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Buddleia: The Unchained Story

Lady Unchained

City of Women Festival hosts a screening and discussion of the new feature length documentary in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

As part of the International Festival of Contemporary Arts, City of Women will screen Buddleia: The Unchained Story.

Buddleia tells the story of Brenda Birungi, also known as Lady Unchained, a poet, performer, broadcaster and advocate for life after prison. The film was commissioned and produced by Artsadmin, and directed and edited by acclaimed filmmaker Tracy Kiryango.

After the screening of the film there will be a discussion with Lady Unchained and Tracy Kiryango as well as a poetry performance. 

Watch the trailer:

“It’s easy to end up in prison. We are shown through shows and movies that tell us the stories of how people end to in prison. The gangs, the violence, the drugs and the money is a story we all know so well. I got tired of hearing and seeing the same old story when I became part of that sad truth. Buddleia tells a story of how we can turn a negative situation into a positive pathway for ourselves and others. My life ended and began with a prison sentence, those metal doors awoke the faith in me.”
– Lady Unchained

Brenda Birungi, also known as Lady Unchained, is a – Poet, Performer, Broadcaster, Mentor, Artist Manager, TedXLondon Speaker, Host for National Prison Radio, Facilitator, Curator, Chair for the NCJAA Anne Peaker Lecture 2020 and Advocate for Life After prison.

“My life ended and began with a prison sentence, those metal doors awoke the faith in me” – Lady Unchained

Brenda’s mission is to prove that there is life after prison. She is the Founder and Creative Director of Unchained Poetry, an artistic platform for artists with lived experience of the Criminal Justice System. She hosts Unchained Nights in partnership with Artsadmin at Toynbee Studios, a night of inspirational storytelling through poetry and music. 

Brenda runs poetry workshops in prisons and in the community in Women Centres such as Pecan as part of Southwark Women’s hub to help women find their creative voice. She is now a member of the NCJAA Steering group.  

Brenda was a nominee for the New Voice Award 2020 by Audio Production Awards and Runner Up for CJA Awards 2020- Outstanding Documentary, winner of The Insight awards 2021 for Insight through Journalism. She received a Bronze award for her show Free Flow on National Prison Radio at the ARIAS Awards 2021 and she continues to challenge the ex-offender label through creativity. 

Lady Unchained also curated the Soul Journey To Truth Exhibition at HOME gallery in Manchester in partnership with Koestler Art and Ripples of Hope Festival highlighting creativity within the criminal justice system in the North West.

Buddleia: The Unchained Story is a film that tells the tale of Brenda Birungi, also known as Lady Unchained, a poet, performer, broadcaster and advocate for life after prison.

The film traces Lady Unchained’s story through conversations with a range of people who have marked significant moments in the development of the work she now does. While some have lived experience of the justice system, others have been prevented from entering into a life of crime through her support. Everyone shares how Lady Unchained has made a positive impact in their lives by encouraging them to use art and creativity to bring their own stories to light. In this 40-minute documentary, Lady Unchained visits important places in her journey, such as her own prison cell and the chapel at HMP Holloway Prison, both spaces that mark a major turning point in her life.

The grounds of HMP Holloway are now overgrown and filled with a plant called buddleia. The buddleia that now fills an empty space reminded us of the butterflies of which they are associated. Brenda reflected on the metaphor; the bittersweet memories of those who were freed through death and those, like herself, who went on to begin new lives.

Buddleia: The Unchained Story was filmed and edited by Tracy Kiryango, who has a strong background in storytelling through film, having written, directed and produced her own short films and worked on documentaries for The Telegraph, Express Newspapers and TwoFour Broadcast. Tracy and Lady Unchained previously collaborated on a film-poem, The Forgotten People, commissioned by Artsadmin in 2020 to highlight racial inequality in the UK prison system. 

City of Women is a pioneering organization focusing on feminism and gender equality in the arts and culture. Since 1996, the Association has been advocating recognition, promotion, better work and life conditions for female artists, and gender equality in the cultural sector in general. Governed by an independent board committed to art, critical theory, feminist, queer, gender and postcolonial studies, City of Women stands for equality, diversity and solidarity. They provide support, resources, visibility and care for artistic, activist and theoretical practices and discourses resonating with our core values. 

Their largest event is the International Festival of Contemporary Arts – City of Women, which has been held for ten days every October since 1995 in different venues across the city of Ljubljana. Uniting amazing women from all over the world, the festival offers a unique experience blending great artistic endeavours with inspiring talks. The Festival has so far presented and produced more than a thousand local and international artists and collectives from all artistic disciplines. 

Buddleia: The Unchained Story is commissioned and produced by Artsadmin, with support from BE PART through the Creative Europe programme of the European Union. BE PART is a collaborative project with European partners exploring questions of power in participatory arts practice. Buddleia: The Unchained Story was filmed and edited by Tracy Kiryango. 

The event has English and Slovene subtitles

Date and time

8 October 2022

Please note
This is now a past event.


Slomškova ulica 18