Inspiring creativity and encouraging personal and social change through the arts

The Prison Arts Foundation is as important as it is unique. Thanks to our pioneering work with people with convictions lives are being transformed and patterns of behaviour changed for good.

Our team of experienced professional artists working across the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland are offering people with convictions a life-line, helping to improve their creative and communications skills, which is key to personal and social development, building self-confidence and unlocking people’s potential.

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Writing (Short Story)

What Value

It’s the loneliness that gets me I suppose though I’m surrounded by masses of people. I only feel alone without my loved ones near. For over four years the world has ceased to exist. I wonder how others are coping with self-isolation. The mundane feeling of rising each day without purpose, and a sense that you are no longer in control of anything in your life. The boredom of watching a clock hand that moves as if laden with a great weight, attempting to stop it completely. Days in solitude are long.

Having no say in decisions related to my everyday life leaves me exhausted, with a broken spirit and my mind fatigued. This nothingness surrounds each day. Like a bee spending hours gathering wood sap and carrying it to the hive, only to remain unused. I crave for the day when I can gather honey, with a pride now long lost. To take my place among my family. To remove some of the burden from their shoulders. The burden I placed there. Without them, I lack motivation, I wander aimless, in never ending circles.

I stand within a cage of my own making; displeased, dejected, depressed. From the barred windows I see a tarmacked lawn that runs until it meets a high reaching rock face of concrete walls, topped with vines of razor wire. It is dull, colourless and devoid of life. There is nothing to inspire me, to bring hope or lift my spirits.

And now you, and the rest of humanity, are forced to share my loneliness, my sadness and feelings of worthlessness. Will you, like me, step to the edge of insanity, yet have the strength to hang on until you are saved? Once released, will you start afresh and enjoy the freedom we have all taken for granted? Can we, the human race, now with a new beginning, recognise and value what we have missed so dearly, for so long.

In moments of solitude, my mind returns to the past. The present is too painful, my past is treasured, the future an obsession. The love of my life, my wife, our first kiss and the feeling of euphoria held inside for so long. The sadness of breaking up, the relief of making up, our wedding, our first house, our children. The power of love, the sheer magic of watching the children crawl, then walk before they could run, their tiny legs carrying them. The power granted to me, a giant to them. I could cure the nettle sting and the grazed knee with a single kiss to the wound, holding them in my arms, until they forgot. The warmth of our embrace and their arms out-stretched as they would fly passed me like a bird.

They grew from short trousers, to long trousers. I was the sage, dispensing knowledge, wisdom and guidance on all things that affected them. They trans-formed me: a fool into someone who was needed, a hero in his own right.

Years later I was rewarded with further cute, defenceless babes calling me ‘Ganda’. These children are non-judgmental of all my mistakes, and laugh loudly at the old wrinkled creature I have become. Their laughter is infectious, such a pleasant sound to hear.

There is truly a wonderful life waiting for us all when our shared incarceration is finished. All we have to do is prioritise what we need, and put to the side what we want. We have all we need around us if we stop focusing on greed, indifference and selfishness.

Am I alone?

HMP Magilligan

1st Prize Short Story/Article Themed ‘Lockdown’, Prison Arts Foundation, 2020

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