These guys have been living in the library at HMP Grendon for the past month, as part of Kestrel Theatre Company’s storytelling with puppets project kindly supported by the wonderful Button Moon Trust. Six men from B, C and D wings took part in a series of workshops with professional puppeteer Marcus Clarke (Muppets, Little Shop of Horrors) to learn the skills of storytelling and puppetry with a view to recording a DVD to send back to their children. The music for the title sequence for each 10 minute video was composed and recorded by Mark from B Wing and the puppetry was done by the men taking part. “I thought working with puppets would be easy, you’d just stick your hand up them and away you’d go. But it was a lot more challenging than I thought,” said Faz.

The project not only gave the participating men an insight into how you perform, film and edit a professional piece of video using puppets, but also the chance to maintain and build on their relationship with their kids. “I can’t always see my son but now he has the chance to see me whenever he wants by putting on that DVD,” said Moses.

For others having a puppet to interact with gave them not only the opportunity to be more emotional in their delivery but also to manage those emotions in a safe way. “I could be more personal than on a visit when there’s never enough time to say what you want properly,” said Billy. For Martin, “I thought I would struggle telling a story to my kids, that I wouldn’t be able to hold it together. But you showed me ways I could do it, and I proved I could do it without breaking down.” “I loved the way the puppet cuddled up to us all, it showed that we can all do with a cuddle,” said Stephen in his evaluation of the project. “I give it 100 out of 100. Actually 150 out of 100”

The more children of people in prison can access their fathers the better. “It’s reassuring that they can see us in a library, just like they see at school, and that it’s not all barbed wire and locks and keys. It’s something special for them to keep that says I care,” said Faz. “Thank you for helping me give this fantastic gift to my 3 little monkeys at home’, said Martin.

Arabella Warner – Artistic Director, Kestrel Theatre Company