Where it all began!

In 2010 The Red Room Company launched a pilot of Unlocked at Dyllwinia and John Morony Correctional Centres and consisted of four workshops in each centre, involving both inmates and correctional services staff. The workshops were devised and led by contemporary Australian poet Gareth Jenkins and assisted by poet and Artistic Director of The Red Room Company, Johanna Featherstone. Working closely with the inspirational teachers at both Centres we hoped that through poetry, students would gain new literacy and personal skills that may assist them both inside and outside the Centres. We wanted students and staff to simply enjoy the act of writing and reading poetry for themselves and with others. We also created a 'poetry reader' of almost 100 international and contemporary poems for students and teachers to explore. The meaning, context and craft involved in these poems, and those written by the students themselves, was an important focus of the workshops.

The workshops

The workshops and other aspects of the Unlocked project were videoed by Rob Osborne for distribution to other correctional Centres, and, subject to appropriate consent, a wider public audience." In 2011 poems from and conversations about Unlocked featured on Jailbreak, a weekly half hour radio program for prisoners, families and supporters, broadcast on Sydney Radio 2SER FM 107.3 and nationally through the Community Radio Network (CRN). At all times the students were in dialogue with the poets, able to ask questions not only about the craft of making poetry, but about the capacities of poetry as a tool for expression and communication, and as a matrix for understanding and interacting with the world and social structures. Ongoing mentorship was a central to the program.  Students were able to share their writing with facilitators, who offered reflective feedback and encouragement. 

The poems

Each poem holds a special voice and unique story that took on a poem shape during the workshops. These poems are experimental, playful, heartfelt and honest and reflect the diverse imaginations and experiences of the workshop participants. Unlocked is the first of what has proudly become an ongoing series of poetry workshops in Correctional Centres Australia wide.

May this anthology be treasured by all who hold it for it contains complex, powerful and unexpected truths and experiences. The Red Room Company creates, promotes and publishes new poetry by Australian writers, in unusual ways. Through language we reawaken imaginations, inviting established and emerging poets as well as new audiences with us on this adventure. Poetry is alchemy; it transforms us.

To purchase publications and materials from this project visit our online store! The Red Room Company is a not-for-profit organisation and all funds raised support the ongoing work of The Red Room Company.