Inside Stories; transforming prisoners’ lives through creativity. Thursday 22 June will be an historic day for author and journalist Erwin James. He’ll be speaking from the dock in The Old Bailey’s Court No. 1, right on the exact spot where he was sentenced to life imprisonment some 32 years ago (though James served twenty years behind bars in total).
“When I was sentenced I was pretty sure my life was at an end,” he says: “It had been a difficult and painful life and I never expected to live again, not in any meaningful way. I certainly never imagined that one day I might be back in the same dock sharing the journey and explaining how I managed to salvage some good from the wreckage that had been my life before prison.”
Salvaging some ‘good from the wreckage’ for Erwin came via the arts and creativity. That’s why he’s now a supporter of the charity, Create, whose work in prisons and the community he says he’s witnessed first hand. Founded in 2003, Create has to date run over 7000 creative arts workshops that have helped transform the lives of over 32,500 disadvantaged and vulnerable participants as part of sustained, life-changing programmes. Aimed at those who are excluded through disability, disadvantage, ill-health, imprisonment, poverty or social isolation, participants are given access to high-quality creative arts experiences that help them develop confidence, trusting relationships, strong social skills and self-esteem.
Create’s multi-award-winning Inside Stories programme allows young fathers in prison to work with professional writers, artists and musicians to write, record and illustrate original stories for their children, which they then set to music. The project culminates in a special family performance in the prison where the children receive a storybook and CD, including a personal message from their father.
Nicky Goulder, Chief Executive of Create, says: ”We designed Inside Stories to give prison inmates the opportunity to develop new skills and work collaboratively to create a unique gift for their children I am thrilled that their creativity, hard work and uniquely-expressed love for their children has been recognised with these prestigious Koestler Awards. We are immensely proud of them and feel privileged to have enabled them to achieve so much.”
One participant said: “This project has helped my partner, children and parents feel more relaxed and positive about my time in prison. It helps them think about me being productive, becoming a good man. Maybe in the past I wouldn’t have done something nice like this for my loved ones, so it helps me show them how much I care for them.”
Inside Stories at the Old Bailey will take place on Thursday 22 June 2017, 6pm – 9pm. Strictly limited numbers of ticket priced at £150 are available. To find more and book tickets via Create’s website: http://createarts.org.uk/2017/03/event-inside-stories-at-the-old-bailey-2/