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Spirit of Hay-on-Wye festival at Bridgend prison

As one of the world’s biggest literary festivals continues at Hay-on-Wye on the English-Welsh border, a prison in south Wales is hosting its own festival to strengthen education

Now in its eighth year, HM Prison Parc’s annual literary festival “Hay-in-the-Parc” this year sees more than 20 workshops and talks by writers, poets an artists at the 1,723 capacity adult male prison, which is managed by security firm G4S.

Running over two weeks, prisoners will attend events hosted by artists including Mercury Prize-nominated singer Sam Lee, theatre director Abdul Shayek, poet and Chairman of Tiger Bay Youth Development Football Club, Ahmed Hassan and Young People’s Laureate for Wales, Sophie McKeand. 

Prisoners will also launch their own book at the event, On Road, which is a celebration of Gypsy, Roma, Traveller (GRT) writing, which Dr Conn Mac Gabhann from the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain’s Traveller Equality Project describes as the “finest collection of Traveller lives told by Travellers”.

Community lead for HMP Parc and organiser of Hay-in-the-Parc, Phil Forder, said:

“With as many as one in five prisoners having primary school level reading and writing ability, Hay-in-the-Parc is another opportunity to engage positively with prisoners to improve literacy and nurture the skills which will ultimately help to break the cycle of crime.

“The prisoner-led anthology launched at this year’s Hay-in-the-Parc, On Road, is a fantastic set of stories worthy of anyone’s bookshelf and I am incredibly proud of the authors, many of whom have struggled with education for many years and started out with very little interest in writing.”

Deputy Director for HMP Parc, Lisette Saunders, said:

“Hay-in-the-Parc is an important part of our efforts to educate and challenge prisoners to develop new perspectives so that they can improve their lives and prospects and ultimately turn away from crime when they return to our communities.”  

Artistic Director for the FIO theatre company, Abdul Shayek, who ran two workshops during Hay-in-the-Parc, said:

“It was a pleasure coming to work in the prison and I felt that the guys who attended our workshops were really engaged and interested in what we were offering and more importantly the potential skills and opportunities the work might lead to in the future.”

In his foreword to On Road, Manager for the Traveller Equality Project at the Irish Chaplaincy of Britain, Dr Conn Mac Gabhann, said:

On Road is a stunning collection primarily because it does not edit out, or change the real voices of Gypsies and Travellers.  We often hear about Travellers but we so rarely hear from Travellers and this collection from HMP Parc goes a long distance in challenging this trend.

On Road is the finest collection of Traveller lives told by Travellers that I have ever encountered.”

The publication of On Road follows the launch last year of Inside and Out, a collection of writing from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender prisoners and staff at HM Prison Parc and comes ahead of a new book by trans prisoners from across England and Wales to be published soon.