ART & WRITING BY THE UNFREE
SUBSCRIBE & DONATE
In 2009, the Anne Frank Trust and PEN American Center ran a Prison Diary Project in the US, published a collection of the stories in chapbook format. In 2013/2014, NOT SHUT UP will partner with the Anne Frank Trust and English PEN to promote and publish work from a similar programme in UK jails and secure units. A selection of the journals will be performed at the Koestler Trust event at Southbank Centre in October 2013.
This also mirrors the “What I want my words to do to you” writing project organised in a US maximum security prison, which resulted in stories presented on stage and eventually in an award-winning documentary (see report overleaf). This project took place in 2003, the year NOT SHUT UP was launched, so the reading in London could be a double anniversary celebration. We will also work to involve television documentary and the National Prison Radio.
Starting with foreign national women in Holloway prison, then opening up to other London jails, NOT SHUT UP will use our magazine to promote the initiative. At the end of the year, we will host a 10th anniversary Not Shut Up event in London, where actors and ex-offenders share the stage to read more of the journals. In 2014, the Jail Journals writing project will go national, with a collection of journal entries being published by NOT SHUT UP Academy in book and ebook formats.
In 2003, WHAT I WANT MY WORDS TO DO TO YOU, a series of stories written by women in a US maximum security prison, were presented on stage and eventually in an award-winning documentary, starring the country’s top actors including Mary Alice, Glenn Close, Rosie Perez and Marisa Tomei, helping raise significant funds for the prison’s college education program. The film was then screened on national television, further raising awareness of this vital issue.
The aim, a decade on, is to repeat the success of that project in the UK. Taking source from existing partner organisations who have stories already collected (Women in Prison, Not Shut Up, Inside Time, etc), we would organise an event where a selection of these would be read out by well-known British actresses, followed by a discussion covering current realities of sentencing and incarceration of women in the UK. The event would be filmed and the footage used to further champion the issues raised.
What I Want My Words To Do To You offers an unprecedented look into the minds and hearts of the women inmates of New York’s Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. The film goes inside a writing workshop led by playwright and activist Eve Ensler, consisting of 15 women, most of whom were convicted of murder. Through a series of exercises and discussions, the women delve into their pasts and explore the nature of their crimes and the extent of their own culpability. The film culminates in an emotionally charged prison performance of the women’s writing by acclaimed actors Mary Alice, Glenn Close, Hazelle Goodman, Rosie Perez and Marisa Tomei
The documentary, What I Want My Words to Do to You, tracks a writing group led by playwright/activist Eve Ensler, creator of The Vagina Monologues. The film examines the lives of fifteen women through a series of exercises that are part self-help, part creativity enhancers. Write about a scar on your body. Write about something you have never explained. Write something starting with the phrase: “What I want my words to do to you . . .” But these women are not the typical students, teachers, and aspiring writers that populate most writing groups. They are students. They are teachers. They are aspiring writers. They are also inmates in the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison for women.
SOME KEY UK STATS:
children separated from mothers each year by prison. children up to 18 months old in mother-and-baby units. average annual cost of keeping a prisoner in jail. of people lose contact with families while in jail. women prisoners lose their homes while in prison. average reading age of more than half of all prisoners. women in prison has spent time in care as a child.
children separated from mothers each year by prison.17,700
children up to 18 months old in mother-and-baby units.100
average annual cost of keeping a prisoner in jail.40,000
of people lose contact with families while in jail.45%
women prisoners lose their homes while in prison.1 in 3
average reading age of more than half of all prisoners.11
women in prison has spent time in care as a child.1 in 4