Workshops have 
taken place in HMP Magilligan since 2011

Inmates at HMP Magilligan have received three prestigious writers’ awards this year for their work with The Playhouse Artskills project.

Participants have received three awards from the Writers in Prison categories at the prestigious Listowel writers Festival 2015, following on from a first place award last year.

Those taking part in workshops within Magilligan have been engaging in creative writing with facilitator Pamela Brown through The Playhouse Artskills project since 2011, achieving numerous OCN accreditations, including Performance Skills with facilitator John Mulkeen, and Mixed Media with facilitator Peter E Davidson, to name a few.

An innovative approach to literacy training which uses the arts as an alternative medium to develop literacy skills, The Playhouse Artskills Project is kindly funded by The Department of Employment and Learning, The European Social Fund, and The Arts Council.

Facilitator Pamela said, “The winning entries reached the level of achievement in terms of the structure and presentation guidelines, while uniquely each winner wanted to tell their story.

“‘Jimmy Two Ice-Creams’ is an example of a first prize in the short story intermediate section. The story is a modern urban myth about a man who mysteriously buys two ice creams yet only eats one.

“‘Steppin’ Out’, second in the advanced short story category, is about a doctor working in a refugee camp enduring frustration and setbacks until he meets a fishermen with one arm.

“‘The Wind’, first prize in the poetry starter category, is a 14 line poem about a gust of wind that enters a room.”

Talking about the project she continued, “Prison is unlike any other creative writing environment in that its setting is intensely focused and the creative process is pared down to essentials in space with writing time dependent on other routines and strictures.

“Basically the tools do not comprise modern technology rather more it is a pen, paper and the writer. Yet, this does not inhibit the outcomes and the Listowel awards are a testimony to the hard work, dedication and inspired writers that have attended the workshops.

“It is a process impossible to define but through the workshops and the motivation instilled in the writers the results achieved become part of a much larger perspective and outcome.”

Performance Skills facilitator John Mulkeen said, “Participants at Magilligan responded enthusiastically to a practical, dynamic programme that introduced learning outcomes in an engaging way.

“Taking part in drama based work requires trust, bravery and an open mind and I feel that the Artskills project provided an environment where this was possible. The results were a group that engaged not only with the work but with each other in an energetic, attentive and respectful way.

“It was a proud moment to see everyone in the group participate in the showcase event. One of the unmeasurable benefits that drama can bring is a sense of self confidence and the fact that every student performed was a testament to how far they had come during the project.

“Working in a prison environment brings its own set of challenges but as a facilitator all you can ask for is for a group to have an open mind and a willingness to engage. In Magilligan I found this to be the case from not only the group but the staff as well, making it a truly rewarding and inspiring process.”

Artskills project co-ordinator Ann Marie Thompson finshed, “The Artskills workshops have taken place in Magilligan since 2011, enriching lives and providing valuable qualifications for prisoners. We are just so proud of the fabulous work they have produced, they grasped every opportunity with both hands, making our job so rewarding, congratulations to everyone involved!”

Visit the Artskills website for more information on