College staff help organise prison literary festival

Weston College staff have helped ‘learners’ of a Wiltshire prison organise a unique literary festival.

‘Penned Up’ is a two-week event being held at Erlestoke Prison – one of 19 prisons in which the College delivers education services.

Ex-government minister Jonathan Aitken and award-winning TV writer Jimmy McGovern are among 25 speakers at the event, which takes place from the 11th to 21st of March.

Penned Up is unique because prison residents are largely responsible for organising the event – including nominating speakers, choosing venues, producing publicity materials and introducing speakers.

The idea behind the event, now in its third year, is to address issues that affect learners and show that a life without crime is possible. Learners will get to hear talks on topics including foster care, family break ups, sentencing, depression and addiction.

Speakers are carefully chosen to inspire people without lecturing them on what they should do or how they should live. They include artists, musicians, broadcasters, authors and other well-known figures – many of whom have convictions or experienced difficult periods in their life.

The Big Issue founder John Bird, ex-Arsenal FC vice-chairman David Dein and best-selling crime writer Sarah Hilary all appear on the list of speakers.

Check out the dates and line up here