Monday, 24 January 2011

Letters to a Young Person

The Level 3 students have started their Prison Theatre module with Keith. It's the first time we've run it and it's already producing some interesting debates and ideas. Last week Glyn Banks, a criminologist, came in to give a talk and this week Chris Streeks, a former prisoner, who's spent most of his adult life inside, came to talk about the criminal justice system from a prisoners point of view.

Chris's journey is a remarkable one, he became involved in drama classes, managed to get a scholarship to RADA and now works as both an actor and an spokesman for the Prison Reform Trust. Theatre literally gave him the opportunity to escape and imagine a different way of living. He's got a career, a mortgage, a publishing deal, a family and is looking forward to a bright future.

Most importantly he's clearly relishing every moment of his freedom and is absolutely committed to helping young people who find themselves faced with the same dangers and heading down the same road as he did as a teenager. The thing that makes him most proud is that he is now a tax payer - a net giver rather than taker. He repeated this four or five times during his talk each time fixing his audience in the eye. At first it seemed a surprising criteria by which to judge your success, but it was clear listening that he's had to shrug off a burden of low expectations and deprecations to arrive where he is now. It was an inspiring afternoon affirming the value of well timed initiatives and the power of education to lift disaffected people out of trapped lives.

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