What we've been up to this month:

After only working for Storybook Dads for a few months I was excited about the prospect of going to a women’s prison (HMP Styal) to deliver training so that various Storybook Mums activities could be developed there.

I was surprised when I arrived with my colleague, Kizzy, as it didn’t look a prison setting. The prison itself was made up of large but pretty red brick houses. HMP Styal was developed from a previous children’s home and had used the original buildings. I later found out that each house held between 20-24 woman in dorms of two, three or four beds. Each house had a communal living room and a kitchen, although no cooker! The grounds were pretty and well maintained and seemed to be a home for many families of ducks.

Una, HMP Styal’s librarian and Storybook Mums coordinator greeted us and we quickly prepared for the arrival of the women prisoners. It didn’t take long for the nine women to get creative with most of them surprising themselves with skills they didn’t know they had. The initial lack of confidence and protests of ‘I can’t do this,’ and ‘I’ll never be able to use a computer,’ quickly changed to encouraging words to the others such as, ‘have a go at this, if I can do it anyone can’ and ‘I never knew making a calendar could be so much fun’.

 After a productive morning, we stopped for lunch. We were taken to a beautiful building with large stained glass windows which used to be a chapel but is now an a la carte restaurant called The Clink which is on the prison grounds but outside the actual prison.  It is run on the same basis as the other Clink restaurants at HMP Brixton, HMP Cardiff and HMP High Down and is a working restaurant, open to the public, which offers opportunities to prisoners to train and qualify as chefs or as front of house staff. The food and service was outstanding and surpassed all our expectations. We found out from our waitress that most people who trained there often gained employment due to the high level of experience gained.  A winning restaurant in so many ways.

Our visit to HMP Styal was a very positive and productive one. Throughout the day twenty personalised picture frames, calendars, reward charts and memory books were completed. The women were extremely proud of their achievements and now that we have delivered the pilot workshop, Una, the librarian, will be able to deliver many more.  It was such a rewarding experience and I feel proud to be part of Storybook Dads/ Mums.  

Anna – Project worker HMP Channing’s Wood.