Recent projects and press

Probation Hostel      
Youth Offending Service      
Reading Jail      
Cranbury College PRU      

Sue O’Hara, Manager Thames Valley Probation, said: ‘You clearly have a rare and unique talent to have worked alongside our residents to develop them to produce such excellent results.’


Thames Valley Probation noted that the project brought: ‘better working relationships between staff and residents, better communication between residents, seeing residents in a different light, revealing hidden talents, therefore more peaceful environment and better chance that resettlement work the staff do succeeds for the men.’ 9 individual participant entries to the Koestler Awards for poetry, and one poetry anthology entry with 20 participants. 2 entries to the Prison Reform Trust Awards for original music 3 Video Nation films with participants on BBC site The project won this year’s Lemos and Crane prisoneractionnet Award, of £1000, for excellence in strengthening positive identity and belonging in prisoners and ex-prisoners, from 80 project entries nationwide. One example: Jamie, one of Reading’s most prolific offenders, whose photo has been on the Police Station wall since before he was 12, and had been in secure custody twice by the age of 17, worked with us through Reading Youth Offending Service writing raps from Nov 2008 to the present and he has been out of trouble since that date. We will continue to mentor him. YOS Manager Sue Sherrard commented: ‘Caseworkers were able to see another positive and creative side to the young people giving a more balanced and holistic view aiding the identification of positive factors and positive behaviour. You also provided a project whereby an offender voluntarily attended sessions beyond the end of their legal requirements to work with the YOS, not something regularly witnessed by the service.’


Jon Potter gained skills and insight into working with a radio station, through project set-up and presenting over a week. 4 new poems by John Hegley. John said he thought they were some of his best lines for a while. We believe John’s new character for his performances, Monsieur Robinet, is to become a character that has been in prison in the past. 3 new original compositions by Stephen Hiscock, one for Thames Valley Chorus, recorded by 14 singers at Radio Berkshire. 1 new original composition, James Ewers, My Luminaries, and performance at Made in England event, Salisbury Cathedral, with project presentation. A project book for all participants, with poems and back-story from the project and poems by John Hegley.


BBC Radio Berkshire 4 days of coverage in Breakfast, 9 – 10am, with Andrew Peach. Berkshire reaches 180,000 listeners a week, 15% of the area population. Andrew Peach said ‘We’ve had lots of feedback so far, none of it negative actually’. Very positive response and support from Marianne Bell, Station Editor. Radio contributions by: 10 project writers, and Jon Potter (Company Paradiso), John Hegley, Kerri-Ann Billington (Thames Valley Probation), Sue Sherrard (Reading YOS), Tim Turnbull (Writer-in-Residence, Edinburgh Prison), James Ewers, Thames Valley Chorus, Erwin James (Prison commentator and Guardian writer), Rod Liddle (commentator and journalist) and many radio station listeners. Also trails, a news item, extensive web coverage and web forums. ‘Life story’ item, 1 hour on Sarah Walker’s Afternoon Show, Monday, with Suzy Liew (Cranbury College Pupil Referral Unit) and Judy Munday (Thames Valley Partnership) on Thursday. BBC Head of English Regions, David Holdsworth, told us he heard our Berkshire broadcasts and liked them. BBC Trust Chairman Sir Michael Lyons will visit Radio Berkshire in the near future and they plan to take him to the Probation Hostel to meet writers from the project. Project covered on BBC Radio 4 ‘Pick of the Week’ with Jenni Murray. 1 x half hour ‘Project Special’ to come in May, presented by project writer ‘Michael’, which may enter for next year’s Guillard and Sony Awards.


Jon Potter- ‘A complicated set-up, with new partners in a new area. If I did a similar project again, I would be more aware of how prison and probation services work, and could be more directed in my approach. I was quite scared going into the probation setting, but would not be now - I have respectful and very friendly relationships there. The project was more emotionally involving than anything we had done before. We were going deeply into people’s lives, hearing a lot of stuff – some of it about children for example – and needed good support in this, which we did have.’


Jon Potter: ‘we managed to ‘do the double’, winning the Lemos and Crane Award, for work with offenders, and to get a the top broadcast accolade, being chosen for Radio 4 ‘Pick of the Week’. But most of all, finding such wonderful lines. Here’s John Hegley: I said to the lads in the jail Your poems put wind in my sail You could make it your job We don’t want to rob All the world of the chance to dance in the thrill of your gale These lads sometimes need to be told How their poems are pieces of gold With a bit of our aid we can sharpen the shade Of the blistering history they hold It helps none of us if we should fail. Before it's recent work with young people, the company toured phisical / visual theatre productions in Britain and abroad. Previous shows have won a Fringe First at the Edinburgh festival and been directed by, amongst others, Steven Daldry and Mike Alfreds. Our most recent professional production, 'Waiting for Barry' in 2000, was discribed by Total Theatre as "a rare thing: theatre that uses not just live music, but the intrinsic musicality of voice and music". 'I only came to use the phone' 1998-1999 was discribed by The Stage as having "real star quality". Click here to read about the 'Your Story' pilot project