2017-132-Arts Project

Arts Project

Hello friend,

This is the last Arts Project before the show days. This covers the 5 days prior to the first show.

Choir rehearsal: went okay, despite the unwanted interjections from the same guy from the other day. It’s a shame; I had such big plans for the choir’s involvement which I had to put to one side due to the craziness from earlier on this year.

A bit of good news: the drummer, who is the ‘musician in residence’, can bring in his Mac laptop (or are they called ‘books’ nowadays?) to record the shows. Plus, he may have found a professional, who is security cleared for high security prisons, to come in to film the shows.

The supposed dress rehearsal was a washout. It took an age to set up. We only had time to do fragments of the show. This means that we have not once gone through the entire show in one hit. This is not the ideal situation to be in 2 days before the first show (as we are at that point). One good thing: I’ve got a black and white vertical striped jacket for my character, Mr Electric. I look a little like an extra from ‘The Prisoner’; I am not a number…mmm actually I am.

Now, the big problem: allocation. All the other problems aren’t important if we don’t have an audience. The new allocation list went up on the wings. The B wing guys are spread over shows 2, 3 and 4. There’s also a notice asking prisoners to let activities know if they can’t attend their allocated and they will try to facilitate an alternative. This contradicts the reasons we were given, i.e. one show per wing. It also looks like Security have just allocated at random… When I compared the new allocation with what the prisoners had requested I found that half of them have now got shows that they did not request. We are going to lose a lot of the audience. I predict we’ll only get around 35 prisoners per show. Well done Security and every other manager who has done little to no work on this project but have now weighed in at the last minute, and screwed up all the hard work put in by the team.

It only got worse; I then spent a significant portion of my weekend giving out the tickets (most with the wrong show date printed on them) and taking a lot of flak over this debacle. One guy even went round telling others the show was rubbish and not to go; because, he got a show he hadn’t requested (childish and pathetic, I know). This whole journey has been a battle with certain staff and now some prisoners have turned against us. The stress is making me feel ill.

I then discovered, after going into the Print Shop, that certain management have a problem with the show programme. I’m not allowed to write an introduction, so that’s been removed; and they have issues with how the team’s names are presented. Some of the guys wanted their nicknames others their first names and last name initial. I opted for just my initials, GJC. For some unknown reason, this is not allowed. We have to use our first names only. They were still procrastinating over it during the lunchtime before the afternoon show! This meant that a couple of names were missed off as they didn’t know who they were by their nicknames/initials. What a farce. Never has the expression which involves “organise” and “brewery” been more apt.

The allocation problems trundled on: I had spoken to the manager (from the last blog) about the allocation problems and that I had a list of guys who now couldn’t attend the show. He asked me to leave the list in the office and he would pick it up the next day (the day before the shows) and attempt to get them on a show they could attend. Some of the reasons given from the guys for them being unable to attend were: working on the servery; working in the kitchen; and, foreign nationals who could only make their phone calls at certain times of the day.

The next day he came on the wing. He told me that all of the reasons were “preferences”. I said: “forgive me, but I don’t agree,” and went to reopen the list which he had folded back over. He then said, whilst he attempting to stop me and snatch the list back. “You don’t have to.” It was pretty clear that he was trying to strong -arm me; this was unexpected as the previous day his attitude came across as the complete opposite. What changed?

The conversation degenerated even further, with him accusing me of interfering with the allocation. What!? He’d asked for this list! I communicated to him just how low the team’s morale was, due to the last few days, and that we were on the point of pulling out. He said “Don’t you threaten me!” What?! I realised at that point, this guy had set me up to further whatever his agenda was. He kept repeating: “I want you to guarantee you won’t interfere with the allocation process.” I had to walk away in the end because he was clearly attempting to antagonise me; stupidly, it had worked. It had worked because I was expecting a normal civil conversation not the antagonism I was faced with. His conduct was appalling.

Shortly after, I saw the Governor who taken over the project. I told him about what had happened. There were things he knew about and things he didn’t. He said there were things I had been doing which he would consider “inappropriate” for a prisoner; I took this to mean allocating the shows to the prisoners. This had all been run past the previous Governor who was happy with the plan. Security would, of course, still have the final say. It’s all been about ’power’, not ensuring the project is a success.

It got even more ridiculous. We had been on a lockdown the day before the first show; I got unlocked about 30 minutes before teatime and taken to an interview room. Waiting for me was the Security Governor, the ’manager’ and 2 Custody Managers. They’re really rolling out the red carpet here. I asked myself what story had that manager spun for me to end up in this room with those people? What misleading and inaccurate ’Information Report’ has he put in? That I had “threatened” him?

Despite already conceding defeat on sorting out their allocation mess, I was asked to cease and desist from any more actions. It was all very civilised; however, when I explained that I had only put together a list because of the notice from Activities and the manager’s request (for the list), that manager looked me in the eye and, unequivocally, denied asking me for a list. What?! Count to 10… I will refrain from using a volley of pejorative adjectives to describe this person. As I said above set up.

The last few days have been less than ideal preparation for the shows. Who am I kidding? It’s been a nightmare!

Be happy, be safe.
Graham Coutts, 11th October 2017

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