The idea for the Creative Prison project was born partly out of private frustration, and partly out of acknowledgment of a public failure. The failure is the failure of the prison system in the U.K. Working within prisons one is constantly coming up against the problem of space – a lack of it, and poor design.
Recognising that the large majority of our prisons were built for an earlier idea of criminal justice in which punishment was everything, we became interested in talking to prison staff and prisoners about what a different kind of prison might look like. This imagined prison would place rehabilitation and education at its centre.
We found an architect interested in this proposal, Will Alsop, and a prison, HMP Gartree where the then governor Rannoch Daly was willing to assist. This was in 2004. It required us to raise a substantial amount of money, around £120,000 in order to realise the project successfully.
The fund-raising was eventually successful and we also managed to bring Wates Construction Ltd on board, in order to help us with the implications of design ideas emerging.
We had always wanted for the designs coming out the consultation process to be represented in an exhibition. Initially we wanted a large-scale model of the designs, but as it turned out, we opted for sculptural interpretations alongside.
The exhibition comprised Alsop’s designs, sculptural interpretations of them by prisoners participating who worked under the guidance of sculptor Jon Ford, a short film by squint/opera showing the interior of the imagined prison and a further video by Shona Illingworth. The latter reflected more upon the present situation of confinement as experienced by inmates today.
More detailed information will be available soon at www.creativeprison.com