Special Projects

BARE BOARDS AND A PASSION

Drama: A Play in a Week

Budget
Play in a week 5 days £1650.00
Plus Lights Add £250.00
Plus Set, Costumes, Props Add £250.00

Low literacy is a problem throughout the offender population, with up to two thirds below Level 1 Literacy. With non-literary art forms such as drama, video, oral storytelling and music, this problem is bypassed – everyone can join in instantly. It’s an inclusive art form.

Focusing on devised plays, created by the group, the Network’s drama programme runs for five days with up to 20 prisoners. On Day One the group begin to develop an original drama through storyline/character games and improvisations. This is then cast and rehearsed; minimal props and costumes are used, and sound and lighting (if appropriate) are added.

By Day Five the show is ready for its World Premiere. This is a format the Network has successfully pioneered with projects at HMYOI Stoke Heath, HMP Highpoint, HMP Wymott and HMP Garth (where we ran a 2 week project). These were adapted from stories such as Christmas Carol or The Million Pound Note.

The establishment needs to provide a pre-recruited group of volunteers, a room in which to rehearse, a performance space and – of course – an audience. Props, costumes and set can be produced within the prison (doesn’t have to be West End!) or supplied at an additional cost.

The style and content of the show is limited only by imagination – drama, documentary, serious or comic, music or dance. The length of the production will be between 20-30 minutes.


LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!

Video Drama/Documentary

Budget
Video Production inc 20 VHS or 10 DVD Copies
Pre-production, Scripting, Filming & Editing £4350.00
Screenplay 10 session inc printed copies £2750.00

Video is the first language for many young people. Video is an inclusive art form which doesn’t require any literacy skills. Our one week course includes an introduction to screen language (with illustrative clips), the vocabulary of camera shots, originating ideas, storylining, storyboarding and scripting. We then move into hands­on camera work and screen acting, before filming and editing a short video – either drama or documentary.

All our video artists are used to filming in prison, liaising with security and how to set up a video shoot (in one room if appropriate). We can then produce copies onto VHS or DVD.

Induction Videos
With 60% or more of new prisoners unable to read confidently a wad of paper explaining how your establishment works is so much waste paper. A sharp, clear induction video, scripted after consultation with staff and inmates can give you an immediate introduction to how your establishment works and what it has to offer. Includes copies on VHS/DVD (rolling DVD if required).

The Screenplay
Prisoners know movies. Many want to know how to write a screenplay and this course offers a complete introduction to how to write for the screen – TV or film – and develops inmates’ skills through practical hands-on experience of writing a 50 minute feature screenplay from initial idea to finished script over 10 sessions.


AIRWAVES

Radio And Audio

Budget
Radio Play programme 10 days £2750.00
Radio Play programme 10 days
Plus recording, editing & 20 copies £3750.00

One of the easiest and most accessible of art forms in the prison environment radio requires only a mini-disc and microphone (supplied) and a single room to produce professional results.

It’s often said that the best pictures are on radio. The only limitation in this medium is your imagination -want to set a story on a different planet complete with extra-terrestrials or have a pitched battle with an army ten thousand strong or have your narrator as a table lamp? – no problem. After all, Orson Welles recreated a Martian spaceship opening with the aid of a coffee jar and a toilet bowl. Like we say, all that limits your concept is your imagination.

Another all-inclusive art form whatever your level of literacy, this project will create an original drama or documentary on audio cassette or CD, or produce an induction audio for foreign nationals at a very competitive price. Explore a medium which has only words, sound effects and music as its means of communication.

Opportunities here too, as with many of the other Special Projects, for all inmates to access the art form at whatever level they feel comfortable with -writer, actor, sound engineer, FX specialist. Want to write scripts but can’t write? – not a problem using scribing groups which are comprised of one writer and two other inmates with ideas but low literacy skills.

As well as audio copies, use the Network’s contacts to have the work broadcast on prison radio stations at Channings Wood, Feltham or Wandsworth, not to mention your local BBC Radio.


WRITING A SENTENCE

Creative Writing

Budget
Creative Writing programme £2750.00
Creative Writing programme plus
Book in a Week inc 100 copies £3950.00

Words have power. From poems to short stories, playscripts to screenplays, creative writing is the perfect vehicle to enable prisoners to find a voice and express their thoughts and feelings. Whatever level of literacy of participants, writers can help put the work on paper. Typed and printed (even on a single sheet) a piece of creative writing is a huge boost to self-esteem -`my voice matters’.

Single workshops or a series can be themed, producing material from Valentine’s poems for sweethearts to material for Diversity days, from soaps to essays. And through the use of scribes or translators, it can also include even those who don’t feel confident writing English.
Cap the project with a reading, an exhibition or a book launch. Invite someone important, lay on some food and drink and celebrate.

A Book in a Week
For an instant hit, run a week of workshops, get the material typed up and return the following week for a book launch, combining the Network’s workshop and typesetting services. Prisoners love the immediate return of seeing their work professionally produced in print – colour cover, coloured end paper, 100gsm inside text pages, the feel of a real book – and a perfect gift to send to Mum to say `Look what I’ve done.”

The Network has produced countless books by this method over ) the years, many of them KoestIerAward winners.

Life Stories

Budget
Life Stories 10 days £2750.00
Songwriting inc musician & CDS £2750.00

Each person has a unique story to tell – their own. Few prisoners have experienced thers being seriously interested in them for their own sake – “Where were you on the night of the 14th?” doesn’t really count, although almost all prisoners progress through a process of analysing `how did I get to where I am today?’. Using 50 word life stories, mind mapping, songs, pictures and a whole range of games and activities, Life Storiesexplores, celebrates or reflects on people, places, incidents which have helped shape prisoners’ lives, looking at influences, choices and options for the future.

