Imagine If

Free as a Bird

6 days (1)

“Free as a Bird is a documentary which shows the value the arts has in helping people change their lives.”

Free as a Bird is a documentary that was created in collaboration with some of imagine if‘s Bird on the Wing Graduates. The Graduates had worked with imagine if in prison and since they were released. The documentary shows the value the arts have in helping people change their lives.

Throughout Autumn 2020 we ran writing workshops with people with convictions which formed the basis of Free as a Bird; a documentary we designed and produced which demonstrates the life-changing impact that involvement in the arts can have for people in prison and those with convictions in the community.

We used locations across Leeds to film in that were representative of the themes in the participants’ lives – hope, despair, loss, love, chaos, freedom. Free as a Bird features Bird on the Wing Graduates whom we have worked with from 2017 – 2020 and was made available for free to prisons directly and through the HMPPS digital hub and to the public online.

After participating in Free as a Bird, one graduate stated that the experience made him “feel like a star”. This person went on to be invited onto BBC Radio Sheffield and was interviewed on Christmas Day, 2020 about the work they were doing to help others since being released.

Creative Team

Director/Dramaturg – Chesca Joy
Producerimagine if
Assistant Producer – Elle Money
Videographer – Brett Chapman


Bird on the Wing

All of the people you have heard from in this documentary are graduates of imagine if’s theatre and employability intervention, Bird on the Wing, which is delivered in prisons. It uses evidence-led theatre techniques to address several risk factors for criminal behaviour, including interpersonal skills, communications skills, employability and personal narratives.


Phoenix is a post-release resettlement programme for prison leavers which uses the arts to develop key employment and life skills. Phoenix provides practical support and arts-based opportunities to assist in positive resettlement and maintain motivation to cease offending behaviour.

Every single person who participates in these programmes joins our big and eccentric imagine if family. There’s always room for one more…



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