Trainers’ Evaluation (Gr. 6)
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Trainers: Elly Goodman and Neil Packham
- Please explain how your workshop went
The workshop overall was successful although there were external issues within the Prison, and Family Learning Centre that impeded the project from being as good as it potentially could have been.
Dates: 24th April – 1st/ 8th/15th/22nd /29th May 2018
Place: Her Majesty’s Prison Low Moss Glasgow
Participants (number and profile): 8 male prisoners – HM Prison Low Moss is a Category A prison that houses 784 men. It manages male offenders on remand, short term offenders (serving less than 4 years), long term offenders (serving 4 years or more), life sentence offenders and extended sentence offenders (Order of Life-Long Restriction) The group taking part in the ‘Create a Puppet, Create Yourself’ project all attend the prison’s learning centre and come from different halls across the establishment.
Being part of an all -male environment where crime is perhaps one of the only things the men have in common makes for an intense atmosphere. Many men that we have worked with in prison portray a persona to survive the harsh regime of prison life. It therefore makes our work in this environment challenging, but extremely rewarding. The project took place in the Learning Centre where men choose, as part of their work schedule, options to participate in formal and non-formal learning.
- According to your experience, which are the strong points of the method that helped you in the workshop?
The physical making of the puppet, the group were intrigued as they passed the room whilst we were setting up the puppet materials – they asked questions and if it appealed to them decided to join us. They were interested in seeing what might evolve from the paper and string and got on with the process quickly and efficiently. They were keen to work alone and didn’t require any help as they worked out their own methods to making and creating. Simple explanations seemed to work without discussing the next part of the workshop. We found that using less string helped with the flexibility of the puppets.
- According to your experience, what can be changed in the method to make it better (which are the weak points)? What changes do you suggest?
We chose not to introduce the Psycho Drama techniques, as it felt like it would be inappropriate to explore aspects of the men’s personal lives which could potentially lead to learning more about the crimes they had committed, especially when exploring aspects of their own character. We also felt the puppet-making enabled a place of respite, where we could communally make something together and find the joy out of the creation and simple, yet effective paper character.
The story development could be addressed differently to suit specific group needs, having a central point where the group can focus on one story at a time which shows an example of what might evolve within a story. Also outlining the limitations of the puppet was useful, e.g. we can’t see a puppet make sandwiches, put them in a bag and then go to a car and drive off. This level of detail is difficult for the puppet to achieve. However, when presented with a simple analogy or situations with a dilemma and consequences – the storylines were easier to develop.
- Participants’ evaluation- please summarize the participants’ responses and if you have added more questions, please add their answer as well.
- How did they feel during the workshop and why?
There was a mixture of amusement, productivity, focus and laughter because it was something very different that perhaps had not been offered within the prison before. Each puppet was unique, and the men seemed to get a lot out of developing their characters. One man went to great lengths to find something to add to his puppet – he eventually settled on a piece of dish cloth to add to the head and it completely changed the character and story, he seemed very satisfied with what he achieved. Other men were surprised by themselves, believing themselves to be ‘not creative’ and yet were very detailed in their making and were resourceful. In an environment where you aren’t encouraged to be creatively resourceful, the puppet-making freed the men’s creativity up and enabled them to explore hidden talents that they hadn’t recognised within themselves before.
- Which were the strong points of the workshop and why?
The making of the puppet was the strong point of the workshop as it allowed the men to be quiet and focus on the creating, they were able to see physical results very quickly. It took them away from their environment and for a moment we didn’t need to refer to the Prison and their life within it.
- Which were the weak points of the workshop and why?
The continuity of the same people attending. It’s difficult to advertise a project within the prison; to put information in the right place where lot of men could learn more about the project and be encouraged to come along. We had originally had a specific group in mind and had initially planned for fathers within the prison family centre to take part and ultimately show the performances to their children. When we realised that this wasn’t going to happen, we had to adapt the project accordingly to suit the general learning centre population.
Many men have other commitments at the learning centre and because of the long-term nature of their prison sentences they are often attracted to advanced learning such as Open University degrees and Higher exams. It was difficult to interrupt their regular studies or planned activities that they enjoyed each week such as Chaplaincy, yoga and discussion groups. The continuity was important to make the necessary progress.
- Do they think the workshop needs any changes?
- Do they think this workshop was useful for them?
I’m not sure, as we haven’t got to know people as well as we perhaps have on other projects. I think, overall, they have enjoyed it.
- Would they use the things they learned on the workshop?
I don’t think so; I’m not sure under what circumstances other then perhaps creative writing classes or taking part in a play or film.
- Which sessions did they like most?
The making of the puppet and the accessories.
- Which were the sessions they didn’t like?
Rehearsing the stories with one another.
- Additional comments
Our experience when working in prisons is that trust is built over several weeks. As outside tutors you need to be in the environment for a while before good results can be yielded. Short term weekly projects seem less satisfying than long term projects where far more is invested creatively from both the arts organisation and the men in prison.