Lyrics and Songwriting
For many prisoners music is a major outlet for articulating how they feel through the songs of others. This programme gives them the tools to write and record their own songs, whether they are musically gifted or not.

Starting with their own musical tastes and what their favourite songs mean to them, prisoners are encouraged to learn the art of writing lyrics, using rhythm and rhyme, analysing what makes a song work and turning these into their own original compositions.

With the help of the writer and a musician these are transformed into recorded tracks for a CD.


A STORY TO TELL

Oral Storytelling

Budget
Storytelling Programme £2750.00
Storybook Mum/Dad (optional) £3750.00
(8 Days plus recording & copies)

Everyone has a story to tell. These workshops not so much teach prisoners how to tell stories as remind them how to. It’s an inclusive art form – you don’t need to be able to read and write – and encourages speaking and listening skills, narrative structure and performance. Our oral storytelling work has featured in the national press and was the subject of a Radio 4 documentary.

From traditional tales to creating original stories to autobiography, stories are as much a part of being human as breathing. In pre­literate society oral stories were used to pass on life skills.

Storybook Dad/Mum
One of the key elements in helping prisoners not to reoffend is ensuring that the family stays intact (or at least in contact) through a sentence. The Network has been extremely active over the last decade in promoting the Storybook Dad/Mum programme in every prison in which we work.

Working alongside library staff the storyteller explores the world of oral stories, how children learn to read and what stories are appropriate for what age, and then works one-to-one with prisoners to record a story onto audio tape/CD to send out to the child – at a press of a button they can hear mum or dad tell them a story.

The programme can be developed to suit the establishment and available resources. At HMP Wymott we helped develop Men Behaving Dadly which combined oral storytelling, parenting, arts, craft and music, desktop publishing, cookery and nutrition.


READING A SENTENCE

Reading Groups

Budget
Reading Group 10 days £2750.00
Stories Connect/staff training £2000.00
Full SC Programme plus staff training £5500.00

Prisoners who do read tend to be notoriously narrow in their choice of reading. For men it’s usually true crime, action stories (SAS etc) or SF/fantasy, and `what I know’; for women it’s true crime, `Black Lace’ style erotica or `what I know’.

Reading groups aim to extend the reader’s range and encourage them to explore further afield. A series of 2 hour sessions, focused on a different text every week, look at what, how, when and why people read through a range of interactive games (based on Opening the Book’s innovative reader development work) and look at a selection of writers and texts chosen specifically with that group’s unique reading habits and tastes.

Stories Connect
Pioneered at HMP Channings Wood and piloted at a number of different establishments (YOI, women’s and adult male prisons, drugs rehab) this programme is about Story and Characters rather than a literary approach. Subtitled Changing Lives Through Stories, it addresses key issues such as male violence, family life, individual responsibility etc through quality fiction (short stories, novels), poetry, drama (theatre & video).

The group is made up of a mixture of prisoners and staff. Prisoners do a self-assessment at the start and finish of the 10 session programme and write an essay about the `connections’ they have made. In the USA reoffending rates among participants were halved. Stories Connect is suitable for both good and poor readers.


HOT OFF THE PRESS

Journalism: The Prison Magazine

Budget
Journalism Programme 10 days £2750.00
Journalism Programme 10 days
Plus edit, DTP and publication of magazine £3950.00

The Network has helped to launch numerous prison magazines and regularly features heavily in the annual Koestler Awards. A prison magazine dramatically improves communication within an establishment between prisoners, staff and governors and is worth a thousand governor’s orders, posters on walls or memos. A well­produced magazine, well researched and written and laid out attractively helps everyone communicate better within an establishment. As the Howard League notes, a magazine is the sign of “a healthy prison”.

Over the last four years the Network, in association with the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), has developed a nationally accredited NOCN journalism course specifically designed for use with prison magazines. At four levels this provides fast-track entry onto further education courses on release. There are also two higher levels – the NUJ Diploma – for those offenders looking to study to undergraduate level.

This Special Project, however, is a fast-track journalism course which works with a selected group of offenders for a week to 10 days, looking at the basic skills of magazine production- feature/ story writing, research, interview technique, sub-editing, proof­reading, layout and design – to produce a special edition magazine.

The Network artist will also host a session for staff on how to set up a structure for establishing an ongoing magazine or to advise how your establishment can join the longer NUJ Pathways to Journalism course.


WHAT NEXT?

This booklet is only a guide to the range of creative arts projects which the Networkcan offer to your establishment, a starting point. We can adapt and customise any of these to fit the needs, available resources or budget within your establishment, whether you work with young offenders, women, a local prison with a high turnover, lifers, vulnerable prisoners or older inmates.

We have experience at all levels of the prison estate and how to deliver the arts, with tried and tested strategies for all circumstances. All our artists have prison experience, a high awareness of security issues and an eagerness to work with any partners within your establishment to offer stand-alone projects, enhance existing programmes, create exciting ways to deliver key and basic skills, or improve communication between staff and prisoners.

The Visit
Ring or e-mail the Network to discuss the kind or project/s which interest you. A member of the Network will come and visit your establishment to meet with senior members of staff. After a short presentation to explain in more detail what a project will entail, they will answer any questions you may have. A tour of the relevant parts of the prison will enable us to assess the practical considerations of delivery.

We’ll agree dates, fees and payment schedule, engage the artists and draw up contracts, provide all relevant information for security checks, and be available for you at all times before, during and after the project to ensure its smooth running. We can also offer staff training so that you can continue selected activities.

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