Prison Fictions and Human Rights project wins Gold Award

Posted on 1 May 2013

Michelle Kelly, Claire Westall and a group of students from the Department of English and Related Literature have been given a Vice-Chancellor's Outstanding Achievement Award for their groundbreaking Prison Fictions and Human Rights project.

Left to right: Katherine Argent (Treasurer, York PEN), Dr Michelle Kelly (English), Dr Claire Westall (English), Seb Brixey-Williams (Chair, York PEN), and Carys Brain (Secretary, York PEN)

This was an exemplary project melding research and teaching and life writing, involving topic modules, readings and debates. 

Professor Matthew Campbell, Department of English and Related Literature

The project was nominated by the department and received a Gold Award in the Inclusivity category. 

It explored prison writing, writing about prisons, and related questions about human rights, bringing together students, academics, ex-prisoners, prison staff/volunteers and volunteer/charity groups associated with prison and literature/theatre.

It did so by uniting curriculum content within the ‘Fictions of Human Rights’ first year topic module with: a 5 week guest lecture series; a one-day guest speaker event; the setting up of York PEN, now an independent student society attached to the charity English PEN; and by running two work experience project teams as part of the new Careers initiative, @Work.

During the project events, several staff and volunteers from working prisons (HMP Full Sutton, HMP Shotts and HMP/YOI Askham Grange) came to campus and a group of students visited HMP/YOI Askham Grange to watch a play produced by Clean Break theatre company, which included prisoners as actors.

The project met all of its own goals and exceeded many, thanks to the scale of interest shown, the sheer number and variety of people involved, the number of students attending voluntary and research activities, and the contributions of people from beyond the university working with issues of rights and imprisonment.

The project was funded by an Undergraduate Teaching Committee Rapid Response award and Research Led Project funding, with additional support provided by the Writers at York programme.