Płock Diaries

Diary by TOM MAGILL—————————————————————->

Arrived in Plock at 3pm local time after meeting Hubert at the airport and we drove to the hotel in Plock. Jayne, Heather and I went for a short walk to the river and the 12th Century Cathedral. Later we met for dinner and had a chat with friends and colleagues who were arriving.
Thursday we had breakfast at 8am and walked to the prison for 9am. We showed our passports and then met the Governor who did a short introduction about the prison and services they offer. Then we visited the therapeutic group in the glass-cutting workshop and had a go at cutting the glass ourselves. The men were friendly and the atmosphere informal. We then had another chance to ask questions with the governor. He was very open and frank and the questions ranged widely.
Then we went to a similar therapeutic group outside the prison who are funded by the State to use arts interventions as a therapeutic method. We met some of the staff and service users and photographed the artwork.
After lunch Ed ran a session on generating content for the final meeting. The theme is around the 7 Deadly Sins and the Hieronymus Bosch parade in Holland. We split into two groups and talked through suggestions and ideas for the website and the manual. Maria and Hubert led our group in discussion around content and structure for the manual. We felt stuck that ‘manual’ was not a good term. ‘Toolkit’ and ‘document’ were suggested as alternatives to get through the blockage. We agreed that starting from the end would be a good idea and asked: ‘Who is it for?’ and later ‘What’s the message we want people to take from it?’ We also agreed to focus on: ‘Turning Points’ in people’s transformations through the creative process of our work in prisons. This helped us make progress. Both groups fed back to each other on their developments and it was good to hear the progress.
Friday, Hubert introduced us to his students at the school where we had a day conference on sharing our work through the theme ‘Social Transformations.’
I spoke personally about my journey from Violent Criminal to Creative Artist, documenting the creative milestones along the way. My aim was to share my mistakes and learning with students for them to see the potential of Creative Arts Education as a transformational intervention.
Ed spoke about Serendipity as ‘finding what you are not looking for.’ His example was of young men going to prison and finding a life changing experience through Creative Arts Education. He then illustrated this change by showing a film by Natasha Serlin called ‘When you hear my voice’ about a group of young men in a prison in Malta finding themselves through their own words and the words of Shakespeare.
Paula presented her work on Creative Art Education in the Irish Prison Service. She talked of the importance of the work and how it reduced isolation and strengthen family relationships. For example, a man made a quilt for his sick daughter in hospital. When the work was exhibited in outside galleries it also challenged expectations – one family could not believe that their son had done the artwork on graffiti. It also gave a sense of pride and history – the Irish Lockout strikes of 1913.
Rose introduced the dynamic work of YIP with an energiser that got everyone moving. She then gave us a brief history of YIP and its global reach and core beliefs – that creativity liberates and that everyone deserves a second chance. She talked us through the YIP Caravan project using the arts to engage those in prison in an inspiring, motivated and energising way. Fatima spoke of her work with Moroccan youth at risk in Holland alongside YIP. Rose ended with a question to the students: ‘What would be a good way to show people outside what is happening inside – but not using cameras?’ The students came up with creative solutions – songs, poems etc. Rose told us that YIP invited two artists into the prison for a day and all they did was draw what they saw. The exhibition of the sketches is what YIP is using as a promotional tool for their work.
After lunch Paula laid out all the pieces of the textile in various shapes on the floor. Each of the 7 partners has a colour and a country and each partner shared what they had done so far on their part of the pattern. Heather shared Northern Ireland’s work. We have dyed the two flags of our country, the union jack and the tricolour and it becomes a new symbol when it is recolored and juxtaposed with its neighbour.
Ed then did an exercise to finish about ‘Sharing Success Stories’ in groups of three. One person tells a story, one person listens and asks questions and a third witnesses the process. The aim is to learn about how to improve our strategies. We then had feedback on the exercise.
After coffee Ed ran a final session on generating ideas for the Parade, Exhibition and Publication around the theme of the 7 Deadly Sins. We all had opportunities to input our ideas on yellow stickies. I agreed to write my presentation as a story of transformation from Anger to peace through creativity for the publication.
Ioannis helped us plan our next mobility to Greece and we agreed dates in March. The suggestion is to offer workshops in the prison with an emphasis on the practical not the theoretical.
It is lonely and isolating doing this work. The exchange of ideas with talented and committed European peers leaves me charged and excited about the work. It sends me back renewed and enthusiastic each time I meet with the group. It is such a great learning opportunity.
Saturday was a day of sightseeing and Sunday we left for the airport.

