art 001A lot of the drawings, paintings, and prints that I do tend to be of places I wish I could go to. I did this sketch a while back and only recently found it again. The lines of the background are way too thick, but I love the composition of it so I thought I’d stick it up anyway. At some point I may well do another version in a different style to see how that comes out.

It’s You

My love is a pure white rose

with a single shining thorn.

It’s You is a poem I wrote years ago. I had just met The Woman with Eyes of Fire (see my story The Fire and the Sea for details) and was struggling to get my head around my feelings for her, especially given our situation. Then I read some poetry by Robert Burns and decided to start a poem from one of his lines and work into what I really wanted to say from there. I never gave this poem to her as such, but a couple of years after I wrote it she did happen to read it (along with most of my poems) when she got hold of my notebook. She didn’t have a clue it was about her until we got back in contact just last year.

You can read the full poem in my Poetry Section.

Hide My Pain

art 002This drawing started out as a simple sketch but it has actually been changed a number of times since then. The funny thing is that I don’t even feel like it was me who changed it. I knew it wasn’t complete (until it finally was) and I searched for what was missing, but I don’t really feel like I thought of it. I simply put it down on paper. The idea behind it already existed. It was always going to be what it eventually became. I just didn’t know it until I saw it there in front of me.

I’m fully aware that that probably sounds completely nuts to everyone but me, but there it is. Like most of my drawings it is full of symbolism and hidden meaning (beyond the obvious), I’ll leave you to judge and interpret for yourselves.

A Step Forward, but the Journey Continues

022 wholeI started my Travels of a Virtual Nomad some time ago to campaign against the impact that Ministry of Justice policies have had on prison arts and to raise money for The Koestler Trust. After 228 miles I have already reached Whitby and my travels continue but policy changes are already apparent.
Over the summer the MoJ reversed the decision to ban steel strung acoustic guitars, and recently they decided to remove the limit on the number of books allowed in a prisoner’s possession. But don’t be fooled. Electric guitars remain on the banned list despite many prisoners having invested months of wages in what is for many a very important coping strategy and, speaking for Wakefield at least, it is harder than ever to get other instruments such as keyboards. And the issues don’t stop there. Drama courses remain rare, creative writing is still often censored or even removed from prisoners’ possession, and it takes longer and longer to get hold of art and craft materials.
I have reached the northernmost point in the Yorkshire leg of my journey and I am now heading back south again, but I can only argue that the whole policy area needs reviewing if you all get behind me to sign my petition and sponsor my travels. Please do what us prisoners cannot do for ourselves.
Sponsor me if you can, at my Just Giving page
and sign my petition, at 38 degrees

Return of the Virtual Nomad

virtual nomad sticky

Well, now that I am back on the wing and back in the gym, I am also free to continue with my Travels of a Virtual Nomad.  However, there has been a slight change.

As many of you will be aware, my intention was to run, ride and row in the prison gym, following a virtual route around the country and beyond whilst keeping a diary on this site of where I would be if I were free to follow the route in real life.  The sponsorship was intended to go to the absolutely fantastic charity, Not Shut Up who help prisoners all around the country with their involvement in the arts, and who deserve far more recognition for their efforts.  However, due to technical difficulties at my end (and completely beyond the control of Not Shut Up ) it has not been possible to facilitate this.  So instead I have had to change my recipient charity to the equally deserving Koestler Trust.

The Koestler Trust work tirelessly to hold an annual competition in which prisoners are awarded recognition of their work in the form of certificates and prizes.  They also run a scheme in which those prisoners who show a particular commitment to the arts are given the opportunity to work with a Koestler mentor.

This work is priceless to prisoners who might otherwise have no outlet for their talents and I would ask all of you to follow and sponsor my journey for the benefit of The Koestler Trust‘s work and of the artistic interests of prisoners up and down the country.

But I would also like to ask you to visit the site of Not Shut Up, too.  They are hugely deserving of any donation you might feel able to give, and go to great lengths to encourage prisoners (including myself) with our involvement in the arts.  Please give them the recognition they deserve and donate whatever you can.


Censoring the Arts

I’ve written a fair bit about how other people have been affected by the prison service attitude towards the arts. Now I’ve been hit by it myself.

In my twelve years inside I’ve never entered the Koestler Awards. I write fiction, non-fiction, poetry, autobiography, and articles, and I draw and paint too. But I’ve never had the right pieces around at the right times to submit. This year I thought I’d make an effort to address that. I pulled together a lot of my work, in all different areas, and was in the process of preparing it to send off when the Koestler co-ordinator here at Wakefield voiced ‘concerns’ about one of my entries.

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