The Koestler Awards Lit A Spark In Me
When a teacher in a prison education department suggested I enter the Koestler Awards, I entered with the mind-set of ‘people like me never win anything.’ Being dyslexic, I had no confidence in my ability to write. However, I entered and later received both a commendation certificate and cheque. Ambivalently, I half believed I was ‘just lucky’, but inside a spark had been ignited.
The following year, when I achieved another award, that initial spark was fanned into an inferno and I began taking writing seriously. From then on, writing inside prison became both a coping mechanism and a way of moving forward. In 2013, when I received another Platinum for my poem To Score, which was read at Southbank Centre, I danced around my prison cell.
Being invited to read my work at the London Literature Festival for Koestler’s Voices from Prison event allowed me to see how far I have come and appreciate just how valuable the arts can be within people’s lives. It also marked firmly closing a door on my past and the beginning of a walk into the future.
After finishing a prison license I started working as a Community Support Worker for the Probation Service, using my experiences to help others move forward and grow in confidence by sharing my journey and demonstrating the power of the arts to spark change.