‘Words In My Head’: Poems from HMP Eastwood Park

This is the latest in our series of community collaborations – bringing together Gloucester residents and artistic creativity to tell people’s stories.

This is HMP Eastwood Park

It’s a prison and young offender institution (YOI) in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, for women aged 18 and over.

Around 400 women are imprisoned here, including the mother and baby unit for women with children under 18 months old.

This is Megan

Megan Baxter (they/them) is a writer and performer living in Gloucester. They graduated from Bath Spa University in 2020 with a BA in Creative Writing and are currently studying for an MA in Writing for Young People.

In spring 2021, they were one of the successful applicants for our Creative Community Activists scheme.

Megan wanted to open a dialogue with people incarcerated in Gloucestershire.

Read an extract from Megan’s initial idea

I have spent a lot of time over the past nine months interrogating my relationship societally and personally to harm, punishment and justice; listening to abolitionist thinkers and transformative justice practitioners; reading about the exacerbated effects of COVID-19 on UK prison populations.

Right now, all of us are lonely, disconnected and unsure of what the world will look like post-Coronavirus, but these concerns are even more urgent and devastating for people serving sentences in prison who have had what little face-to-face contact they can have with the outside stolen by the virus.

I want to put together a crowdsourced poem written with people incarcerated in Gloucestershire, focusing particularly on how COVID has affected their quality of life in prison.

My hope for this project is that it will amplify the voices of incarcerated people and let them know that care and respect for them and their voices exist in the community

This is the story they set out to tell together

Prompted by the effects of COVID-19 on prison populations, Megan wanted to ask this question:

What is life like for women in prison during a global pandemic and national lockdown?

This is what they made

Megan wrote to women in HMP Eastwood Park, inviting them to capture their experiences, feelings and ideas in poems.

The words Megan received back were then read aloud by spoken word artists, with different segments edited together into one collective poem.

The result is ‘Words In My Head’ – a short video sharing something of the experience from inside HMP Eastwood Park during lockdown.

Listen to these women’s words: