Friday, 2 March 2012

The Writing Game: Writing Behind Bars

My preoccupation on this month's  Writing Game programme is Writing Behind Bars

It's always good to talk to other writers. This week it has been a special inspirational treat to talk to two other writers with  experience of working in prisons.

I will begin with a story. One day I was walking down Newgate Street in Bishop Auckland. Towards me came a group of three people: a woman in her forties, a woman in her early Twenties and a little girl of three of or four. The young woman tugged her mother’s arm ands said, ‘Look Mam, this is the writing woman.’

We all smiled and nodded and I said how beautiful the little girl was. I had seen her photo as a baby when her mother was in prison. I asked the young woman if she was still writing. She shrugged and said there was no time, on the out. ‘But I still have my poems.’ She turned to her mother. ‘Don’t I Mam?’

This can happen to me now and then because the prison where I was writer in residence was in the main a local prison with many of the women there from our local communities.

On the programme (broadcast Sunday 4th March at 12 noon) I share the experience of working creatively in prison with my two guests

They are Avril Joy – a friend of the Writing Game – who worked for twenty five years at Low Newton Women’s prison as a teacher and later as head of Learning and Skills before becoming a full time writer. (see her blog on imprisonment at )

She has now published two great novels The Sweet Track and The Orchid House, and has a novella and a short story collection on Kindle about women who end up in prison - When You hear the Birds Sing, and Susie Drew and Other Stories.

The other writer is Richard Hardwick who is at present writer in residence at Frankland men’s prison in Durham. He has previously worked in neuro-linguistic programming and worked with young people in social care. He has since published a well received novel Kicked Out and a moving memoir Andalucia. Avril and Richard read from their work on the programme. (Contact: )

On the programme the three of us sit around the fire in my study and discuss our experiences working as teachers and writers in prison. I worked out that between us we have nearly thirty four years between us, so there was a lot to talk about. The talk ranges from the difficult context of prison, the dark times, the laughter the ordinary and the extraordinary nature of the people one meets inside. We talk about the way the creative writing process can contribute to the lives of prisoners and how it affects the work of the writers who go into prison to do this work.

This was quite an emotional programme. One of my conclusions is that the hard experiences discussed here are not far from any of us. When I was working with women in prison I often thought, there but the grace of god go I. or my sister, or my daughter. I wrote a book about it, Paulie's Web.  (see sidebar)

If you want to listen again, remember that this programme is available as a podcast from Bishop FM or as a free download on iTunes. You can also listen to it on your computer.



  1. It was a privelege to be part of this what I'm sure will be fascinating programme and can't wait to hear it when it goes out on Sunday -A x

  2. Looking forward to it myself. wx



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...