ART & WRITING BY THE UNFREE
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Sarah Baker is a transgender inmate in a male prison. She was formerly known as Alan Baker, before her transition in 2011, and has spent over 25 years in prison (despite a tariff of just nine years), having received a discretionary life sentence for the attempted murder of another prisoner.
Although this award-wining author’s second book highlights her perilous journey through an abusive home life, the care system, youth custody and the prison system, it is clearly her way of revealing to the reader the choices she made and the reasons why she felt compelled to make them in the first place. Any transgendered person, whose bad decisions have trapped them in prison for life, will always face a difficult time keeping their true identity hidden from their fellow prisoners.
Date: April 15, 2015
Chris Wilson is an artist, writer and member of the Not Shut Up Academy. He was born in Newcastle, grew up in Dar es Salaam, East Africa, and moved to the USA in the 1970s. Ruin is a book of his staggering paintings – here is Chris’ explanation of the collection.
I produced my first ever painting in drug rehab in 2003, thanks to my friend William. He’d set up a little morning painting session at the rehab centre. Nothing to do with drug recovery, just us trying to make a little difference to our lives.
Date: March 13, 2015
Jeffrey Hawthorne is a Big Issue online journalist, part of a group of homeless and marginalised people taking part in online journalism training with The Big Issue and Poached Creative. Here, he writes about the challenges of living as a homosexual man behind bars.
Talk about a wake up call. Nine armed police – one dressed as a postman to get me to open the front door – charging into my home at 10am on a Saturday morning, was not what I expected after a late night partying.
I’d been selling drugs to pay for a habit that had got out of control, becoming greedy, ignoring my health and blocking out reality as I went from one high to the next. The police knocking down my door was the short sharp shock I needed – a stint in prison could give me time to detox too.
Date: February 24, 2015
Now that seasonal celebrations are over, Christmas trees all over the country (at least, the real ones) have been taken outside and burnt or dumped, along with the holly and mistletoe. But what have these evergreens got to do with celebrating the birth of Jesus, the little town of Bethlehem, wise men and shepherds? Well, nothing actually because, apart from the nativity scene, all the rituals of Christmas predate Christianity and its arrival as a fully-fledged religion on these shores, by some considerable time.
Date: January 16, 2015
Leading international writers and some of the world’s most famous prisoners of conscience have protested against the restrictions on sending books to prisoners in the UK. English PEN and The Howard League For Penal Reform have successfully campaigned to challenge Prison Service policy on prisoners having books sent in and kept in their possession. Here, Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a co-founder of prisoners’ rights group Zona Prava (Zone of Rights), writes on what books meant to her as a prisoner in the Russian penal colony system a few years back.
Books make up your entire world when you are a prisoner. Because you have books you know that every day you spend behind bars is not a day spent in vain. You wake up with a book and you fall asleep with a book, reading after lights out by the dim glow of a torch. Prison is probably one of the most text-centric places in this, our contemporary reality.
Date: January 15, 2015
Most of the things in her life had been the same way, she felt like she was a tumbleweed being blown across America without any say in the matter.
If you pressed her she would say well, I suppose I was sitting in a doorway on Market and Eight early one morning, I think it was raining and I went to a phone booth to call my mother to tell her I was safe and I saw a card stuck up by the coin slot that said escorts required no experience necessary top dollar paid so I called the number instead of my mother and this girl by the name of Jackie answered and she seemed real nice and she gave me her address and said she’d pay the cab fare if I came right now so I jumped in a taxi and that’s how it started.
Date: January 5, 2015
This is an extract from a Koestler award-winning play from this year’s selection, chosen for us by Holly Hopkins, the Koestler Trust Literature Officer.
Phil on mobile phone just off stage: Yeah, thanks for that, Leah, that’s such a relief. I really appreciate it. What, this Saturday morning too? That’ll be all right, tell her I’ll meet her at the same place. Bye, then thanks again, bye.
In the kitchen. Red case open on the kitchen table.
Date: November 8, 2014
Chris Wilson was born in 1961 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and grew up in Dar es Salaam, East Africa. He moved with his parents to California in 1971. After many years of living in the streets and prisons of the USA, he was extradited to the UK in 1998. Since becoming drug and crime free in 2001, he has studied at the Chelsea College of Art and Design, where he was awarded First with Distinction. His work has been shown in galleries in London and the South East of England. He lives in London with his two dogs, and divides his working life between his job as a project worker with the homeless and various creative endeavours.
Horse Latitudes is his phenomenal first book – here is a passage from it.
Date: October 22, 2014
Annalouise Oakland is an artist, writer and poet – and a pensioner in a tag. Admire some of her brilliant visual art as you read her thoughts on her plight.
How’d you like me? Eh? Chained to the bed? Nowhere else to go. Legs up in the air, or stretched out the window? How many ways to skin a nana ASBO-tagged elder?
Right now, I should be in Hay-on-Wye, spouting forth at the book fest, cos someone says I am a poet! Shot that one in the foot, didn’t it?
I could say I am going inward, that there’s a reason, that it’s my chance to develop awareness from the shadow-self, represented by shackles. You poser.
Date: October 20, 2014
Cliff Hughes is a writer, former inmate and member of the Not Shut Up Academy. Here is his latest piece of writing, an autobiographical work about his childhood. After reading, check out some of Cliff’s other contributions using the links at the bottom of the page, and revisit us again soon to read more. Enjoy…
Date: October 14, 2014
June 25, 2015
April 15, 2015
April 15, 2015