In the Media

Prisoner's artwork spawns greetings card social enterprise

PUBLISHED November 21, 2011

Widow sets up Cards from Prison after penpal's talent thrives behind bars Cards from Prison is a not-for-profit initiative created by 72-year-old widow Hilary Peters. Peters, who used to work as a garden designer and once started a city farm in London, decided to act after witnessing the growing talent for painting in a prisoner she had befriended via a charity-sponsored penpal scheme. "Neville is just coming to the end of an eight-year sentence," she explains. "He's one of those chaps who has been in and out of prison nearly all his life, mostly for drug offences. Now he's in his early 60s and, hopefully, this is the last time [he'll be in prison]." Neville (not his real name) sent her his first painting about four years ago. "It wasn't bad," she says. "But then he joined the art class in prison and started getting better and better. He was still on drugs when I began writing to him. But he came off them by his own effort when he started painting. I saw him progress at an astonishing rate from other pictures he sent me over the years, and then suddenly his talent just shone through and I thought, 'Yes, other people should be able to see these.'" A year ago, Peters had the first painting made into a card. It was a picture of a polar bear. "It was beautiful," she says. Her pension and income support is her only source of income, but she managed to scrimp together enough money for her first foray into digital printing. "I didn't know what I was doing at all at first. I just searched for a printing service on the internet," Peters says. "Eventually, I had the first batch printed, and sold them very quickly to friends and family, making enough money to print the second batch. In the meantime I set up Cards from Prison as a social enterprise. We now have five designs, with another three on the way, and other prisoners who want to paint for the cards." Peters has never advertised the cards. All her sales are generated by word of mouth. But she hopes to generate enough demand for the cards to provide employment for ex-prisoners. "The more cards I print, the more I sell and the more work I have to do," she says. "Ideally, this could be a way of providing work for ex-prisoners who are finding it hard to get a job." The difficulties she has encountered to see the project through have been draining. "The bureaucratic hoops I've had to jump through with the prison service have almost worn me out," she says. "And, of course, the prejudice towards people in prison is not very nice to deal with ? society dumps all its bad feelings on prisoners. But this has made me more determined to show that, given a chance, people in prison can do some good and can produce some beautiful things that can bring a great deal of pleasure to others." The cards are free. "People can have as many as they like," says Peters. All that is required is a ?5 donation to cover administration and postage costs. ? For cards, write to Worcester Lodge, Didmarton, Gloucestershire, GL9 1AH. Cheques should be made out to Cards from Prison. Prisons and probation Social enterprises Art Erwin James © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds