South Coast Correctional Centre 2014
Returning to Nowra...!
Approximately a year and a half after The Red Room Company's first visit to the South Coast Correctional Centre near Nowra in NSW, Unlocked returned for another project. Being invited back to a correctional centre is always a good sign for us, letting us know that the program is valued by the educators in the centres.
Again it was Johanna Featherstone and Nick Bryant-Smith who travelled down in April to run a series of workshops. The group comprised of maximum security inmates, and for the first time ever, there were a few familiar faces for Johanna and Nick. Some of the participants from the previous workshops were there to take part in the program for a second time. This is perhaps even more encouraging to us than repeat invites from education staff; that the students themselves enjoyed the program enough to want to do it again.
The structure of the Unlocked projects, always changing in duration and detail, is nevertheless developing some common features. The group poem exercise has become central to the project. Through the introduction of experimental and/or collaborative writing procedures, the exercise has multiple benefits. It helps students to overcome fears of self-expression, since the 'self' here is collective. It also helps to foster a supportive and open dynamic within the group. Additionally, it always seems to produce some of the most interesting poetry. This time there were two group poems, one lead by Nick, producing the poem 'Exclusive', which has a more traditional structure, with verses, stanzas and end rhymes. The other was a collage poem, for which everyone received a handful of words that Jo had cut out of various publications. Then, one by one, everybody stuck their words to a piece of cardboard, beginning from the middle and radiating outwards. The words, as they appeared on the cardboard were then rearranged in terms of their line-breaks, in consultation with the students, to enhance the form.
In addition, there are riddle-like object poems, poems for lovers, mothers, sons and daughters. Messages of hope and strength from the darkness of life inside, for people back home not to fear, “because it’s not the end/And in no time, we’ll be back home again”. The Unlocked Reader was again integral to the project, being read over and over again. The diversity of poems included in it challenges the students to think about what a poem is, or can be, from hip hop songs to Michael Farrell's number poems.
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This Unlocked project was supported by the Department of Industry, The Australia Council’s Community Partnerships, and Anne Kantor. We are extremely grateful for their support. Thanks must also go to Allan Chidziva for his help in the centre, and in the editing process. Without this support, none of this would have been possible.
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