Feedback About Our Work

Rios Extraordinary Christmas

HMP Springhill Nov-Dec 2019

Comments from the actors and musicians:

I never understood what it means to put something like this together. To take the improvisation and ideas and then write a script from it. I loved that my ideas were included and I was happy that was going to play the parts I’d created. But then because of circumstances I was asked to be a much larger part, Buddy the Elf. You said you believed in me. That gave me confidence and then you gave me all the direction with building the character and movements that I needed to make sure it all worked out. Then set and costume came in and then the music was added. I had no idea before of this process. Thank you for inviting me into your world.


Its been a beautiful thing, therapy in a way and given us the opportunity to be ourselves.


I’d never have done anything like this before but you have taken me on an amazing journey. I’m the old guy in the group but everyone accepted me into it. I’m not an extrovert but you have supported me with patience and always with a smile.


Thanks for bringing me out of my shell. I realise now why we had to play those silly games at the beginning of the project. They helped us feel OK around each other and instilled confidence. Thank you for having confidence in me.


I can honestly say I have had so much fun. It will be sad going back to normal life.


Comments from the audience:

I watched your Xmas Panto this morning and what an absolutely brilliant production it is. You have all worked so hard and I really want to thank you for such a great morning – it has put me in a fantastically happy mood.

I am so proud of you and the guys! Really wish my kids had been there to see it, and I am 100% convinced the men’s families will absolutely love it.

 Well bloody done all.

Lisa Daley – Band 6 Head of Industries and Business Engagement

How glad I was to see Rio’s Extraordinary Christmas. A great ensemble show, with loads of contrast, personality, wit and fun. Well done all.  You must have been very proud of the result.

Mari Prichard

Congratulations – The Panto was a triumph!

We totally loved the story, characters, costumes and music, it was an absolute hoot . Such an engaging experience.

Really well done!

Simon Tennant

Short Play Festival

HMP Grendon July 2019

Comments from the men:

It’s been a brilliant process. I found my lack of confidence gets in the way and doing this made me realise I’m more capable than I thought. You have to give yourself a pat on the back for the fact that you even started to write a play – it’s a difficult task and we should take credit for it. But once I started it I loved it, and found the most challenging bit finishing it and letting it go.


I love writing stories but had never written a play before and I wanted to see what writing for theatre was like. I went through two whole pads of paper having a go at writing dialogue. I felt excited doing it – seeing my characters coming to life. I found it inspirational getting the notes back. I feel more confident in how to use grammar and structure now. I’m proud of what I have achieved and am thrilled at the prospect of professional actors reading my work.


Comments from the audience:

The consistently high quality of the writing and storytelling was absolutely amazing.  Plays are meant to grab your attention, and all these pieces certainly did that.

Yet again I am in awe of what you have encouraged and brought forth: all five plays were well structured and absolutely held our attention. As a bonus to be ale to talk to the playwrights afterwards and see how proud they felt.

Comments from staff:

We understand from feedback from those who participated that the experience had a very powerful positive impact on them overall, the opportunity to listen and hear ‘played back’ to them their own words, in the voice of another, surrounded by an audience who were also  witness to this. Some residents who participated later stated they were very moved by this performance, the sense of recognition for their talent, and the opportunity to engage in a different way in some of the emotions contained within their stories.

Jo Augustus, DTC Lead Core Creative Psychotherapist, HMPPS Grendon.

Puppet Stories

HMP Bullingdon 2019

Comments from the men:

I am so glad I did this. My kids will love it and I hope it will make me apparent in their lives. It’s something that they can keep for the rest of their lives that shows I care. We are stuck in a horrible place but doing this we can be dads again, which is all I ever wanted to be.

Working with a puppet has been brilliant. Marcus is incredible at interacting with you and for me it took a lot of the pressure off. I know my family worry about me being in here but seeing me looking happy and having a laugh with the puppet will be a weight off their shoulders.

I was nervous about doing this but it’s been the highlight of my time here. I feel like when I get out I will be a better dad than I was before – time away gives you time to reflect. You feel so disconnected, everything is taken away from you, but this gives you the chance to show your kids that their dad is OK. It shows us being normal, how we used to be.

It’s the first time I’ve seen myself on TV not CCTV! I think the end product looks so professional. It’s like we’re on CBeebies! We are so lucky to have been given this opportunity. Thank you to everyone.

