Past Time – Exploring the history of food – University of Warwick and University of Wolverhampton

In 2018, I was offered the opportunity to completed research with Past Time by the University of Wolverhampton and the University of Wolverhampton, involving Ride-out facilitation of prison-based food history and theatre residency, working with prisoners who have a history of self-harm. As part of the Welcome Trust funded ‘‘Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland, 1850-2000’ project, Past Time explores the changing nature of prison food and its effects on physical and mental health through a series of workshops using theatre techniques.

Significant numbers of people in prison suffer from poor mental health (National Audit Office, 2017). Nevertheless, spending on prison healthcare is low in relative terms, with only an estimated £400 million covering both mental and physical health costs across prisons in the financial years 2016 -2017 (National Audit Office, 2017). Tackling mental health in prisons is not only beneficial for individual prisoners while incarcerated but improves their coping skills upon release back into the community and ultimately has an impact on reducing re-offending.

The research assistant role involved evaluating the project and exploring whether there has been any improvement in the participants coping skills following the completion of the project. A mixed-methods approach was adopted using questionnaires, interviews, and a COPE inventory analysed using SPSS to review the participants coping skills. I created the questionnaires to ensure a holistic approach was used to understand how the prisoners felt and explored their coping skills. Each participant completed a questionnaire and COPE inventory before taking part in Past Time. After completing the project, each participant completed the COPE inventory a second time and took part in a short one-to-one interview. After the theatrical production, a thematic analysis was used for the qualitative data to establish common themes and see whether the project has improved their coping strategies.


In July 2018, the research project was on display at the Tate Modern in
London – Warwick Tate Exchange ‘The Production of Trust, Justice, and History.’

Please review the link for the summary of the project and of the evaluation.

Click to access Past-Time-for-Warwick-Final-18-Dec-2018.pdf

Reference List:

National Audit Office (2017) Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, NHS England and Public Health England Mental Health in Prisons [online]. [Accessed 19 May 2018].  Available at: <>.

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