“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

Diary by JAYNE McCONKEY—————————————————————->

We arrived to a frozen landscape of lace branched trees, crisp fields and a quiet cloud heavy in the low winter sky. The welcome, hospitality, hotel rooms and bathroom floors however were very warm. Our initial explorations revealed a quiet Main Street with banks, boutiques, a couple small supermarkets and some eateries, leading to the impressive Cathedral and outlook over the wide river. We met a friendly worker in a bakery where we tasted some local baked goods as well as new words in an impromptu language lesson. Not everyone speaks English, but people were friendly, hospitable and we found enough people with enough English to have some memorable interactions. And a cześć here and a dziękuję there paved the way for a smile and grace for the illiterate foreigners. As a part of our education we learned we were not actually in “Plock” but “Plock” (Pwotsk) and that the local currency is the “Zloty” (Zwoty). We also learnt that even the policemen stand by an empty road waiting for the little green man, before they cross.

As a newcomer to the PICP project I felt a quick welcome into the group. Though the project extends beyond this particular Polish experience, we formed a temporary learning community that was rich and valuable, whether you worked directly in prisons, or just within our shared human condition. The creative ideas, practices and experiences embedded in the few days inspired ideas, connections and the sharing of good practice, challenges, and opened up fascinating possibilities. There was planning, feedback on websites and non-manuals, gathering of ideas, sharing of textile visions, and communal projects with individual contributions. There was also the exciting start of dreaming, and throwing out the big crazy ideas for exhibitions, floats and festivals. The details will come later, but the think wild gathering of ideas stage was a lot of fun.

On our visit to the Plock maximum security prison (the oldest prison in Poland in continual operation), we entered with a very surprising minimum of fuss. Our host Hubert’s relationship and reputation paving the way. We entered through the razor wire fence of the yard inside the wall and the interruption to routine of a 22 people group of mostly women caused a stir at a number of the overlooking windows. The outside had large numbers painted on the walls clearly identifying the sections, while inside each floor was painted a different colour, beige, green and yellow. We were welcomed in a conference style room with leaflets about the prison and booklets showcasing the art created in the prison. Some prison staff were there to welcome us (head of the therapeutic department, psychologist, head of the activities department, and head of the school – Hubert our host), but I was surprised then to be joined by the Director of the prison, a military looking man with an intimidating demeanour and a mischievous glint in his eye. He was generous with his time (rejoining us after our tour around the prison), open to uncensored questions and remarkably candid in his answers. We learnt about ongoing renovations, the progress, the aspirations, the changes since Communism, his plans and the challenges and limitations in running this prison.

Our tour (which as the Director told us was a carefully planned route), took us to the top floor which was the therapeutic unit where 50 (out of the current 580/capacity 680) men with some level of mental ill health or disability live. The ward supervisor (a woman) invited us to go into a renovated cell where 5 men share the space. A large guard let us in and the inmates accepted our greetings with a guarded politeness. We then went into the art workshop. Two students were working on some stained glass projects and we broke into a couple groups to experience making stained glass, or glass painting in another room. It was a lot of fun having a go at the new art form and the students were very helpful even as they also worked on their own project. Some of the work produced was very beautiful and I could imagine that the slow and labour intensive nature of the work helped pass time as well as providing opportunity for creative expression. Even in such a short taster it was very absorbing and drew your focus into the moment – the image, the piece of glass, the specific edge of glass being buffed at that particular second. Knowing we would not finish our own angel pieces, they had made stained glass angel decorations for all of us to take away with us. Mine is now hanging on my Christmas tree. We also saw some pyrography work with a particularly gripping piece done by one of the students. The heads of monstrous creatures were propped inside a cage with wooden bars. As an art therapist I was particularly interested by this piece that seemed to be a very personal project and imaginatively expressed a great deal.

We visited a day centre run by the church and funded by the state, which provided creative workshops to 30 people with mental health and learning difficulties. We got to see the different rooms with the paper crafts, painting, cooking, textiles and budgies (yes the feathered kind). There was also an opportunity to buy some of the Christmas decorations or cards. I got a few lovely little embroidered and crocheted angels and a pine cone Santa. The centre is part of a compound that also houses an hospital, hospice and some other community service projects. The walk there and back also passed by a number of very interesting urban graffiti art pieces that we captured on our cameras.

We then had a lovely night socialising and danced the night away in a lovely local bar, where the warm Polish hospitality and generous vodka, raspberry syrup and Tabasco shots, along with a great party playlist put on by the friendly bar man led to a great bonding time. On our last day most of us headed to the town of Torún, about 100km away. An historic town, we were shown some of the sights and delights on an interesting (if somewhat cold) tour. We then post lunch got to make our own gingerbread biscuit in a gingerbread museum, complete with gingerbread witch (a rather young pretty one). The smell was fantastic and I took some of the smell home with me in the form of gifts from their shop.

