Real Retribution (Raw n’ Uncut)Reino Unido
Real Retribution (Raw n’ Uncut)
This is a collection of poems, raps, and short prose deriving from a collaboration between five women at HMP Downview, the librarians Kathryn Walter and Clare Canavan, and the university researchers Lucy Bell and Charlotte Dodds (University of Surrey) and Joey Whitfield (Cardiff University). Part of the wider Prisoner Publishing project, this creative writing programme was long-awaited: it had been planned and imagined before the Covid-19 pandemic, and had to be delayed and substituted with a remote in-cell creative writing project. But thanks to Kathryn’s and Clare’s perseverance, we were finally able to get this programme off the ground in person in October 2021, when UK prisons started being able to open their doors to outside visitors again. The HMP Downview workshops were run weekly over two months, and culminated in the launch of this book. Activities included those borrowed and adapted from our Latin American partners, like the Hermanas’ idea of writing a letter to yourself from someone who you’d really like to hear from – someone living or deceased – which produced powerful, cathartic results (some of which were too painful and personal to publish here). This loose structure was altered, tweaked or completely modified on a weekly basis, allowing for our lively participants to shape the content of the programme. As explained by Lúcia Rosa, founder of São Paulo-based cartonera publisher Dulcinéia Catadora, the encounters and exchanges that take place during the process of producing a book as a collective are more important than the final product. And testament to the portability of the cartonera model is the fact that we found this highly relational aspect of collective writing, making and publishing embodied here in the UK, in a perhaps unlikely setting: in a women’s prison in the midst of a global pandemic. Over two months of accompanying these five women on this journey through written and spoken words, we have seen, heard, and felt the power of learning and producing together to break down barriers and perceived individual differences. Our group was in many ways very heterogeneous, but these differences soon melted away as they came together for a collective purpose – to be creative and flex their writing skills. The participants’ wings, cell numbers, and friendship groups paled into insignificance because they created their own friendship group, as unlikely as it might seem. One based on mutual respect, compassion, and understanding. As ‘Manda describes in her poem that closes this collection, which expresses beautifully the value of writing beyond the written word itself: what emerged from this programme, was "far more than writing, with threads that don’t snap when we leave. A smile of shared laughter that lingers if we pass each other on our block. Respect for vulnerabilities shared and compassion where before there was not."