On the Threshold of Something New

Today’s blog post is brought to you by Fergus McNeill:

Today is a threshold day. The ink is still drying (metaphorically) on the Memorandum of Association for Vox Liminis. I suppose in some respects the labour pains for birthing this organisation have been slight and swift, but its gestation probably goes back many, many years into the histories and life experiences of the various people involved; and especially to Alison’s pioneering work with Hot Chocolate.

But the thresholds in question here are not just organisational. My excitement about Vox Liminis rests in what I see as its capacity to use creative arts processes (and the art produced) to support people towards and through the thresholds from exclusion to inclusion, from dislocation to integration, from alienation to meaning. The people being supported may be primarily prisoners and others subject to sanctions of one sort or another; but they are also academics, practitioners and policymakers trying to find new ways to address enduring and complex problems of crime and punishment.

Though my day-job (as a criminologist) is about bringing ‘science’ and ‘evidence’ to these challenges, I’ve come more and more to understand that nether sciences nor arts alone can offer an adequate response to them. Justice and punishment are about efficiency, effectiveness and the technicalities of how best to reduce reoffending and deliver other objectives, but more fundamentally they are about human hurt and suffering, and about finding ways of repairing and restoring the reciprocal relationships on which any human society depends. These are questions to which the arts often speak more powerfully and more profoundly than science.

If Vox Liminis can use creative means to help us all express and so understand these challenges more clearly – and to imagine better ways of responding to them, then it will succeed in edging us all – collectively – towards the threshold of a better future; one where justice means more and delivers more than ‘mere’ punishment.


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