It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to be a part of this trip. I learnt, I experienced, I played, I ate (a lot), and I met some great people. I wish all the best for the rest of the project.

“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

Diary by JANET FULOP  —————————————————————->

The first visit was to the prison in Plock. The prisons all begin to look the same once you have visited a few. When making our way to the entrance, the faces show themselves at the window but the voices and whistling was not as loud as it’s been in other places. In fact there was only a lone voice which didn’t last too long. It was obvious from the entrance that this prison was old. The middle of the floors were swept clean, but it was the stuck on grime on the borders that showed the true age of the secrets locked within. The walk to the reception room was normal in the fact that you are surrounded by bars and locked ancient doors and again stone steps, and even more stonier faces. The familiar prison smell that catches your nostrils makes you want to block your senses. It doesn’t make me want me to throw up but it makes me want to hold my breath until the visit is over. It is a stagnant smell that no amount of disinfectant can disguise. It is the smell of life gone stale.

I never feel comfortable when going to visit other prisons. It feels like an invasion of someone’s home. Even more so in a prison context as people are at their most vulnerable and they are so obviously warned to be on their best behaviour. If it was their own home at least there would be an element of pride but to be brought around on a guided tour of cells which had about 5 people sharing and about twenty visitors gaping and everyone trying to avoid eye contact was a bit disconcerting.

We then went on to a reception hosted by the Governor, and then onto the workshops where inmates helped us make stained glass pieces.  When we finished, we again walked out of the old stony building, past all the enquiring eyes, walked past the steel doors which were held open by the guards, and exhaled slowly as we exited the building.

“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

Diary by MARGARIDA SOUSA—————————————————————->

I’ll tell you a little of my trip to Poland, first of all I loved to meet a new country (it was my first trip abroad – Galicia doenst count) but most of all to meet new people. It was spectacular!
I liked everything I visited, less the prison maybe because I’m a former inmate, and I found it really intense, really different from the prisons I know … with too many prisoners in a cell as we could see. I like the work the prisoners do with glass and mirrors.
It was a surprise to see the director in a uniform, it seemed the guards we watch on movies, that don’t even smile.
But what I loved most was when we were visiting that city I was amazed at the things I saw, the spectacular monuments … I liked all of what I saw and what I learned.
I am very glad to be a part of this project, and maybe in the future I can participate in other projects and maybe get to know other countries and other people like you all that work in prisons.
Once again I have to say that I loved the experience!
Thanks for everything.

“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

Diary by Maria João Mota—————————————————————->

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10 of December 2014

Its my birthday! Today I’m celebrating my 35 th birthday and I’m travelling to Poland for our Partners in Crime meeting. It’s a very memorable day for me and for us in PELE because we are traveling with 3 friends that we met in prison during our artistic projects there. Well Margarida we met outside but she also shares that common past with Tânia and Abel. Also for Tânia and Margarida it’s the first time they are flying, so what could be more exciting?

I feel really proud of their path since we’ve met them, Abel in 2009 in the Male Prison when we were there in an artistic project and Tânia that we met in 2011 in the female prison, both of them are now part of our Peer Educators Team for the new project in Prisons.

So I couldn’t ask for a more special birthday present!

This was a totally different experience for me because I felt I was sharing with them a very intense and emotional moment, it was kind of funny watching them being shy (when I’m used to see them so lively and talkative) because of the need to speak in English, that was a big barrier for them but it was also a challenge, it was amazing to see them after 3 days beginning to talk some words in English. During our meeting it was not always easy to make the translation for them but in the end I think they were getting the most of it.

Watching them when they entered the prison, their kind of excitement, was really intense and also a bit strange because I still feel them, special the women so much connected to that world.

It was interesting to see how the Prison in Plock is trying to modernize to fight that austere building with creative workshops, with learning … I believe it’s still not enough, but at least they are doing that path.

In the university it was so intense to see the documentary made in Malta with male prisoners, it brought me back to our ENTRADO project in 2010 …. Specially with the moment when the families came to see the performance … well I cried like I did in 2010 in the day the families came to see those powerful man! Those are our turning points too, when you feel you’re doing the right thing and even with a lot of troubles along the way, we keep believing that is possible to change!

“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

Diary by Abel Sousa —————————————————————->

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I felt blessed, well as you see in this picture with the Pope John Paul II, to be part of all this. I feel proud of myself, 2 years ago I was still in prison and now I’m a guest of PELE for this project in Poland. I liked to meet new people to challenging me to speak English, I realized that I’m not that bad, and when I don’t know the words in English I don’t give up!