Comments from a mum:

I would like to thank Blue and the team for taking time out to help Tyrone record The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Even though the girls cried whilst watching the DVD, it’s little things like this that put a smile on our girls’ faces. Being able to see their dad has made them so emotional but so happy at the same time. I can’t thank you all enough for letting Tyrone have the opportunity to do this!

Drama Club

April – July 2019

Comments from the men:

Tuesday evenings working with Kestrel have literally kept me going and helped me through the dark periods during the last few months. I don’t know what I would have done without them.


Thank you for your amazing contribution to the community here, everyone involved was transported out of prison for that short time.


Comments from the audience:

It was a fantastic show. The participants clearly enjoyed it, and so did the audience, including me. And they were really very funny and aware of each other and the audience. It was really quite some something to hear at the debrief how much the last few weeks have meant to each of them.

Jack: A Lad in the Beanstalk

Comments from the men about the project:

I have been incarcerated for 13 years now and I have never been on a project where I have laughed so much. I enjoyed seeing people come together from different backgrounds, working with the same enthusiasm to create something brilliant. I was encouraged to push myself to a point where I felt I really excelled. It allowed me to develop and identify skills I didn’t know I had, it has opened up a new world in terms of what I would like to do with my life.

Noel (Actor)

I’ve enjoyed it more than any of you can know. I’ve done something I never thought possible – bought something to life that we wrote ourselves for our families, especially as I know how difficult life can be for them. In this pit of despair that is prison, this project has been a beam of sunshine in all our lives. I’ve loved being able to give people a breathe of fresh air. Everyone is special and talented in their own way and this project has shown us that.

Conall (Actor)

What I take away is the knowledge that we can do things differently  – that we can drop our guard and be normal and human. I have been in jail a long time and it’s been a treat to see softness and emotion come through and the joy in people’s hearts in taking part.  

Ben (Musician)

Looking at the faces of the kids today I could see they were tuned in and entranced. It was a great feeling that it was us who was doing that.
Today for the first time I forgot I was in prison. I’ve never done group work before and doing this made me realise I’m good at it. I’m definitely going to try doing more.

Jay (Actor)

Comments from the audience:

I bought my wife and kids to see the show. For the first time ever during visits, we were able to forget we were in a prison, and enjoy the normality of having fun together as a family.


The panto personified everything that a rehab culture should. The interaction with the men and staff took us momentarily away from the norm – you could really see the joy on the men’s faces at the end.    

Mike Vail – Senior Officer HMP Grendon and Springhill

Broken Dreams 2

Comments from the men about the project:

As human beings we need hopes and dreams and aspirations and this project has given us those.

To be honest I’m not really a confident person and I suffer from
anxiety a lot. My main worry was failure and being laughed at and once I realized that we were all in the same boat and all in it
together things got much easier. I feel like I was a product of my
environment and I just did the stuff that was happening around me which was some bad stuff. I’ve been around a lot of positive people here and it’s helped me feel part of something positive and I like that feeling.

When we are in prison we wear a kind of mask – you cannot show vulnerability. This project has helped take us out of that zone. It shows how the environment is a big factor on how we all are and how we reflect ourselves in society. It’s a lesson that we shouldn’t write all people off because imaginative projects like this can reach those people. Everybody who gets the hand extended to them can move forward in a positive way.

This project has taught me that you should never set limits for yourself, you can do whatever you put my mind to.

It has been a unique experience. It has given me unforgettable
memories, friendships for life and a new meaning to teamwork.

Comments from the audience:

Saw Broken Dreams at Royal Court today. Beautiful storytelling, rich and layered yet uncomplicated honestly told – thanks to all for creating these kind of opportunities for audiences and performers alike.

I will never cease to marvel at the power of theatre. Broken Dreams at Royal Court is multi layered and poignant and not to be missed.

Powerful, moving, and utterly believable. Nobody in that audience would have believed what you and the guys gave us was possible. They have proved that, given the chance, people are so much more than the sum of their parts. Thankyou.

Puppet Story Workshops

Creation of story DVDs by dads from HMP Springhill, working with a professional puppeteer in March and April 2018.

Comments from the men about the project:

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.

It’s reassuring that our kids can see us in a library, a normal place like they see at school, that that where we live is not all barbed wire and locks and keys. It’s something special for them to keep that says I care.


You did a great job putting us at ease and getting the best out of us all. Marcus was brilliant, and his knowledge and enthusiasm for the puppet world I found inspirational. Thank you for helping me give this fantastic gift to my 3 little monkeys at home.

The main thing for me is building that bond. I can’t always see my son but now he has the chance to see me whenever he wants by putting on that DVD.

