meet a female prisoner and free inside participant

“I was worried it would be like school and I reverted to being the class clown. But as I listened and gave it a chance, I ended up enjoying it and getting into it. I really like the final piece I’ve written.”

free inside participant

In July 2022, a group of women in prison took part in four days of creative writing workshops with Create writer Carol Topolski as part of our new project, Free Inside.

Free Inside is our creative writing project working with a women’s prison in tandem with a specialist unit. The project provides the participants with a rare chance to be creative and express themselves while improving their literacy and life skills.

One participant shared their experience on the project.

Finding Inspiration

“We started the workshop by discussing a subject, choosing ‘teeth’ to begin with. Everybody had a different point of view on it. It was good as it got the mind going and thinking in different ways about something as boring as a mouth with teeth in it. We then made a list of words and we had to write a short story from them which, again, everyone answered differently. Mine was about Gandalf and how magic can be bad.

“We then decided where we wanted to take our main piece of writing. I based mine on my experience of drugs and getting clean. The other girls based theirs on their experiences, like their grandmothers, etc.

A NEW EXPERIENCE

“I’ve been creative before but never with writing. At first, I was worried it would be like school and I reverted to being the class clown. But as I listened and gave it a chance, I ended up enjoying it and getting into it. I really like the final piece I’ve written. I’ve learnt that even if you write something that you don’t quite like, you can edit it and change it and take it down different paths until you do like it.

free inside
creative writing post its

“It was good to see everyone’s expressions whilst I read my piece out loud. I’m not that confident when it comes to reading out loud, but it gave me a confidence boost and the praise was nice as it doesn’t happen all the time. It was good to finish the piece and I’m looking forward to seeing it as an end product as I want the layout to be in the form of a ladder, showing the journey I’ve been on and climbed up.

“I like Carol, she was very easy to get on with. I shared very personal parts of myself, and I never felt judged by her. She also really helped me to word my story better. I could see myself doing more creative writing if [Create] came back. It helped that I knew the others. I’ve had an issue with one of the group members in the past, but I can trust her now and it’s good. [The project] helped.

“I think people who don’t write should always give it a try because I didn’t think I was good at writing, but I’ve actually come up with a good piece.”