We’ve had the exciting opportunity to facilitate the poet, storyteller, and playwright, Errol McGlashan’s one man theatre show at HMP High Down. Based on his experience of the criminal justice system, Errol’s performance of ‘Something to Take the Edge Off’ explores the themes of literature, addiction, mental health, compassion, and relationships, that are present while in prison.
As part of our Prison Reading Strategy, Errol attended the facility on National Writing Day to share his view on literacy as a tool for education and rehabilitation. The performance was followed by an engaging Q&A session and a creative workshop with the learners.
This after-show session centred around a main discussion on the themes brought up in the performance such as: reading and writing, literacy, Shakespeare, prison reform, recidivism, and grief. Based on this discussion, learners were asked to develop their own creative responses in the form of poetry, short plays, sketches, and essays. Learners discussed the moral dilemmas that characters in the play faced, and how they should or could have reacted differently.
Providing unique opportunities for reading education in prisons
Opportunities like this are not only an incredible opportunity to embed the importance of cultural capital, but they also act as a bridge to more traditional methods of education. Many learners are hesitant to engage with education on arrival in prison; they often have a negative perception of education and haven’t been provided resources and content that suit their various needs. By introducing potential learners to a more casual learning environment, we can show them how enjoyable learning can be and encourage them to participate in other classes that will benefit them further along.
The future of reading skills education in prison
Recognising the growing need for an inclusive reading skills focus in prison education, we are working to embed this development into all areas of our curriculum. It is through constant practice across a variety of subject areas that we are hoping to increase competency in reading and writing and prepare learners for a sustainable and fulfilling career post-release.
With as much as 57% of adult prisoners in the UK experiencing low literacy rates, programmes such as this are vital to improving the future of prison learners across the country. Want to get involved? Reach out to us now or read more on our fresh approach to reading education in prison.
Image: Errol McGlashan - Twitter