Inside Stories is Create’s creative writing and illustration project for 18-21 year old prison inmates. Over a two-week period, Create’s professional writer and visual artist worked with young fathers, or those with younger siblings and/or family members to create, record and illustrate storybooks for children. Charles* (aged 19), took part in the project this August. He has two daughters, Janine* (aged 6 years) and Leila* (aged 1 week). Here, he talks about the impact of the project.
“I decided to do Inside Stories because of my daughters and how much they mean to me. I wanted to tell them how much I love them. When I was told I could do the project, I was really happy because I got this chance to write a story for my little ones.
I’ve never done writing before. I have done some art, but never anything very good. There’s a picture in my cell that I’ve done, of two elephants and a tree.
My poem is called “When Harry Meets Tommy” and is about two characters who are both lonely. They meet and have crazy adventures. It’s inspired by my oldest daughter – she likes teddy bears and princess crowns and Bratz dolls.
Create’s writer and artist pushed me to draw better and to write proper poems, and I did it! I tried my best to do the best I could do. The best things about the project was the artwork, getting glue everywhere and really hands-on; Cutting out pieces and turning them into flowers, grass, butterflies! The atmosphere was wicked. It made me so happy putting everything together for my kids. I did it all for them. Inside Stories has taught me that you don’t need to be an artist to write a book. You can use objects (toys, furniture) to inspire you. It has taught me confidence, to speak out loud in front of people, and about teamwork. I got to know the people I worked with, and they told me about their kids and how much they mean to them, same as me.
When I get out, I’ll definitely help my kids more with their homework. I’ll help them write books when they’re older, I’ll stick things and draw for them. We’ll have loads of fun!
I think projects like this are really important in prison. They’re not too hard, but also not too easy, and give people a good report. It’s good for the kids, too. We are doing something for them and thinking about them, so they know how much they mean to us. Inside Stories should be longer. There could be courses in prison where people pick up objects and start writing – they could even do that in their cells! More courses in prison should be for the children. If I could, I’d do it again.” Charles was due to be released the day after Inside Stories ended, after a nine month sentence. *to protect anonymity, the names in the case study have been changed.