Male and female prisoners at Magilligan and Hydebank prisons have won an array of literary awards in major writing competitions.
Supported by Prison Arts Foundation (PAF) and the North West Regional College (NWRC), a 42-year-old prisoner at Magilligan won first prize in the Listowel Writers’ Festival Short Story competition. Another 24-year-old prisoner at Magilligan also picked up the runners up prize in a competition run by publisher Picador and the national charity The Reading Agency.
The Listowel Writers’ Week is Ireland’s longest established literary and arts festival and this year saw prisoners from Magilligan and Hydebank female prison feature among the winners.
Alongside the Short Story Advanced competition winner, another male prisoner at Magilligan took second prize in the Short Story Intermediate section, while a further prison writer was Highly Commended for their poetry.
And at Hydebank a 32-year-old female prisoner won second prize in the Listowel 'Poetry Getting Started' competition.
Speaking about the achievement, PAF’s Executive Director, Fred Caulfield said: ‘This is yet again a tremendous accomplishment by the writer’s group at Magilligan. We have all been profoundly impacted by the levels of isolation during the pandemic. There were concerns about how the virus would affect prisons and prisoners but Prison Arts Foundation were willing to go the extra mile to continue engagement. The awards secured by prisoners simply demonstrates the importance of meeting these challenges and continuing to engage and provide positive activities.’
Pamela Brown, PAF Writer-in-Residence at Magilligan and who has also been facilitating Creative Writing Workshops with female prisoners in Hydebank during lockdown, said: ‘It’s been difficult not having face-to-face classes with prisoners. However, competitions such as the 500-word challenge by The Reading Agency and The Listowel Prison Writing competition help us to continue the work with prisoners interested in writing, and also provides very important outlets for their work.”
Hydebank Governor Richard Taylor said: “This is testimony to the support given to the women in our care by Prison Arts Foundation and especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The winning poem by our female prisoner entitled ‘Can You See Me?’ is about mental health and reflects the current challenges.”
Magilligan Prison Governor Gary Milling said: “Creative writing is an important part of the purposeful activity and support we provide in the rehabilitation process, helping those in our care return to the community and turn away from re-offending.”
Notes to editors:
1. Listowel Writers’ Week is Ireland’s longest established literary and arts festival. Leading writers, artists, and poets from across the world have celebrated their craft for 50 years in the heritage town in County Kerry. The first writer workshops were introduced in 1971 and the competitions soon followed.
2. Listowel has many dimensions to Writers’ Week, including the awards granted to prisoners in the poetry and short story award categories. This opportunity provides inmates with a platform to share their writing.
3. For media enquiries contact the Department of Justice Press Office at email@example.com
4. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted out of hours on 028 9037 8110.
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