The National Literacy Trust - New Chapters
08 August 2023
Thanks to the ongoing support of The Rothschild Foundation, The National Literacy Trust have been able to continue delivering our New Chapters project in 2023 with brilliant success. New Chapters aims to inspire young people in prisons, Young Offender Institutions and other secure settings to find their voice and tell their stories through the power of creative writing.
The Rothschild Foundation has funded the project since its inception in 2018 and currently support work in HMPYOI Aylesbury, Oakhill Secure Training Centre and HMP Grendon/Springhill. The central tenant of the project is creative writing workshops led by authors with relatable lived experience to the participants. Recent workshops have been led by the poets Raymond Antrobus and Jamie Thrasivoulou, novelists Max Porter and Moses McKenzie, and non-fiction author Derek Bardowell, as well as sessions recorded by National Prison Radio and a regular, monthly writing group. All these sessions helped participants to feel more confident about expressing themselves in writing.
Across May and June 2023, the project was delivered in Oakhill, a Secure Training Centre for young people aged 12-17 who are in custody. It is currently the only setting of its type in England and Wales and holds a maximum of around 85 young people, who are usually there either because they are too vulnerable, or young, to be sent to a YOI. It is a uniquely challenging setting but also a place of extraordinary potential. This year, we focused on lyric writing with young people interested in spitting bars and discussing the music they listened to, even if ‘poetry’ or ‘creative writing’ didn’t inspire them. It made a difference to work with the same groups over multiple sessions, particularly for a cohort for whom building trust can be the biggest challenge. It was also powerful to take the genres, interests and artists that the young people enjoyed and use them as a springboard for inspiring them to tell their own stories, improve their confidence, and develop their analytical and critical thinking skills.
By the end of the project, two groups of young people had produced an EP of tracks they had written and co-produced themselves, which they received as a CD, as well as a booklet of reflective writing they produced in the discussion sessions. You can listen to the EPs – Reborn and Stuck in Time – on Spotify and find out more about the New Chapters programme here.