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RISE: Erwin James in conversation with Jane Davis

Written by Lisa Spurgin, 26th September 2013

Erwin-JamesRISE: Erwin James in conversation with Jane Davis
Monday 14th October, 6pm (FREE)
Ustinov College, Durham University, Howlands Farm, South Road, Durham DH1 3DE

Join Erwin James, Guardian journalist and former prisoner, at this special, in-conversation event with Founder and Director of The Reader Organisation Jane Davis, a fringe event of Durham Book Festival 2013 and The Reader Organisation's Reading In Secure Environments (RISE) programme this October, in association with the School of Applied Social Sciences at Durham University.

Erwin will be talking about his life as a reader and a writer with Jane at this free event, where they'll also be joined by two of The Reader Organisation's Reader-in-Residences at criminal justice settings in Durham, Charlie Darby-Villis (HMP Low Newton) and Lynn Elsdon (HMP Frankland).

Erwin James began writing for The Guardian on criminal justice issues while a serving prisoner in 1998; to this day, he is a regular columnist and contributor. Two collections of his columns, A Life Inside, A Prisoner's Notebook and The Home Stretch, From Prison to Parole, have been published. He credits his discovery and interest in reading and education while in prison with changing his life. As well as being a trustee for Prison Reform Trust and patron of charities including CREATE and Blue Sky, Erwin is also a patron for The Reader Organisation.
As a believer in the value of reading in prisons, Erwin has expressed his support for the RISE programme since its beginnings last year:
"I’m thrilled at the news of The Reader Organisation’s RISE programme. My first experience of reading as a shared experience happened when I was in prison and the poet Ken Smith came in to talk to a group of us about his work. I was ten years into a life sentence and was still trying to find my way. Ken invited us to read some of his poems and extracts from one of his books. We were all intensely inhibited at first, defensiveness being the default position to survive on a prison landing. None of us had ever done anything like it. But in the library that day Ken made us feel safe enough to let our defences down, and to engage with him and each other as the real people we were deep inside. The humanising impact of Ken’s visit lasted long after he left us. He probably never knew it but in the two hours he gave us he managed to remind us that though we were prisoners, we were people first – and that we had some value. The potential for RISE, I believe, is massive."
Erwin also spoke about RISE, The Reader Organisation and his own experiences of reading in prison in one of his recent posts for The Guardian Books Blog.
All are welcome to attend this free and special event, which promises to be a deeply interesting evening.
For more information on Durham Book Festival 2013, see their website.

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