Art and craft classes were held at the Maze,Long Kesh Prison & prisons in the South as part of educational programmes, some by the prison authorities and some by the prisoners themselves. Prisoners could gain qualifications and formal courses in art history were also offered. In addition, arts and crafts were pursued at an informal level within the prison. Murals were painted on the walls of both the H-Blocks and the Nissen huts within the cages/ compounds. Handicrafts made in the prison could be sold on the ‘outside’, with proceeds going to prisoners’ families.
In 1996 the Prison Arts Foundation (PAF) was founded, with the aim of providing access to the arts for all prisoners, ex-prisoners, young offenders and ex-young offenders in Northern Ireland. During the latter years of the Maze and Long Kesh Prison, the PAF promoted access to the arts by organising professional artist residencies and workshops in the H-Blocks.
Security considerations placed constraints on materials permitted and the type of art and crafts that could be produced in the prison. For example, glass and ‘inflammable’ paint were not allowed. However, the availability of tools and materials varied across the site and over the years. And prisoners also improvised with materials to hand.