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The Reader extends partnership with National Prison Radio to support wellbeing of residents

Written by Maisie Jeynes, 3rd March 2021

Following a successful pilot project in 2020, The Reader is collaborating with prison-based charity, Prison Radio Association, on a series of programmes broadcast in 120 prisons around the UK. 

The ten new episodes offer people living in prison an opportunity for meaningful connection and wellbeing support, despite the additional restrictions that Covid has brought to these settings.  

The release of the first programme in the series coincided with the publication of a report from the Prisons Inspectorate highlighting how the coronavirus restrictions in place in prisons since last March are having a ‘profound’ effect on the emotional and physical wellbeing of residents. 

From February through to April, National Prison Radio is airing one new episode a week thanks to support from the Steve Morgan Foundation and DCMS Community Match Challenge – part of government’s £750m support package for charities #CommunitiesCan. 

Before the pandemic, The Reader was delivering weekly Shared Reading groups in 35 Approved Premises and prisons in the UK, supporting 650 men and women. Research has previously shown that the groups provide a space for residents to listen, empathise and share reflections, giving them new ways to tell their stories and helping to improve wellbeing. 

The radio programmes ensure that existing group members have continued access to Shared Reading and give those who haven’t attended a group before a chance to experience its benefits. 

As with the pilot programmes, which were broadcast during the first lockdown last summer, each episode is essentially a mini Shared Reading session which lasts for around 50 minutes.  

A member of staff from The Reader’s criminal justice projects team is joined by two of National Prison Radio’s regular contributors. They read a poem or short story together and the conversation goes from there.  

A number of guests will also be appearing throughout the series which will be broadcast over a ten-week period, including poets Clare Shaw and Ian MacMillan, and writer Alex Wheatle.

Helen Wilson, The Reader’s Head of Shared Reading Programmes, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Prison Radio Association again on a project that we know has been a lifeline for many prison residents during Covid.  

“Although this wasn’t something we’d tried before 2020, the programmes have really captured the magic we see happening when people read together. As ever, it’s our readers that make the experience what it is and we would like to thank everyone from PRA who has joined us to share their thoughts, it’s been a pleasure to see this work take shape as a result of their input.” 

Steve Morgan, Founder and Chairman of Steve Morgan Foundation said, “My trustees and I have seen first-hand how the pandemic has affected all sectors of our communities across the entire country.  Thanks to the match funding opportunity offered by Community Match Challenge and DCMS we are able to offer support for a number of The Reader’s services which have such a huge impact on mental health and wellbeing.” 

As well as broadcasting the programmes on National Prison Radio, The Reader is making the series available to audiences everywhere via its SoundCloud page. Click here to listen now. 


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