From the editor: Delivering culture
Marek Kazmierski, Not Shut Up s Managing Editor, took Dean Stalham, our 25th issue s cover star, on the quarterly dash around London s prisons to deliver our latest magazine. Here s his diary from an eventful day in the capital
The life of a managing editor is full of glamour and adventure. This of course includes personally delivering a thousand copies of our magazine to nine London jails in a single day of driving, four times a year. The latest delivery marathon happened last week, with the summer issue.
The driving was done by our cover star, Dean Stalham, who pushed the limits of his Peugeot s suspension (and those of his patience) battling London traffic with me from 8am to 4pm.
Brixton, Wandsworth, Feltham, Wormwood Scrubs, Pentonville, Holloway, Belmarsh, Isis, Thameside the names do strike fear into human hearts. Even I, having worked in some of these jails, still get a tingle of fear when typing them here.
Brixton, 8am, a car was overturned in the High Street (someone clearly desperate to get to work Monday morning), so we had to skip that one and head West. I will have to deliver the magazines there another time, but that might give me the excuse to actually go into the prison and run some workshops while delivering the mags.
Wandsworth, 9am, an ambulance and some police cars parked outside.
Might keep us waiting and delay the magazine relay race! I go up to the front gate, bearing a clip board and my best prison governor, Jedi mind trick, deep conviction voice I have magazines for the Library, where do you want them? The gate staff wave me into the massive gates, I drop off a few hundred copies and come out to see a young kid in a track suit walk up to the interceptor police car (they re the ones with the black hood, packed full of firearms) and try the door.
Thankfully, its locked, and the kid vanishes before I can mention it to anyone. Naughty, naughty.
Feltham is an hour s drive away, the place I worked in for ten years. The drop is easy, round the back of the Works department, but it always has my heart rising for the throat seeing that horrid fortress plonked deep into Surrey green belt, planes taking off over it from Heathrow every ninety seconds, as if to torture the souls stuck behind its bars (prisoners and staff alike).
Then the long drive back towards London.
Wormwood Scrubs, mags scanned by security, take their boxes deep into bowels of the prison, and we have a coffee at Koestler, discussing the autumn issue.
Noon means a pause in proceedings, all prison gates shut for lunch, so we have coffee with Mona from Pentonville s library and one of its tutors, Jose Aguiar, discussing books behind bars and the politics of culture. We then pop round to Mark Johnson s new HQ opposite the prison check out his amazing initiative Can Do Coffee.
Pentonville has the most awful gates round the back of the jail one ancient brass bell with its button missing, another modern plastic one, its button too pulled out long ago (by irate delivery drivers?). Here, I learnt he trick of patience one hard knock, wait a minute, another bit of hammering on the massive steel gates, wait as long as it takes.
They all open eventually.
Holloway is just round the corner, and we always seem to have problems there no one seems to want to take our magazines in, not even the visitors centre! This time however, a friendly face at the gate waves me in, I plonk the magazines inside the secure lock and get back to Dean s car, where he jokes that he never expected to be delivering magazines to prisons where he once did time certainly not magazines bearing his grinning face on the cover!
As we drive, we discuss Dean s play and his book of memoirs. This is one man so bursting with anecdotes, I am hoping his autobiography will blow the book sales charts apart next year!
Down the Blackwall tunnel and south of the river, towards Kent and the mysterious fortress that is maximum security HMP Belmarsh.
We just make the drop off before the external gates shut for the day, then scoot round to HMP Isis, leave the magazines in reception, and on to HMP Thameside round the corner, where Serco staff help me bring the magazines into their store room.
Eight hours, 50 miles and all those awful peeling gates, watched over by security cameras and barbed wire, in a single day can feel a bit much.
But then again, it s good to get out of the office and remind myself where our magazines end up.
And why creative thinking, reading and writing in prison is a clever way to disrupt the system which for generations has been failing individuals, families, communities and our society as a whole.
- ^ BLOGS (www.notshutup.org)
- ^ Marek Kazmierski (www.notshutup.org)
- ^ Dean Stalham (www.notshutup.org)
- ^ Koestler (www.notshutup.org)
- ^ London (www.notshutup.org)
- ^ Marek Kazmierski (www.notshutup.org)
- ^ Not Shut Up (www.notshutup.org)
- ^ prison art (www.notshutup.org)
- ^ prison writing (www.notshutup.org)