Press Release: Annual Christmas Carol Concert celebrates the impact of art for prisoners

13 Nov 2015

Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET) will be hosting its annual carol concert on Wednesday 2nd December 2015 at St. Paul’s Church, Covent Garden at 6.30pm. This year’s event will celebrate the importance of creative arts which help people in prison to cope and to stay connected with their families and loved ones.

The event will hear from PET alumnus and guest speaker, Lesley Graham. Back in 2009 Lesley went to prison after battling with alcohol addiction for decades. When Lesley discovered she could paint in her 50s, art and creative writing became a kind of therapy, helping her to cope and reflect the negative impact her addiction had on her children. Lesley said:

“I learned a lot about myself and that self-awareness leads me to be much more aware of my affect on other people.”

Lesley went onto receive support from PET to study Drugs and Alcohol counselling and Teaching English courses and helped many other disadvantaged women to overcome their addictions and learn to read, during her five year sentence.

Lesley adds: “As far as my family are concerned, the difference my passion for learning has made to them is immense; my son decided to go to university after he saw what I was achieving in prison. He got a first class honours degree in Music and has just finished his masters.

“One of my paintings was exhibited in a gallery in London as part of the charity Drug Fam competition and my daughter went in my place to the exhibition. As a result, she is now helping them as a volunteer coordinator and supports the families of people with addictions.”

Lesley also won an award and her work was displayed at another charity exhibition organised by the Koestler Trust. The week she was released, just over a year ago, Lesley went to see it hanging on the walls of London’s prestigious Southbank Centre.

Since then, Lesley has been working for the Education Centre at Guildford Cathedral, “I now have such a positive outlook on life, which I didn’t have before prison” she says.

Rod Clark, PET’s Chief Executive, said: “Art plays a valuable role in helping prisoners to remain connected with their families and loved ones and to cope with being in prison over the Christmas period. Each year we fund approximately 400 applications for arts materials from prisoners and at this time of year, many will be making special handmade presents for their children and loved ones. Rebuilding relationships with loved ones are particularly important to ensure people have the support and motivation to contribute positively to society after they leave prison.”

The carol concert will also feature readings from guest speakers Dame Penelope Keith, author Susan Hill, and Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of the Criminal Justice Alliance. Christmas carols will be sung by the London choir Fever Pitch. The event is free to attend, however booking is required, to register simply email: events@prisonerseducation.org.uk.

This year’s event will be followed by the Big Give Christmas Challenge. This year, PET’s Christmas Challenge is to raise funds for creative materials and art courses to help event more men and women in prison. Donations given online at midday on Friday 4th December or midday on Saturday 5th December could be matched. Donations can be made via: http://bit.ly/1RovyZB.

The event is generously supported by Phoenix Equity Partners.

Editor's Notes

For interviews, photos or further information from PET please contact Anthony Knight (PET), Fundraising and Communications Officer: anthony@prisonerseducation.org.uk; 020 3752 5681 or visit http://www.prisonerseducation.org.uk/.

About PET

Since 1989, Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET) has supported prisoners to engage in rehabilitation through learning. The charity does this by providing advice and funding for approximately 2,000 people per year for distance learning courses in subjects and levels not generally available in prisons. PET also carries out research, informed by prisoner learners, to improve prison education policies. PET also provides prisoners funding for art and hobby materials.

In 2012 PET launched the Prisoner Learning Alliance to work together with 23 other expert organisations to champion learning for people in prison.