“Life without industry is guilt, industry without art is brutality.” - John Ruskin
Prisons are, by nature, hugely negative spaces, full of lost souls and decaying dreams. Even the strongest of hearts will often find it hard to cope within them. The arts have provided prisoners with ways to demonstrate their humanity for decades. Writing, drawing, playing music. All of these are used by prisoners both as a coping mechanism and as a way to contribute just a little bit of positivity into the universal pot.
However, a recent change to Ministry of Justice policy* threatens the very existence of the arts in British prisons. Guitars are now all but banned, art supplies are becoming extremely difficult for prisoners to order, many prisoners have had their own writing removed from their possession without any justification, and drama courses have now become almost unheard of across the prison estate.
The Koestler Trust (http://koestlertrust.org.uk/) is an organisation aiming to redress the balance. They work with prisoners to enable them in the pursuit of the arts. They hold an annual competition and award certificates and prizes as well as offering opportunities to a chosen few prisoners who show a real commitment to the arts for them to work with a Koestler mentor. The work they do is a lifeline for many prisoners who would have no outlet for their talents if it was not for their help.
As a serving prisoner, with a keen interest in both art and creative writing, I have a personal interest in maintaining the status of prison arts. But I also blog at http://adammac.co.uk and this provides me with a unique platform to actually do something positive to help the situation. That's why, from April 2014, I will be using the treadmill, exercise bike, and rowing machine in the prison gym to run, ride, and row around the world. However, unlike most sponsored runners, my incarceration means that I will have to follow a virtual route. What's more, I'll have no finish line. My aim is to keep going for as long as I am able, visiting as many interesting places on my virtual travels as possible – particularly places relevant to the arts. And, along the way, I'll be updating my blog to show my progress and to write about the places I 'visit' in a new section entitled 'Travels of a Virtual Nomad'.
By following my journey and donating to The Koestler Trust you can help maintain the availability of arts programmes and resources to British prisoners. Every pound counts and the funds you donate will help The Koestler Trust to work with prisoners to help them with their creative process, expressing something positive. It will also help The Koestler Trust to maintain their annual awards and their mentoring programme, giving prisoner writers, musicians, and artists an outlet for the material they produce, offering validation, and showing them how much they can achieve.
your help, my running, riding, and rowing can result only in
tiredness. With your
help, we can actually make a difference.
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