It felt good to be accept among everyone and to feel like one of the team, I think it was positive our contribution, because we speak from our experience, from our lives, from our hearts. I think that in these kind of projects you should always have in the team peer educators, that have the experience and knowledge from within.

I felt the prison really harsh, I wasn’t expecting it, the building is dark and old and I felt a tough relation between guards and prisoners, I felt sad for the inmates …

One of the greatest experiences and that I’ll keep forever in my memory was the encounter we had with the priest outside the cathedral of Plock that kindly invite us to have tea in his house, he offered us so much food and kindness that was overwhelming … inviting a group of strangers to his house and treating us as brothers and sisters … for me that was the expression of love for the human kind.

I feel more prepared to start my new project with PELE working in prisons as Peer Educator, because I got the chance to know more about this kind of work in prisons all over Europe.

“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

Diary by ANASTASIA PEPPA —————————————————————->

I was so happy to see our partners again in such a beautiful country. The weather was cloudy and rainy,

but everything was perfect. The people of Plock greeted us with genuine warmth. All was well organised; we ate, danced, sang, walked around and had fun.

We visited Plock Maximum Security Prison (the oldest prison in Poland). There we attended a workshop with some of the prisoners and their educator, and had the opportunity to converse with the staff, who had welcomed us wholeheartedly, and with the Director of the prison. He was a military-looking but

very friendly and communicative man, who gave us important information about the history and organisation of the prison.

We also visited a day centre, run by the church and funded by the state, where people with mental health problems and learning difficulties spend a few hours taking part in workshops and creating their own artifacts. We were very happy to buy some of the Christmas decorations and cards from there.

On the last day the weather was sunny and we were able to enjoy our tour of the town of Torún, a historical town-Copernicus’ hometown. We had a lovely tour and the most amazing part was when we visited the gingerbread museum, where we prepared handmade gingerbread ourselves.

I’d like to thank Hubert for every single moment we spent in his beautiful town! It was a unique experience to be part of this trip. I’ve learnt very many important things and met such great people.

We are looking forward to welcoming all of you in Avlonas next March. Hopefully, we will be as good hosts as you have!

“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

Diary by PAULA RAFFERTY—————————————————————->

As I had never been to Poland before this was a very interesting opportunity to see the country.

I was delighted with the food and the quality of the hotel, I wanted to stay!

The old part of the city showed areas that where obviously once affluent but had fallen into terrible decline and ruin, beautifully crafted buildings that were almost unliveable. They contrasted greatly with the new University building where I was one of the people who gave a presentation to the students. What stood out from that experience was my use of local phrases with the interpreter had trouble with and I had to rephrase.

The visit to the local prison which was about two hundred years old reinforced the universal problems with prison life. What struck me is that a lot of European prisons seem to separate the arts from general education and do not provide the same funding or tutors for such subjects which seems such a pity as the therapeutic  nature of the Arts in prisons are well documented.

“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

Diary by Mirthe Wacki —————————————————————->

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“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

Diary by Ellen Tapia Quilodran  —————————————————————->

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Diary by Vicky Douzeni—————————————————————->

Our meeting in Plock is linked in my mind to plenty of ideas for workshops. On the first day we visited the Penitentiary and participated in the Stained Glass workshop, which I found extremely interesting. We then visited a therapeutic center for mentally ill people and were shown amazing paintings made by psycho-therapeutical groups, as well as Christmas decorations made of thin peelings of wood, pasta and pine nuts. An entire “ideas stock” for me, to use n future projects.
On the next day we attended a conference entitled “Social rehabilitation – utopia or reality?” During the conference, the impact of the theatre in prison, was presented by Tom Magill. He said that, only if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we can say that we are human. Also, Tom explained to us that acting is very beneficial for a prisoner, since he is able to express strong feelings and emotions, such as rage, desire of revenge and remorse.
Next, we watched the documentary “When you hear my voice”, by Natasha Serlin in which young prisoners in Malta, having put on an adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s plays, were talking about this experience. During the process of learning the script, some of them improved their skills on reading and writing, which empower them with self-esteem. The film pointed out that acting is the liberty of letting their rage and frustration get out through their roles. The actors also said that playing theatre also means becoming family, something which definitely does not happen in prison. One learns to open himself, to love, to accept the different, to recognize the good parts or the talent of another inmate.
Paula Rafferty presented her work with textile techniques in prisons. The pieces we saw were absolutely amazing, and to me, they are a proof of how committed and dedicated our students can become when creating art.
Once more, I realized how useful these program meetings are. They are a source of improvement in our neverending effort to help our students.

“This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authorand the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

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