How I got here - alumni digital stories
Last month we gathered PET alumni for a unique digital storytelling course with the help of the charity Stretch Digital. Jayne, Javed and Julio all had different experiences of prison and are now pursuing very different careers – Jayne in the charity sector, Julio as an artist and Javed with his own embroidery business. What unites them is the difference education has made to their lives, and the value they see in sharing their experiences.
“Wait a second - I was just there; at home, inhaling the scent of my baby’s soft hair. His chubby cheek pressed against my shoulder, but now it’s all gone and I’m sat alone in my tiny cold, dark prison cell.”
“I was intrigued by the idea of transforming my experience of the criminal justice sector using storytelling skills and digital media,” says Jayne, from Swansea. “Having been in prison for over a decade where the closest thing to anything digital or media is a remote control for an obsolete portable television, I was keen to learn something new.”
“It's no walk in the park to rake up old feelings and thoughts of when someone is incarcerated and how they got to that point, but it is extremely cathartic to share those thoughts and feelings with others who may have experienced the same.
“After two short days I not only learnt how to write and record a script but to illustrate and edit, to weave together a finished piece. We gathered on the final day to present our video works and I for one was moved by how many people gathered to support and celebrate; it was a wonderful experience."
"I felt like I had just been run down by a lorry, and just as I was standing up to dust myself from the first hit, I was struck once again."
"Everyone who attended the storytelling course had one issue in common. That made it interesting - not because of why we ended up incarcerated, but more because of the feelings and stories that might give a clue as to why. We all ended up talking about the way we had dealt with the lack of freedom by learning and by using that time to better ourselves and beat the system!
"I chose the topic of identity. From the beginning of my prison sentence part of the punishment was being constrained from using my identity. For example, even though I taught myself how to paint in prison, and was part of an exhibition just one year after being admitted, I was denied the chance to go to the opening. I was restricted from using my identity for five years, until my licence finally ended this month. Now I can shout from the roof tops that I do have an identity - I am a painter!"
Julio's Twitter handle is @juliocesartist8
"I realised I desperately needed to do something that I could be proud of. I wanted for once, to give people a chance to think and say good things about me, rather hate and despise me."
"The story I wrote was about a very meaningful and important journey. I wrote how my life before jail wasn’t one that I was proud of, and of missed opportunities along with several mistakes severing my chances at a good life. In prison I was introduced to embroidery which elevated my prospects and gave me a second chance at living again. Embroidery was a new adventure for me as I’ve never come across it before. Since leaving prison, I have embarked on a journey with the Prince’s Trust to create my very own business which is coming along very soon.
"This was my first major event since leaving prison last year and I very much enjoyed spending time with Julio, Jayne and Adam - all ex-prisoners who have made huge improvements in their lives and are an inspiration to me and others. We individually recorded our voice notes after writing a script that was very important to us, and using an app on the iPads edited the voice notes by adding music and images that related to our stories. Over the course of the two days we learnt a great deal about ourselves and it gave me a lot of motivation and thrive to succeed."