Doing this gave me the chance to be emotional – I could be more personal than on a visit when there’s never enough time to say what you want properly. It was about building our relationship and giving them a present. Thank you.

Having the puppet there put me at my ease, it bought comedy to the whole thing, and made it all feel very normal. I loved the way the puppet cuddled up to us all, it showed that we can all do with a cuddle.

Celebration of the Spoken Word 2018

Comments from the men about the project:

I found the process of collaborative writing fascinating. I didn’t think it would ever come together a whole. But it did and it gave me a real positive reinforcement to my own ability. Performing gave me a real buzz – I’d really like to do more stand up when I get out.

It gave me a sense of joy that we were able to be creative in an environment that definitely isn’t. At the time I didn’t feel I had a voice in prison and this was a way of saying what I needed to say to the right people. The process reminded me who I was and as a result of this I gave an interview to the prison magazine about being an openly gay man in prison. I hope it encourages others to stand up and say I count as much as the next man, and I’d have never done that without being part of this

Comments from the audience:

I felt humbled to be there tonight and to hear so many positive affirmations of the work done by Kestrel. The men’s work was outstanding, intelligent, poignant, political, thought provoking and plenty of laughter too. The evening was a memorable and moving treat.

I really enjoyed the Performance last night @ Springhill The whole evening was full of a wonderful nourishing creativity.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to see a part of society that I’d never encountered before. We experience different situations all the time, but last night was quite exceptional. The dignity of those men was so powerful.

Broken Dreams

When Life Gives You a Fish a new play devised and performed at HMP Springhill and at The Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at The Royal Court Theatre, London in December 2017.

Comments from the men about the project:

This project has honestly opened up a new world of possibilities. I’m not sure if you even understand how empowering the work that you do is….keep going because you are changing lives, FACT!!!!!


I’ve been a prisoner a long time. Sometimes I get a chip on my shoulder that those outside don’t understand us. I was determined that this play should show us in a light that was not stereotypical. At the Royal Court, we were treated like human beings, people were interested in what I had to say.  To know there are good people out there gives you the inspiration to keep going. We can’t help the cards we are dealt with but you can choose how you play them.

I made something positive out of being in prison and I have done something, performed at The Royal Court in London, that people only dream of. It has changed me. It has made me look at life in a totally different way.


This has lifted our spirits. When you’re inside you lose a bit of your personality but through this experience I have gained some strength. We’ve met people from different worlds, different social strata, it makes us feel we could go anywhere, all things are possible. It’s about finding that inspiration and this project has given it to me.

Comments from the audience:

A privilege to have this here ‪@royalcourt – brave political work which broke our hearts.
Vicky Featherstone, The Royal Court

What a triumph that was. It was subtle, clever, funny, brilliantly performed, superbly directed. And so moving. I wasn’t alone in finding myself dabbing away a tear at the end. To come up with an original piece of work of that calibre in such a short space of time is quite remarkable.

It’s quite magnificent that the very first UK play to comment on Grenfell comes from Springhill and not from an ordinary un-imprisoned dramatist; moreover, as a play with Grenfell as a theme, it was notable that instead of being top-down observations of a thoughtful dramatist, it was ordinary people involved in one type of tragedy expressing themselves about ordinary people involved in another.

The boys were exceptionally professional – moving beyond words. Bravo to each and every one of them. Stunning.

Shoulder to Shoulder

8 weekly evening workshops at HMP Springhill ending in a performance to residents, staff and outside audience in October 2017.

Comments from the men about the project:

This was totally outside my comfort zone  but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. I liked the applause at the end of the performance and I liked seeing the work grow from week to week. I learned that performing in front of people was probably like riding a bike; and mine still has stabilisers!

I wanted to achieve something I’d never do on the outside and I did that. It taught me that its OK to lean on each other for support, that working in a team is a good thing.

I learned to respect the others in the group and to listen to everyone’s views on things. And I learned how to conduct myself in a good way while performing.

Comments from the audience:

An uplifting, fascinating, magnificent evening. These were guys who had never written before, certainly never performed before, giving a strong, persuasive, compelling performance of their own poetry. As a boost to self-confidence it cannot be bettered.

Congratulations on what was a hugely engaging, and moving, experience – the performances, of course, but also talking to the performers and to some of the ‘local’ audience over tea afterwards.

