FATAG originated in the early 1990s. At that time a number of arts therapists had
become concerned at the problems faced by their colleagues working in prisons,
and in particular, incidents of their stress-related illnesses. At the same time, several
initiatives to promote the use of the arts within prisons led to the establishment of
the Arts in Prisons Working Party set up under the auspices of the Home Office.
From 1993, an arts therapies subgroup of this working party met regularly with
representatives from our professional associations.
Its aims were to promote the safe and effective use of the arts therapies in prisons;
to develop a dialogue with the prison education and healthcare services; to provide
guidelines and information on the arts therapies; and to seek recognition for our
professional status and qualifications.
The driving force behind this was an art therapist called Colin Teasdale who was
secretary to this group and to its successor, the Art Therapies Advisory Group to the
Standing Committee on the Arts in Prisons.
The work of this group culminated in 3 main achievements, all of which were aimed
at protecting and providing for prisoners and the arts therapists employed to work
with them. Firstly, there was the provision of seminar days or conferences; secondly,
the production of the Guidelines for Arts Therapists Working in Prisons (edited by
Colin Teasdale 1997); and thirdly, the endorsement of our recommendations about
employment conditions as set out in the Prison Service Instruction’ to Governors (No.
43/1998). Teasdale, C. 1999 'Developing Principles and Policies for Arts Therapists
Working in United Kingdom Prisons’. The Arts in Psychotherapy, Vol.26, No. 4
In1998 the Advisory Group ended its direct links with the Standing Committee and
changed to reflect the interests and contributions made by arts therapists who were
working in other forensic settings. In its new form, FATAG catered more directly
for people who work in secure hospitals, mental health and challenging behaviour
secure units in the NHS and in probation settings, as well as prisons.
The consistently high quality of the conference presentations and discussions has
been evidenced by a regular attendance of delegates and it is important that this
support continues and grows. For the moment, the future of FATAG is secure, but
it is hoped that forensic arts therapists will take up research in their specialist areas
to explore their practice with creative and effective approaches. FATAG’s aim is to
help clarify the role of arts therapists in forensic settings and thereby create a more
formal network in order to disseminate ideas and developments in practice to a wider