We’re All Prisoners Of Something

We’re All Prisoners Of Something

“We may all be prisoners of something – poverty, love, money, sex, loneliness, religious belief, power, ambition, greed, debt, a job, a garden, a dog, train-time-tables, a mortgage, perhaps just the grocery bill”, says film maker Peter Greenaway.    Pace Photography photo walks and “We’re all prisoners of something”, 2017 handmade photo books exhibition in collaboration with artist paula roush, ACAVA and Venture Community Association were inspired by Greenaway’s “The Tulse Luper Suitcases”.  Tulse Luper, was a professional writer and project-maker, caught up in a life of prisons.  I taught in prison education from 2012 to 2016, one of the projects I worked on was the Virtual Campus website.  The website rocketed prison education and resettlement delivery into a new dimension.  Learning and Skills, ICT, IOMU and Security teams delivered online learning technology to benefit clients without the risks. Digital kiosks and in-cell telephones are part of life at private prisons.  Virtual Campus registration campaigns were marketed and booked on PODS located on house blocks also known as wings.

The project was grounded in the values of progress, service and team spirit.  Staff across the business went the extra mile to provide an innovative, high quality service to our client NOMS.  We paid attention to the detail in the IT Security Policy; working with each other to reduce reoffending.   We all know that computers, mobiles phones and the internet can be abused.  Some might say websites are a luxury offenders can do without.  We can’t leave ex-offenders unprepared the Information Age and the IT changes they will encounter on release.  Computers have changed over the years; first they fit into a room, then on a desk, then on our laps and now in our pockets. Virtual Campus has changed as well, high speed broadband and high-spec software give offender-learners secure access to a range of content.   The creation of interactive information for prisoners with partners like the Virtual Campus Content Mastermind Group and testing 64 pieces of domestic violence and sex work material for use outside IOMU business hours, led by the Pathways 8&9 Co-odinator, showed e-learning’s transformative potential.

Hours of purposeful activity on the Virtual Campus will not replicate the experience of using popular search engines.  However, offender-learners can build online profiles, message tutors, search for jobs and take online exams.  The Virtual Campus Tutor accepted or rejected applications based on an individual’s security clearance.  Security played an important role in accessing the elearning website, all learners were risked assessed, as not all offenders could use the website.  Learners transferred from other prisons couldn’t reinvent themselves as their usernames stay fixed to the conventions used at the establishment that created them.  Administering exams on the Virtual Campus enhanced the experiences of learners.  Learners’ certificates could be printed immediately which suited the needs of remand prisons with high turnovers of people.

Learners visited JustMentoring, carried out job search, took the mock driving theory test and wrote their CVs.  Some offender-learners had never used a computer before, others began Open University Access to degrees courses in sought after STEM subjects.  The implementation of the Virtual Campus was a vision; welcomed by staff trained using the ‘train the trainer’ model to be VC Champions.  Elearning in education classrooms helped tutors overcome barriers to using websites in the delivery of Literacy and Numeracy.  I worked on the Virtual Campus website from 2014 to 2016 because I loved learning technology and because I hated the 45% return rate to offending.  The dream of websites on wings was one small step for CJS and one giant leap forward for prisoners inside.

My 2017 photo walk project is inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s “Wheatfields Series”.    The ‘Twilight Golborne Series’ will feature wellbeing walks, simple night photography, basic and a series of five photographs printed on cotton canvas.  Photo walkers will use and to shoot the Golborne area at twilight.  The juxtaposition of Twilight and photography is important.  Van Gogh writes:  “I’ve tried to express the time of day when one sees the green beetles and the cicadas flying in the heat.”  Eating and drinking is an important part of the project as we come together at dinner time so we’ll provide a simple meal such as soup.  “To do good work one must eat well, be well housed, have one’s fling from time to time, smoke one’s pipe, and drink one’s coffee in peace,” said Van Gogh.  Twilight Photo Walks with Dee Semple begin on Tuesday 10th October, from 6 – 8pm.

Venture Photography walking and photography groups for the North Kensington community are free to attend and open to all skill levels.  Pinhole Photography, Digital Photography and Twilight Photo Walks are taking place throughout the year.  Equipment is provided and places will be allocated on a first come first served basis.  Please contact Venture Community Association to register.  This post contains links which if you click on may earn me money.

Photograph by:  Adult Play, Afsheen Haider, 2016,


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