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News article

Drama student committed to the transformative power of the arts for prisoners wins social justice prize

Published: 24 November 2022

  •   Awards
A woman in cap and gown smiles at the camera
York St John University’s Institue for Social Justice (ISJ), established in 2020, works across the University to support social justice research, projects and partnerships which endeavor to create a fairer society. 

Last year, the ISJ launched its first ever Student Prize to celebrate and acknowledge graduating students who have shown an outstanding commitment to social justice and taken extra steps to create positive change.  

This year the prize goes to Beth Lally, who graduated this November with a BA in Drama: Education and Community. Throughout her studies Beth contributed to social justice initiatives, including York St John’s Prison Partnership Project which brings arts engagement to female prisoners.  

Beth said: “For me, winning the prize is all about raising awareness; raising awareness for the need of access to creativity for marginalised women in our society, particularly those involved with the criminal justice system. Art and creativity can change lives, and I believe everyone should have access to those forms of expression and exploration. 

“The drive behind my work came from the sole fact that I believe everyone should have access to creative arts, because being creative can transform lives. My inspiration comes from the women I work with, because when women work with other women, beautiful things happen.” 

The chair of the prize selection committee and Lecturer in Psychology, Dr Maria Fernandes-Jesus, said: “Throughout her studies, Beth has been actively involved in working with the criminal justice system, homelessness, women, and young people. 

“Her engagement with social justice has expanded beyond the curriculum. Overall, Beth has shown an outstanding commitment to the advancement of social justice, demonstrating critical reflexivity and engagement.” 

Beth is continuing her studies at York St John University through an MA in Applied Theatre with ambitions to work as a practitioner in the criminal justice system.  

Beth said: “I have truly fallen in love with applied theatre practice and can't wait to see what the future holds!” A blog post written by Beth about her work with the Prison Partnership Project is available on the ISJ blog website.  

The ISJ continues to enhance social justice within the University and wider community through new initiatives like the Community Research Grants, currently supporting 6 unique points of research through £50,000 of investment. The ISJ currently supports 12 PhD and postgraduate researchers whose work challenges inequalities in a range of fields including arts, psychology, education, sport, geography and more.

Matthew Reason, Director of the Institute for Social Justice said: “We are incredibly proud to support and facilitate the social justice work of our students during their time at York St John. In doing so, we aim to equip and inspire our students to pursue a fairer society through their career choices in the future. The prize is a way of acknowledging those commitments our students make, and the impact they have as individuals and as a collective for change in the world around them.” 

Find out more about the Institute for Social Justice Student Prize, including the reopening of nominations again after Easter. 

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