Kate Tempest at HMP Durham

In  October the poet and playwright Kate Tempest visited HMP Durham as part of English PEN’s Meet the Writer prison project. The following excerpt is from the report of Sheila Mulhern, the prison’s writer in residence

Kate worked with a disparate and damaged group of prisoners in HMP Durham. These are men with unhealthy attitudes to women (and themselves). She spoke to the better part of themselves and every one of them, traumatised, angry, unreasonable, was touched by her.

Her performance was electrifying and affected everyone; it levelled the playing field and allowed everyone just to be. They thought she was truthful and you could see them seriously seeing themselves.  When the time to leave came, one by one, they all shook her hand.

What happened in HMP Durham can’t easily be quantified but very concrete effects will be felt by those present and by their families.

Comments from the prisoners included:

It has been too long since I experienced someone who is so passionately talented and expressive.

An opportunity to release my innermost feelings.

You were an absolute inspiration and so adept with words.

You change my thinking about public art and spoken word. Many thanks.

A freeing of the mind.

Her thoughts about our ideas caused me to think in a different way.

One of the best Fridays I have ever had.


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