Carlotta Allum, Stretch Charity founder and Director, as well as being a former prisoner, an ‘outsider’, with a Masters in Museums and Galleries – has a lifelong love of the arts and collecting. While delivering projects to the marginalised groups she has become increasingly interested in the art made by those outside of the normal art world. Carlotta has raised over a million pounds to fund creative projects via her charity with those marginalised by society, mainly the criminal justice community. Stretch Charity has worked with high profile partners such as The V&A, Central Saint Martins and world renown artists. Over this time Carlotta has built up her private collection of ‘outsider art’ – often interested in the interaction of her natural desire to collect and document and bits of intuitive art.
“I was thrilled to receive a little Arts Council Grant to do this work, I feel it is a direction I really want to pursue – I bring to the collection my own objects and passion for bits of my history that imitate art, I am fascinated by the meeting of art and life. Outsider Art, for me, is art that sits outside the commodification of the art world and expresses something unique about humanity. I am confident that this festival will grow bigger and better each year”
Carlotta Allum is a Trustee for the Charity Unlock, and RSA fellow and most recently a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellow, travelling to Norway and Australia to research technology for well-being in prisons
Dean Stalham grew up on a tough council estate in Burnt Oak, left school at 15 with no qualifications. By his own admission he had “no conception of what art was”, until serving a three and a half-year stint in Wandsworth prison for handling stolen silk screen prints and lithographs by Warhol, Chagall and Dali. He was just one of 13 inmates (out of more than 2000) allowed to take an art course. During the course he produced a large scale painting of Mickey Mouse [in a Warhol style], entitled “I Ain’t Mickey Mouse”
It was selected for inclusion in an exhibition of serving prisoner’s art, an experience that changed his life. After that he started writing. “My first play I wrote in prison was performed by actors from the Royal Court in front of 200 inmates. Just the applause that I got was enough to say “this is it this what I want to do for the rest of my life.” Since his release in 2006 Stalham has devoted his life to art. He worked for the Koestler Trust, co curated their most successful exhibition to date at The Institute of Contemporary Art, before starting his own well renowned CIC ART SAVES LIVES. Highly respected for championing artists, writers and poets who are marginalised by society – true outsiders!
Since then he has had a film produced and shown on Channel 4, has written several well-received plays, including 2010’s God Don’t Live on a Council Estate that starred Dudley Sutton, and was directed by the late, great Pamela Brighton.
Dean firmly believes that “Once art’s in your life the world’s a better place. With art you can communicate, and if you communicate you share and the whole world opens up to you. I know that it does work because I’m living proof of it.”
As a champion of Outsider Art, Dean has been working closely with Carlotta to co-host the Outsider Art Festival.