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I am an Officer/Instructor at HMP Wakefield and I am in charge of The Charity Workshop, where we employ twenty offenders making craft type items which we sell or donate to charities and good causes.
Late in 2007 The Anne Frank Trust visited the establishment as part of their tour and I was fortunate enough to be shown around it, I came away feeling very humbled by it. Later that day, I met Steve Gadd who asked about the possibility of the Workshop making some items for the Trust, how could I refuse.
Luckily for me Phil Spicer joined the team just as the drawings from Steve arrived; Phil quickly took it on board and with a group of 6 lads began work on 2 collection boxes and a cut away version of the house.
The end results were amazing, and the attention to detail was mind blowing, but for me, the best thing was watching 6 Offenders from very different backgrounds work together as part of a team, all of them very committed and interested in what they were doing and not a cross word between them.
It also inspired me to visit the actual Anne Frank House over in Amsterdam, (getting a VIP tour) which is something I would recommend to any body.
I am very proud of what the team has achieved and as a Prison Officer it is a very rare occasion when you can say you are proud of your Offenders.
We have been staging this exhibition in prisons over the last 6 years with continued success and interest. We have visited all categories of prisons in this time and both male and female.
This event is for prisoners and prison staff as it confronts issues of racism, bullying and social responsibility amongst many other issues.
We draw on the power of Anne Frank’s life and diary to challenge prejudice and reduce hatred, encouraging people to embrace positive attitudes, responsibility and respect for others.
We include additional programmes into this event such as a talk from a Holocaust survivor, a creative writing workshop, and ironically a programme called "Free 2 Choose" which explores the boundaries of freedom, such as freedom of speech.
The creative writing workshop is presented by acclaimed poet Leah Thorn. This has produced some very powerful work from the prisoners, (which on occasion they have performed at the end ceremony of the event.) One of the poems won a Koestler prize (Sir John Cass Award) in 2007.
The prisoners themselves volunteer to be the guides throughout the exhibition, and present it in their own styles to prisoners, staff and guests. They are integral to this exhibition and learn a lot from this experience, and develop new skills.
HMP Wakefield (Cat A high security) hosted this event in 2007 and the Braille workshop presented us with a transcription of the panels of the exhibition.
We were of course extremely grateful to them, and which we now exhibit.
Whilst there I was taken on a tour of the prison by the organiser of the event Mr Chris Robinson (Head of Operations) and visited the Charity Workshop. When I saw the things that they produced mostly from reclaimed materials for places such as children’s hospitals, I was extremely impressed. I got talking to Mr Andy Charles (Charity W/shop) about the exhibition and how well it had gone, he said that they might be able to do something for our exhibition, perhaps a model of the Anne Frank House. I said that would be a wonderful idea, but thought no more of it!
A few weeks later they informed me that they were going to make 2 large (approx 4’ 6" x 3’ 6") donations boxes for our large community exhibition, and also a smaller scaled model (press cutting) for the prison exhibition. They would not send me pictures during the construction, and so I had no idea how they would turn out, but had seen great examples of their work when I visited before - so felt confident!
When they were eventually unveiled at the "handing over ceremony" we were truly taken aback with how good they looked and the high level of expertise that had gone into making them.
Not to put too fine a point on it - we were thrilled and extremely grateful for their generosity in support of the work that we do.
The small scaled model now accompanies the Prison exhibition, and the Donations go with the large exhibition throughout the UK.
Anne Frank herself would have been very proud!