Welcome to the community fair! I just want to borrow your attention for a few moments to talk about how this event came about and why we are doing it. The charities we support today are Hemihelp and Macmillan. Macmillan because it means something to us, as Debs will show you when she shaves her head later. Hemihelp because it means a lot to me; as an unborn baby I had a breached birth (which makes a lot of sense because my arse is certainly larger than my head). A man in a position of power told my mum I needed to be turned externally and as he hurt my mum, she was told she was making a fuss. When I was diagnosed with a brain injury at 9 months old my mum was confronted with a room full of doctors, using their power to tell her not to sue the NHS. And so, my hatred for bullying and a misuse of power was born pretty early on. My ma is here today- she is the kindest, most perfect person I have ever met- please look after her.
All my life I have been told that I can’t do things. And words matter right? Because words shape who we are, labels define what kind of person we are, even how our future may pan out. Words like “you will never ride a bike, play a piano, run a good race” were pretty standard and into adulthood, the biggest one I get in bucket loads is “you will never change prison”.
So what is today all about really? Yes- it is about raising a bit of money for these charities but it is so much more than this. It is about us. As a community.
Nelson Mandela (one of my favourite prisoners) said, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others”. And maybe today it is about making a difference. Because we have the power to change this prison. Some things are out of our control in terms of the structural problems here but we determine what we tolerate, what we ignore, how we treat each other, whether we ask for help, whether we show people who we are. Looking at Mandela’s life he reflected some people took action about the issues they saw, others didn’t. Some were braver than others.
The problems do not lay within the pipe work, they lay in how we see each other. They lay in a misuse of power. It is bullying behavior- and in some cases an abandonment of humanity.
Together we are a force. This event is not for the politicians, not for the inspection. It is for you. We are not fighting for change for personal gain or religious or economical motive, but because I personally have never entered a place with so much strength, resilience, talent and passion. I see you all, not by the crimes you have committed, but by your current actions and the people you want to be. To overcome obstacles is to face a reality- to look in the mirror and think what kind of person you are and what person you want to be. This is scary, the odds are against you- 67% men who leave GM return within 2 years. But, if we change, if we work as a community, we can do something about this. Lets face it head on-not by thinking how we can pile on the punishment to increase a sense of fear, vulnerability and pain, but how instead we can create an environment where we can all grow. If we all do this, there will be less fear, less looking behind you, less violence and less harm.
And now I hear you, in some minds saying ”Sarah- this will never happen- you can never change prisons”- and you know what I say- lets give it a go- for 1 month, let’s do prison differently. Lets show off some creativity because we have nothing to loose.
So what to do; feel free today, see past uniforms, look at people and see them, talk to people you haven’t met before, resolve issues with those that have hurt you, try something different, be apart of something. If you see litter, pick it up. If you see something dirty, clean it. If you see someone struggling, support them. Care more, listen more, seek to understand rather than judge, find meaning and thank people when they help you. And when they don’t? When they bully or misuse power? When others are hurt or scared? Let us collectively address this. Let’s talk about it, let’s work together to figure out how we address the problems and obstacles each of us faces
If we achieve this, it will help us all, to move on, to grow, to develop. It will help our loved ones- those who care for us and want us to be safe and happy but ultimately it will give you the best chance to walk away from prison and not return- so you can use those talents you have and connect with those you love and miss and learn how to face those obstacles that continue to hit you outside of these walls.
If you are seeking to belong, if you don’t fit and want to, then join the growth team because we can all be a member. This is about working for the team in a formal sense but being an agent of change in your everyday life.
Growth is all about overcoming obstacles. Today let’s be a group of people who work together to make this difficult place better, safer, kinder and ultimately a space to grow.
You will see the men who have volunteered today ( please raise your hands-all 62 of you)- these people will help run the day. Listen and respect them-they have committed to this day to make it good for you. Today is about overcoming obstacles! So let’s have a great day! Well done everyone!