The 360° Man

A film devised written and shot at HMP Springhill March 2017

Comments from the men about the project:

Kestrel has provided moments of escapism from incarceration and helped us feel uplifted and empowered. In a little over 3 weeks we had to write a screenplay, and script, rehearse and film. We had worked with Kestrel before so we knew that the work ethic and determination would produce work to a very high standard.

We had really fun times, so many laughs. I’ve always done stuff on my own outside but this has taught me how nice it feels working as a team.

Watching the lads flourish together as a team has been a privilege. They drove it forward themselves and to have helped facilitate this has made me very proud.

Mike Vail, Prison officer

The project was challenging, motivational, in depth, insightful, educational, encouraging, self esteem boosting, self worth developing, exciting, confidence improving, spirit raising, creativity developing, skillfully put together, run and delivered. We find we can do things we thought we were not capable of, we learned things about a world we did not know about while at the same time learning about ourselves.

It got the best out of everyone. I’d always avoid having to stand up and do something in front of people, but doing improv everyone is in the same boat, we encourage each other, it’s given me confidence.

Blood and Water

October 2016

Comments from the men about the project:

You have helped me step outside my comfort zone and given me confidence in myself. Working alongside a professional director has given me experience and insight into professional directing, better people skills and how to respect people in a professional environment. Thank you for picking me up and making me feel bigger than myself. I hope you continue changing people’s lives in the way you have changed mine.

I have been reflecting on the ways in which arts in prisons can have a positive impact. For the people who participate, it can develop confidence, self-esteem and nurture talents and interest. For the prison, it can contribute towards a positive culture where men engage with activities and make constructive use of their time. For the wider community, it can be a bridge developing better understanding and collaboration. All of these benefits were clear to see in the excellent play Blood and Water written, performed and co-directed by men from Springhill alongside Kestrel Theatre. I was delighted that the three performances were really well supported. The performance at Royal Court Theatre was a triumph, a day that will live long in my memory.
Jamie Bennett - Governor of HMP Grendon and Springhill

It is amazing what a group of men who are prisoners, who are constantly made to feel they are worthless, bad and a danger to the world, can achieve when dedicated professionals place their confidence and trust in them. …I’ve seen a dyslexic man excel at directing, and another organize rehearsals in his own time, supporting others to learn scripts and access their inner actor. I’ve seen a disparate group of men remove the mask and come together as a team, a family and work together to achieve a resounding success. Thank you for having faith in me personally and us collectively, in helping, encouraging, teaching and leading us to a once in a lifetime performance of our play at The Royal Court in London.

We have all changed through this unique experience. It gave me the chance to be me, not just a hardened criminal. I could show there is more to me than my past. A fantastic and captivating journey we will never forget.

It has been the highlight of my prison sentence and I’ll remember it forever.

From The Royal Court audience:

Really outstanding. One of the benefits of theatre is surely to get the idea that behaviours are optional – you could behave like the brother or the loan shark or the godfather but behaviours need to be chosen with some care….

Really wonderful to have the Royal Court endorsing it.

Diana Parker

Thank you and the Company for such a fine play and bringing out the talent and confidence of the cast. I was interested to hear comments that the actors felt the workshops and the play allowed them to be ‘real’ and released them from the pressures of being inmates/ being tough/wearing a mask…. They all said they had discovered abilities and skills they did not know they had!
Hilden Charitable Trust

It was a wonderfully powerful performance, at times hilarious but also very moving, especially the Amazing Grace singing.
John Lister

Prison Education Trust

It really was superb. The standard of the writing and acting was absolutely first-class. You wouldn’t have known it wasn’t a professional production.

It was very heartening, too, to hear the cast members afterwards saying what a difference Kestrel had made to their lives in prison.

James Rampton

Other Projects

Skyfall – November 2015 HMP Springhill

I believe this has given me the confidence I never had before. I really enjoyed the acting part and felt amazing at the end of the show as did all the team. It was purely emotional and I have never felt like that before. As I am 49 years old it gave me a real sense of achievement and I now believe I can take what I have learned into the community upon my release.
Dave, actor

Living in an Enabling Environment – February 2016, a film made with young men in HMYOI Aylesbury

It’s given me more confidence, made me believe in myself. I never thought I could do it, but it turns out I can.
Archie - Writer and actor

Opportunity Knocks – a film made with residents – 2013, HMP Springhill

I would like to thank Kestrel for your work at HMP Grendon. The work the residents produced was compelling and imaginative. The who were involved have been very positive about their contribution and proud to be involved.
Jamie Bennett

Governor HMP Grendon and Springhill.