Text by Tim Atkinson
Artwork by Mark Crick
Let me start by saying that I went straight from the prison over to a work shift at Westminster Abbey, where I served dinner to some high ranking clergymen. I’ve got to be honest, the people I was working with in the morning were a hell of a lot friendlier than the people I was serving in the afternoon, not mention more respectful, more open-minded and more interesting to talk to.
It was a real privilege to work with the guys at Pentonville, and such an eye-opener.
The more we talked, the more we found we had in common, the more I realised we were all just ordinary people; and the team were all saying that we’d started to forget we were in a prison until we had to leave.
The most rewarding part of the whole day for me was during the writing exercise, when Godfrey shuffled over and said “I’m stuck”.
We sat down and talked about the line he’d chosen, and why he’d chosen it and then we started writing by me asking him questions and helping to translate what he was saying into pentameter, then he had to start finding more ideas to fit with the rhythm, which brought out more interesting ideas which led to more Iines.
It was a slow process, but it was an amazing experience and I really wish we could’ve had time to finish the poem completely.
Thank you so much again for reaching out and involving me in the team. I genuinely felt like the work we were doing was some of the most important I’ve done.
Walking around Pentonville, seeing people crammed into a three-person-cell for weeks, really made me appreciate just what a session like that can give someone serving their time in there, or even someone on remand dealing with the uncertain future ahead of them. Finally, because the emphasis was off us for change –
I felt like I could explore the exercises and have fun in a pressure-free way I’ve never really had before.
I had a brilliant time and I think, more importantly, the participants from the prison did too.