Taking art, creative writing and music into prisons
Inside Stories is Create’s award-winning multi-artform project for offenders aged 18-25 in prisons across England. During March and April 2015, prisoners worked with Create’s professional writer, visual artist and musicians to write and illustrate their own storybooks accompanied with a CD of music. The project culminated in a special visit day in which the prisoners had the opportunity to share their work with their families. Here are a few examples of the storybooks that were created on the project: This piece of music was written and recorded by prisoners at HMP Elmley, to accompany their story “Jungle Friends.”
Matt is a young lifer who took part in the project. Whilst in prison he successfully engaged in numerous offending behaviour programmes and trained in Advice & Guidance, Peer Supervision and IT Course Mentoring. After 11 years in prison, Matt was released a few days after Inside Stories finished.
“When I first heard about this project, I thought we would just be getting together to write a story. It was only when I found out a bit more about the project that I started to look forward to it. I decided to get involved because I wanted to feel connected with my daughter. For my story, I came up with Super Susie, because my daughter is called Susie (not her real name). I don’t know where the flying egg character came from! I think I was trying to draw a mouse but the body looked like an egg so I turned it into one. My partner came up the idea to include a vegetarian tiger so we put the two together in the jungle. In the original story, Susie was trying to get home, but obviously that was too long so we had to cut it down. In the end, the tiger was looking for fruit to eat so Susie used her special powers to magic him up some fruit.
I think the project has taught me how to listen to other people’s ideas and go with them. It’s also taught me how to put across my ideas without sounding too dominating. I don’t usually like talking in front of people, in groups. That was probably the hardest part for me but I surprised myself in that I managed it quite well. Projects like Inside Storiesare important because you need to keep that family tie while you’re in prison. When the children start getting older and realise that their dad’s away all the time, it’s good for them to have a way to interact and keep that bond going. Writing this book has given me new ideas of ways to relate to my daughter. Susie’s only two and a half months old, so I haven’t had much time with her. When she’s older and can understand, hopefully she’ll feel that because I took part in making the book, the book is important to her.”