This year’s entrants gained 1st prize in the Short Story Advanced and Intermediate Category, as well as 1st place in Poetry Getting Started.
HMP Magilligan writers scooped three 1st prizes in the Listowel Writer’s Week under Writing in Prison category, 2016. This builds on their 2015 achievements when three awards were received and one award in 2014.
Listowel Writer’s Week Literary festival established in Kerry 1970 is considered one of Ireland’s foremost festivals. The first workshop was introduced in 1971 with the writing competitions following. Listowel believe that the combination of celebration and workshops are fundamental to creativity.
Listowel has many dimensions, one of which enables prison writings in Ireland, and grants a number of awards to prisoners through writing competitions each year. This opportunity assists inmates to gain a platform for their writing. Participants in workshops within HMP Magilligan have been engaging with creative writing through the Prison Arts Foundation (PAF) funded by the Department for Justice (DoJ) through the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS), and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI). The benefits are far wider than anything one would traditionally associate with a writing class. Adele Campbell PAF’s Project Coordinator said
Our Creative Arts Residencies offer a refreshingly different approach across a range of disciplines which are readily adaptable to work alongside existing programmes and initiatives in Northern Ireland’s prisons. During 2015/16 we engaged over 511 inmates in 159 creative writing classes in HMP Magilligan. The main benefit is giving inmates a voice to express themselves, teaching them to have a voice. It can be very powerful and self therapeutic.
One participant said about the creative writing classes
they give us focus, release and creative output; they help us to put plans and direction together for when we are released…it has definitely kept my head right throughout my time, this point in particular cannot be understated.
The winning entries reached the highest level of achievement in terms of the content and style, and uniquely each winner wanted to tell their story. The Writer First Prize in the Short Story Advanced Category tells about a writer struggling to find a narrative for a story. Coco and the Glider First Prize in the Intermediate Category is a story of childhood adventure and daring. Midnight Gamers First prize in the Poetry Getting Started Category reflects the modern phenomena of online gaming and young people in a virtual world.
Pamela Brown, PAF’s Writer-in-Residence at HMP Magilligan said
Prison is unlike any other creative writing environment because the setting is intensely focused on the creative process. Basically, the tools for writing are not modern technology rather more it is the basic pen, paper and the writer. Yet, this does not inhibit the outcomes, and the Listowel Awards are testimony to the hard work, dedication, and the inspired writers who have attended the workshops.
Noirin McKinney, ACNI’s Director of Arts Development said
Arts programmes in a prison setting are an invaluable tool for providing positive opportunities to help individuals discover and learn new artistic skills which benefit the individual as-well as the wider community. Congratulations to the Northern Ireland writers who won awards in the Listowel Writer’s Week, an accolade which I’m sure will empower them to continue writing.