At Novus, we are always looking at ways to innovate and make education interesting for our learners, many of whom have very negative experiences of education prior being in prison. In recent years, we have worked with many different groups and provisions across arts and enrichment, giving our learners as broad a cultural experience as possible and supporting their cultural capital.
Poetry Workshops to bring English strategy to life
We are passionate about promoting reading and are always searching for new ways to support the national reading agenda. One way that recently supported this, was when learners at HMP Hindley and HMP Risley were given the chance to work with Argh Kid during a series of poetry workshops. Also known as David Scott, Argh Kid is referred to as ‘the acapella Eminem’ and is an official poet for Manchester United and UEFA as well as currently hosting shows on BBC Radio Manchester.
Our strategy sees reading as an activity that benefits everyone, so we were looking for an artist who could speak authentically to people who are often unsure about how poetry can be relevant to them.
Helping our learners to consider other unknown career options
In his own words, David “is on a mission to make the artform accessible to the masses” and this was certainly the experience of the learners taking part. He spoke to prisoners about how he uses spoken word to express himself, entertain others and earn a good living showing them an alternative and previously unconsidered career option.
David worked with a number of prisoners ranging from reluctant readers to those already writing their own poems and lyrics, adapting his approach according to their interests and experiences. By demonstrating techniques such as found poetry and word association, he inspired learners to write about their own stories and perspectives in ways they had never felt able to do before.
A particularly popular activity was listening to poetry extracts and identifying whether they were written by Shakespeare or hip-hop artists. Much more difficult than you would expect, this helped prisoners to appreciate poetry in a way they had not realised before and could see that it is an artform to be enjoyed and created by everyone.
Creating a love of reading for everyone
As a result of learning about the importance of poetry to their experience and circumstances, learners were empowered to write thought-provoking and powerful poems, some of which were entered for the Koestler awards. Men who had started the workshops saying that they did not enjoy reading or writing had changed their opinion by learning from someone with shared experience.
Learners explained how the workshop “helped me to reflect” and that they enjoyed the “team building” aspect and “great conversation”. We agree with a learner from Hindley who wrote “we need more of this in prison” and we’re looking forward to working with Argh Kid again in the near future.