Tony's Story

Tony's Story


"When I first met Louisa, the Fine Cell Work volunteer, I told her that it had been a very long time since I’d put needle and thread to anything, but she patiently walked through a re-introduction. I went back to my cell with a kit for a pin cushion and a few small concerns: could I do it? Would I make a mess of it?

After a few initial nerves and one or two false starts – Tent stitch? Basket weave? What did she say? - I got the job done. When Louisa returned a few weeks later, I proudly handed over my bloated offering and received my next assignment. My journey had begun.
Since then I have not looked back. I became Fine Cell Work Wing Coordinator and received a Volunteering and Leadership Award that year, which was also unexpected and much appreciated. I continued in the role for a couple of years, completing an unusual artist's commission and plenty of other wonderful patterns and kits. I was concerned when I was re-categorised that I might not find Fine Cell Work in the establishment to which I might be sent. However, when I arrived here I was pleased to spot the tell tale hardened fingertips and concentrated squint of a Fine Cell Work stitcher and he soon put me on to the co-ordinator. One waiting list and 10 months later and I was back in the familiar swing of elephants, dogs, beetroots and tea cosies (not everyone gets to use that phrase!)
It’s not just about the sewing and getting paid which some might suggest is the motivation – nor is it about filling sometimes long and arduous hours of free time, though that is true for some. No, what I find most gratifying about Fine Cell Work is that my efforts are not judged in the light of my crimes, nor the fact that I am in prison, but rather on their own merits – the artistry, the attention to detail and the aesthetic pleasure they give to people. That truth and the knowledge of it is more valuable to me and more illustrative of a truly rehabilitative approach than many I have come across in the prison system. Thank you to Fine Cell Work and all those members of the public who continue to support our endeavours. You show us what our work, and thereby we, are truly worth."

Become a champion of second chances and support our work, so that we can help more people like Tony to lead independent, crime-free lives. You can help us by making a donation becoming a champion of Fine Cell Work by signing up to a regular donation, or by making a purchase from our shop.


  • Catherine Foster on

    One of the recent things that I have bought was a little quilt stitched by Andy. It was decorated with hearts. My daughter and her husband have recently adopted a little two year old daughter,Elisa, from Thailand. The hearts on the quilt represent each member of her mother’s family. It has become the story quilt.Each night she snuggles underneath it.
    So I just wanted all the stitchers to know how special their work is. Yesterday I buried my nose into one of the embroidered lavender bags. Thank you and keep delighting us

  • Jules Beresford-Dent on

    Thanks for sharing your story Tony. The work you and the other stitchers do is beautiful and you deserve the praise you have received.

  • Helen on

    As a stitcher myself, I can so Identify with much of Tony’s stitching experience and especially having wonderful work praised separately from me and all the prejudice and issues, although very different, both I and Tony face. Brilliant Tony, thank you for pointing it out. It’s so true. And of course thank you for your wonderful work ALL the stitchers. I’m moved by this project.

  • Jane Anderson on

    Thank you so much for this heartfelt and interesting story. Your work is amazing- such beautiful things. This work is needed in prisons even more than ever now. Very best wishes and thank you.

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