuries philosophised about the city and public/private space. We will consider the views of people such as Foucault, Lefebvre, Massey, Harvey and more. We will then ask questions about the role of performance, looking at particular examples of street theatre.

Examples of tasks for adult learners during covid-19 lockdown

Exercise 1:

Imagine Machiavelli is alive and well and gets his job back in government. Boris Johnson puts him in charge of the prisons in the UK. After some research he’s heard you have been studying him so he wants to employ you as his advisors. He writes to you all like this:

Dear Adult learners,

I have heard with interest that you have been studying my work The Prince. I would like to employ you as advisors. I need advice from people who understand my work and the prison system. I want to give you some paid employment telling me how things should and could be run in prisons.

Please find your favourite bit of The Prince and apply it to how you would like to see things change in prison. You can be as imaginative or as practical as you like.

If you convince me that you’ve applied my principles, I’ll give you the job. The starting salary is £250k per annum, with 35 days paid holiday and a flash company car.

Write to me in whatever way you like, a letter, a diary entry, a poem, a postcard, a secret memo, whatever suits you.

I need lots of advisors. Be sure to help me!

If you could make sure to have your responses completed by Monday, we will get a chance to respond by next Tuesday. Chris, Ericka, Cath, or Sarah will collect them for us.

Yours inside,

Nicolo Machiavelli

Exercises in Philosophy - 2

After Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) ‘The Fold’ and Jacques Ranciere (born 1940) ‘Everything is in Everything’.


Philosophers throughout the ages have looked at ways of trying to go from one thing to everything. Leibniz said everything is in everything else, but folded up and tucked away. You can find it if you unfold everything.

Ranciere, a French philosopher, says ‘everything is in everything’.

In short, just ask anything questions and you’ll end up discovering everything.

Let’s try it, even though it may seem a tad childish initially.

Look at the wall. Look at a cup. Look at your bed. Look at a piece of paper. Look at the toilet. Look at the tv set. Look at the window. Look at the floor. Look at your clothes.

Choose one. Ask questions about it. After some simple questions you end up getting to the big meanings. In other words: Everything is in Everything or everything is folded up in everything else.

For example, I’m looking at the wall.

What is it made of? (plasterboard and brick)

Where does the material come from? (B&Q or similar)

Who loaded it onto a lorry and who drove it? (Loaded by some fella who works for the plasterboard and brick company and picked up by a B&Q driver)

Where did they drive it? (From the company headquarters to Edge Lane, Liverpool B&Q megastore)

What did they use for fuel? (Diesel)

Where did the fuel come from? (BP garage on London Road)

Where was the fuel originally (Iraqi oil field)

Who owns the oil field? (BP and Shell)

Who first owned Shell? (Marcus Samuel, 1st Viscount Bearsted)

What sort of person was he? (A privileged aristocrat who believed in his right to be extremely wealthy).

What does that tell you about society? (…that Karl Marx was right. It’s the rich (few) against the poor (many)!)

Your task

Identify something and write up your questions and answers for the next session. It can be as long or as short as you like. Try to bring in any other philosopher. Experiment with it and have fun with it.

Exercises in Philosophy – 3

‘Some people think football is matter of life or death, it isn’t. It’s much more important’ Bill Shankly (1913 – 1981)

Create the best philosophy football team (including manager and subs bench). Who would be captain? In goal? In defence? In midfield? And up front? Who is on the bench? Which position would your chosen philosopher play and why? Use the big yellow The Philosophy Book for help.

Exercises in Philosophy – 4

Choose your captain and write them a letter:

Identify what YOU need in YOUR life and using their philosophy convince them they should send you what you need.

Your letter should be addressed to the philosopher and signed by you.

Exercise 5

Exercises in Philosophy – 5

Dear Learners

We hope you are keeping well and safe.

We miss you all and would love to be there with you learning and teaching about philosophy and performance. Until next week, here’s another task for you.

Flip through your big yellow book ‘The Philosophy Book’. Spend at least 3-4 hours searching for two philosophers.

Call these philosophers your heavyweights.

Put them in the boxing ring together.

What would they fight about? What would they say? What would they use to defeat their opponent? What would a ‘jab’ be? What would a ‘parry’ be? What would an ‘upper cut’ be? What would a ‘knock-out blow’ be?

Choose any two philosophers from the book, from any period and let’s see them FIGHT it out!

Write up your commentary of the boxing match. Make it as serious (or as funny) as you like!

Happy boxing!

Testimonies from participants

Reflections from the philosophy course.

This was certainly an interesting and insightful course, and I am grateful for the efforts that Novus and Liverpool Hope University put into organising these sessions.

I would certainly hope that other prisoners are in a position to enjoy and benefit from this experience.

Below are 10 of the many positive aspects from attending this course.

1. It gets people into the habit of making presentations which is obviously useful employability skill.

2. It gets people used to meeting targets, e.g. writing a project for the following week’s session.

3. Encourages critical thinking skills.

4. Gets people listening.

5. Gets people reading.

6. Develops a learning mind set.

7. Encourages interaction.

8. Invites people to step out of their comfort zone / echo chamber.

9. Friendly, mutually respectful atmosphere between the students and prisoners, along with ample opportunity to share insights, perspectives and humour.

