Over the past four years, Sir John Cass’s Foundation has been supporting the creation of The Beauty’s Inside magazine providing women prisoners at HMP Send with the opportunity to explore their creativity whilst developing transferable work skills many hope will assist them to gain employment on their release.
Four magazines have been produced, each one very different in style, but all enabling the women to take control of the content, providing them with a forum to express their thoughts, fears and emotions as well as commenting on issues close to their hearts. Strong themes emerged across all four publications such as the importance of looking good especially during family visits, the power of make up to give confidence and the need to have the correct beauty and skin care products, especially for black and minority ethnic women.
Articles on topical events such as the legalisation of gay marriage sat alongside personal playlists and the toll of being in prison – all represented in the magazines through a variety of mediums; personally written articles, prose, poetry, art and interviews. Each magazine featured a fashion shoot, using the women as models, all styled by industry experts from the worlds of fashion, photography and make up.
On Thursday 14 April 2016, an Awards Ceremony was hosted by HMP Send to mark the end of the project and to congratulate not just the women prisoners, but also the London College of Fashion (LCF) fashion journalism students who had acted as mentors and collaborators. The event gave everyone the opportunity to say how they felt the programme had achieved its objectives and how personally they now felt empowered.
Helen Meixner, Chair of Grants, spoke on behalf of Sir John Cass’s Foundation and handed each participant and LCF student a certificate and a writing journal to encourage their ongoing creative writing. Through a Q&A session facilitated by Claire Swift, Director of Social Responsibility, London College of Fashion, the LCF students spoke very passionately about how much they had gained both personally and professionally and how their preconceived image of prisoners had very quickly changed.
All the participants stated how creating a tangible product, such as a magazine, would enhance their job prospects when they went for interviews and one LCF student said she had been so influenced by the experience she is now looking at working in prisons as a career option utilising her journalism training. A common theme from the students was one of the drawbacks they felt studying a fashion subject was society viewed it as frivolous; taking part in this project enabled them to showcase the gravitas and benefits to society this sector can bring.
On the strength of The Beauty’s Inside project, the London College of Fashion is now looking at other ways of supporting the women prisoners at HMP Send.