Our keynote speakers for our December 2021 conference were chosen because they are individuals who are helping to enact change. Sam Conniff is the founder of Livity and author of ‘Be more Pirate’ while Lady Unchained is a poet and performance artist who uses her personal experience of prison to inspire others.
Sam Conniff – ‘Rule breaking is one of the levers of change’
Ten years ago, Sam Conniff set up Livity to bring big brands, government and young people together in a bid to drive social change for the next generation. Frustrated that his efforts weren’t working, he wrote a book called ‘Be More Pirate’.
At our Conference Sam talked about the balance between doing the right thing and acknowledging when the rules might be unfair and explained how some of the world’s most famous pirates were, in fact, campaigners for equality and social change. He described how the pirate community offered men and women from disadvantaged backgrounds freedom, fairness and democracy, and that it was no surprise that the Skull & Crossbones ‘brand’ was still thriving today.
The biggest mistake, he told delegates, is to believe the way things are is the way things have to be. He sighted the Suffragettes as people who understood the system was rigged against women and Greta Thunberg as a contemporary ‘rule-breaker’ who is having an impact on the future of the planet. Sam recognised that encouraging rule-breaking is ‘precarious’ and emphasised that he only advocated the approach when it was for ‘doing the right thing’.
Lady Unchained – ‘Put people with lived-experience at the forefront of your organisation’
Brenda Birungu was preparing to become a childminder before a series of events led her to court and two years in Holloway prison, after a first offence. Completely unprepared for such a harsh sentence and the realities of prison life, she talked candidly about her experiences and the women she met. She described how it had taken ten years to rebuild her life and how she is now using her lived experience to influence change.
Under the name Lady Unchained, Brenda visits prisons to meet and talk to men and women and about her experience and to run creative workshops. She is also an award-winning presenter on prison radio which reaches thousands of inmates. She is passionate about encouraging people to break the cycle of interaction with the criminal justice system and move on with their lives.
We were honoured that Lady Unchained chose to perform several of her own powerful poems to our delegates, who were clearly moved by the experience. She urged people working with the criminal justice system to by mindful of the impact of trauma, to clearly represent people of all backgrounds in their publicity materials and to look for new and innovative ways to ensure people with lived experience are consulted and included in enacting positive change.