To celebrate the two-year anniversary of the Fine Works hub, we wanted to give you an insight into a typical day in the life of our Open the Gates programme. Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, the programme aims to support ex-prisoners into further training and employment upon their release from prison.
Mornings are a busy time at the hub with ex-prisoners, or as apprentices as we acknowledge them, arriving ready for their daily tasks to be assigned. Wendy and Jordanne, our Workshops team, prioritise any urgent stitching challenges and prepare to set everyone off on their jobs for the day.
Today is a typical Summer’s morning and starts with a quick chat in the kitchen over a cup of tea before everyone gets down to work. Ryan* is tasked with finishing off some French knots and stem stitches on a commissioned pineapple tray. Mary*, along with volunteer Ruth, is cheering up some of our grumpy polar bear decorations - literally stitching a smile on their faces – in our affectionately names “decoration hospital” (for decorations which are returned to us from prison but aren’t quite ready for customers). Greg* is making tassels for some sample sale pouches, whilst Micky* is using the sewing machine - for just the second time ever - to stitch up some lavender bags.
A few months ago, a Friday ritual began when staff and apprentices began having a communal lunch bought from the local Greek café – Falafel Friday. Unfortunately, on this particular day disappointment rippled through the hub as the café was closed! Off to Tesco everyone went…
With everyone fed and happy, our apprentices get back to work on their stitching or machine-embroidery, whilst others continue to work on individual pieces of coursework to be submitted as part of the Fine Cell Work accredited training programme. Training is a key part of the hub activity throughout the week.
Of course, it’s not all about hard work – with plenty of opportunities to have a chat and share a laugh. The hub is a safe space, and stitching relaxes people, giving them the freedom to talk about their experiences. The hub offers an environment where talking about prison is not a taboo and people don’t feel judged for their pasts. Conversation also turns to the present day - housing challenges, probation appointments and other everyday discussions. Our Engagement and Support Officer is on hand to provide guidance on anything which our apprentices are finding difficult to navigate, and signpost to other services when required.
As the end of the day approaches, it is time for another weekly ritual - Tidy Friday. This is part of everyone’s routine, as we organise the hub ready for more stitching action next week.
Being released from prison can be a daunting prospect for some people and can be an overwhelming at times. The Fine Works Hub aims to create a peaceful, non-judgemental space to provide purpose, support and further training – enabling our apprentices to move on to independent, crime-free lives.
*Some names have been changed.