As the library in HMP Manchester is starting to welcome visitors back into the physical library after having had our doors locked for 16 months, we have had to say good bye to one of our long term Shannon Trust* Mentors.

The reason for the ‘Good bye’ is good news for him as he has been released from a long prison sentence to begin his life on the outside anew. He was a mentor with us for over 8 years and has helped to teach many men to read during this time and was also a coordinator for the program for about half of that time (supporting other mentors with their teaching directly on the wings).

He presented the library with a handmade thank you card and a message inside that read ‘To all library staff. Thank you for all the help you have given me over the past few years. This has been of great importance to me as it has helped shape me into a new, clear minded, assertive person with high self-esteem and a “you can do it” attitude. You should be proud of yourselves and each other for being great people with a great mind-set and the ability to provide me with the tools for me to change my whole life. BIG THANK YOU (and hugs)’

As you can image we were all a little choked by this message and obviously wish him Great Luck for his future. Even better than luck we have put him in touch with Read Easy** so that he can carry on helping people to learn to read on the outside, which is something he is eager to do.

Now, please don’t think that we’ve been able to sit with our feet up over the last 16 months and read a lot, we have been very busy providing a request and delivery service and creating new and exciting activities for the men to do.

One of these exciting activities was a Story Competition that was judged by author Ryan Gattis and the top 10 entries displayed and an audio recording of their story created for the Writing on the Wall annual event.

We had 10 entrants to the competition and 2 were judged to be good enough for a top ten position and with one of them getting second place. The runner up was very excited to have been chosen and received a congratulations letter from Ryan and a certificate.

Guardian Angel Watches Over Us 
A man gets off a bus, stumbles, looks over and sees a woman smiling. He smiles also as he makes his way from the bus stop, looks up and reads a street sign, which is Rensure Street in Liverpool. In these beautiful Victorian style buildings he walks on admiring, crossing the main road to get a better view of the famous bombed out church of St. Luke’s that stands proud still today after the Blitz during the way. Then he slowly pulls up his hood as the clouds become grey and inclement weather draws in. here comes the rain showering down. 

He walks through the city centre and immediately is met with the smell of hot dogs, burgers, onions wafting on the Liverpudlian breeze, mixed with fumes of taxis, cars, buses and a hint of the River Mersey that followed the winds coming from the Docks to greet him. He crosses cobbled stones from one street to the next, stepping out of the way of passers-by. As he continues, his attention is drawn to a grand pub called The Crown. On the big window he reads ‘fine ales, whiskey, gin, run, homemade Scouse served’, written in whitewash to draw in punters and passing trade. 

Just then there’s fluttering coming from his left side. Gangs of pigeons all flying down from where they sat in formation like military ranks on the Lime Street Station rooftop, all gathering around puddles of rainwater. To the north of the entrance to the station was an old spinster lady hunched over with layers of clothing this poor soul warm on the streets, she was throwing corn and in her other hand she pulled along an old shopping trolly with all her worldly possessions inside. 

The spinster lady was well known to the local clientele as the delivery to the pub a drayman with cellar doors open dropping barrels said to her, “hello, Kitty girl. Them pigeons of yours need to go on a diet, Kitty.” They both laughed. Then she replied, “ah go on with yeh,” smiling with no teeth whatsoever but happy feeding her enjoyment. As she walked on slowly, a taxi driver pulling away from the Lime Street rank, beeping his horn, window down, thumbs up to Kitty. “Hello, Kitty.” She waves back at the Scouse. 

Inside the pub was heaving with people all enjoying themselves. As the man looks on, listening to the singing bellowing out: “In my Liverpool home we speak with an accent exceedingly rare / If you want a Cathedral we’ve got one to spare / In my Liverpool home. As the night comes closer people go home. The man is nowhere to be seen, only the song echoing in the rainy night. 

*The Shannon Trust is a charity that provides a Reading Program for adults that is run in all prison establishments across the UK. It provides the 5 manual program free of charge along with outstanding support, training and a volunteer who regularly visits the prison to support both the mentors and learners.

**Read Easy is a charity that uses the Shannon Trust Reading Program in the community and helps to team up mentors with adults who want to learn to read in less formal settings.