ART & WRITING BY THE UNFREE
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The Not Shut Up Academy aims to network and support those writers with experience of custody in developing their professional careers, helping them reach new audiences, generate income and overcome barriers to mainstream success.
Artists and criminals have always had many things in common: outsider status, resilience, “out of the box” thinking skills… In the 21st Century, publishing is experiencing a Wild West kind of boom. Both print and digital platforms coming and going, fortunes and stars made overnight, possibilities and pitfalls everywhere. Those who have been through the criminal justice system have interesting stories to tell, stories of struggle and of conflict – useful material for writers to work with and interesting narratives for publishers to share with audiences.
NOT SHUT UP has been working with UK offenders and ex-offender writers for a decade. Based in London, in close proximity to some of the biggest and most diverse jails in the country, we are perfectly placed to select and work with individuals who not only want to be involved in the arts, but also wish to profit from them. The UK is also home to a language which has an international reach – English allows our words to travel and be understood anywhere in the world. If we marry literary excellence with creative vision, there are hundreds of writers and millions of readers waiting.
NOT SHUT UP is aiming to secure its first office premises in 2013. Once these are available, we will be able to work more closely with those who have left prison. By the end of 2014, we would like to have trained up three NOT SHUT UP ACADEMY graduates, empowered with writing, editorial and publishing skills. We also want to publish three books written by those in custody, both in print and e-formats. 2015 is for review and training of further graduates.
NOT SHUT UP, in partnership with Arts Council England and other arts organisations working with those in custody, will work in close partnership with three London jails to select potential trainees and work with them. We will also work with other institutions, such as the Virtual Campus and the Literary Platform, to ensure we have strong support for the project.
Digital and “print on demand” technologies are not prohibitively expensive to access. In order to use them to create a successful publishing organisation, drive, vision and resilient thinking are needed.