10. The course hand-outs effectively provide an inexhaustible reading list for people like myself who would like to explore the subject further.

Must be described…AMAZING experience!

First time I met Dr. Niamh Malone and Dr. Gary Anderson, I thought that it is some sort of joke, a philosophy and drama course in prison. What can we say about drama in prison when it is already a drama being there?

Slowly I started to discover the philosophy and drama: An excellent opportunity for people locked in a pad to discover new ideas, way of thinking, possibility to use their imagination, and in general utilise your head while you are banged-up. You don’t need to be outside, you can think about this privilege in many different ways while being inside.

And if you don’t have ideas of your own, you can try to read what Spinoza, Hobbes, Pythagoras or Marx said and now you have it: fantastic possibilities that you never thought of when you were sitting in a pub.

More was shaped with the participation of the students from the University of Liverpool that did the effort and came all the way to Risley to share with us the prisoners what a younger generation feel.

I said it during the course, and I say it again: this course is a required liberty in prison, maybe more than for anywhere else. I truly hope that this Philosophy and Drama course will continue to run at HMP Risley for more inmates to have the chance to enjoy a stunning break in prisons monotonic life. I can assume that for some guys this course is their only chance to ever listen and take part in such discussion, to understand that there are more options to live by rather to offend.

Thank you, Gary and Niamh very much for organising this excitement and I honestly hope that this course continues.

The philosophy class was really enjoyable the class allowed us to express ourselves intellectually. Having groups of students and teachers come in was really good in building up confidence and breaking down boundaries. The class gave us all a platform to express our views, as that opportunity is not really offered in prison.

What did BOB MARLEY and TUPAC have to do with PHILOSOPHY?

Bob Marley said this: Money is numbers and numbers never end, if it takes money to be happy, your search for happiness will never end.

Tupac said: For every dark night there is a bright day.

Philosophy is designed to train our minds to go beyond our normal way of thinking and to think more deeply about anything that is of interest to you as an individual. From the ancient world to our modern day, great philosophers have shared their lessons in happiness, resilience, love and life. Their ideas are still used today by gangsters, soldiers, psychologists, in the streets, on the battlefield an in the workplace, plus the ordinary working person can benefit a lot from philosophy.

Bob Marley and Tupac Shakur were great philosophers, but they didn’t class themselves as philosophers yet they had their own great ideas for how they lived their life. Bob Marley and Tupac Shakur’s poetic world view has had a great impact on a lot of people around the world.

What is philosophy?

Philosophy is the critical examination of fundamental beliefs and an analysis of basic concepts of ourselves (thought) and the universe. Philosophy originated from the Greek, by way of Latin ‘Philosophia’ is where the word ‘philosophy’ derived from, which means “Love for Wisdom”. Philosophy is said to have grown out of ‘Shamanism’ (but we will look at into the history of Shamanism at a later stage). The world’s greatest thinkers and analysts were known as philosophers. Philosophy is involved with finding out the meaning of life and to improve ourselves as human beings. Philosophy brings us inner wealth, not external wealth and can help us a lot in so many ways.

Every great quote has a meaning behind it in accordance with its originator. But as individuals, we don’t always perceive things in the same way. One quote can mean different things for different people and can help us in different ways depending on our lifestyle and / or situation.

We are all philosophers in our own way, whether you know it or not, but you are. For example, my philosophy to life is to love more, share knowledge and learn to let go. I have my own reasons why I came up with this philosophy, which I will explain in detail why and how I came to this way of thinking. Experience is our greatest teacher and one must pay attention and question everything to learn more about ourselves and the world we live in.

I have had revelations through my life experiences, and risks that I have taken, which have always taught me something about my surroundings. This has led me to come up with my own philosophy for life and way of living. In my opinion, character is developed in the proximity of danger which gives rise to epiphanies and realisations.

We will look into at least 12 of the greatest philosophers from the ancient world and see how their ideas and lessons have impacted and inspired people all around the world. But first I will explain why I have come up with my own philosophy to life and what they mean.

Love more: the reason why I choose to love more is because you never know what’s around the corner. Anything can happen to anyone at any time so I tend to have no bad vibes with anyone especially loved ones. I’ve had to learn this the hard way – I had a brief argument with a loved one, they stormed off and never came back due to a tragic accident and died. I still had a lot to say to my loved one plus I was also filled with so much regret about how our last encounter was. It’s a very heavy pain to carry but with every bad thing that happens, something positive can arise from it so that’s why I chose to love people more and take nothing for granted. Like Tupac said ‘for every dark night, there is a brighter day’.

Learn to let go: I learn to let go because I know that holding onto things or the past can eat away at you and get you depressed. I have also learnt to accept the cycle of life where by people are born to die. It’s a natural part of ageing and of our existence, although it’s painful to lose a loved one, understanding the process and cycle of life can ease the burden of our lost loved ones. So we have to learn to let go and live on.

Share knowledge: our parents and elders have passed their knowledge down to us. We have learnt how to live and how to act, therefore, someday when you have your own children, you will then pass your knowledge down to them so that they can live better and have a successful life. Sharing knowledge is a fundamental part of living so that the future generation can evolve to be better than our ancestors. We are always trying to be better people and knowledge gives us the power.