Have you heard about the amazing work done everyday by Fine Cell Works and their volunteers?

Fine Cell Works is a not for profit organisation that work within the prison system with the aim to rehabilitate and teach new skills to prisoners. Through their work they have achieved many great things. From their service users creating embroidered peices for the Queen to gaining commissions to produce art works for David Bowie and the Rolling Stones.
The organisation was set up in 1960s after a visit by Lady Anne Tree to Holloway prison in London. Lady Anne worked along side a select group of women in the prison to create intricate needlpoint works that were later sold to collectors in New York (USA).

After the sale of these neelepoint works Lady Anne became determined to create an organisation through which prisoners could gain training of the highest level and consequently gain earnings from their hard work. Fine Cell Work’s volunteers are members of the Embroiders and Quilters guild and with their passion and knowledge of needlepoint enable the prisoners they work along side to become as passionate and as skilled as they themselves are. This of course has a very positive impact on the future lives of the prisoners;

I am learning a new skill which I did not think possible. I also know that people do care about me and what I do because otherwise why would people take an interest in my fine cell work! I now believe what others think about me makes a real difference to how I conduct myself.                           Steve, HMP Wandsworth

Image courtesy of the ICA
(Click the image and follow the link for more information)


You may think that the art of needlepoint would not sit well within a prison environment, however there is a long and substantial history of inmates creating intricate works of art – making work using matchsticks is a long standing tradition with in prison’s, great examples of which can be seen every Autumn at the Royal Festival Hall as part of The Koestler Prize. (I will be writting a piece in the foreseeable future about the history of the koestler trust and the awards).



For many prisoners the opportunity to learn a skill and ultimately earn from that skill is something that they have never been given. Take the story of Kieron; after working alongside Fine Cell Work volunteers for many years Kieron was given the opportunity to collaborate with one of Britain’s most acclaimed artists and sculptors to create the work pictured below – Gavin Turk. Not only did this opportunity give Kieron a great boost to his self esteem he decided to us the money to marry his fiance.


You can read so many more brilliant and triumphant stories by following this link.
For me the beauty of this organisation is that you can be a part. The pieces produced by the volunteers and prisoners involved up and down the country are available for you to buy and have in your home. They are priced accesibly with items from just £10 to more extravagant purchases.
Through the quality and professionalism of their volunteers the products of Fine Cell Works are absolutely beautiful and of course highly desirable. Being exhibited in the V&A museum and commissioned by English Heritage. To anyone looking to begin a project in a similar vain here is the most important point. Products of quality sell and with that the aim of your organisation will follow.
You can gain so much more information about this great social enterprise by following this link, and while your there why not treat yourself to one of the wonderful creations on offer.
(All information and images can be found on the Fine Cell Works website unless stated otherwise).


The Seething Trycyclingathon and why cyclinging is so important to Seething(ites)

An area surrounded by intrigue and legend; Seething has been aligned with many an ingenious first through its recent history. The discovery of Lay lines running under the Lamb  public house and centre of the community; word of the sardines and how their population was saved, as well as many tales of cheese. Here, I will indulge your intrigue a little more.

There has been a tale and much discussion passing through Seething of late, focusing on the making and development of the bicycle. Many moons ago, brothers Ray and Lee Ryder discovered the speed of which one could travel using a wheel of cheese. Theastonished brothers took their discovery a stage further conjoing two cheese ‘wheels’ together with bread sticks and embarking on numerous ‘hikes’. Further to this the brothers started a business  they named Ray Lee Hikes and hither the discussion and most poinient question lies.

The already heated debate was fueled earlier this year with the discovery in Claremont Gardens (Surbiton) of what appears to be the remians of an ancient spoke. Could it be that the first ‘bicycle’ was created in Seething?

On September 16th 2012 the community and researchers of Seething will be conducting the first annual Seething Trycyclingathon to celebrate the amazing links within the bourough to cycling. There will be three cycling routes throughout the area for your enjoyment. You can register to cycle and raise money for a charity of your choice by following this link.

And to the world of Seething…

Recently I have become aware of a small but growing movement in my local area. The praise and worship of the Goat Boy – Lefi Ganderson. The locals celebrate and praise his wisdom through ritual Cheese eating at the Lamb Public House in an event they call Homage de Fromage.

Increasing numbers of locals are becoming enthralled in the strange but oh so wonderful activities. Drag racing, Parading in Boiler suits (otherwise known as the talc miners band), exploring Ley Lines, 50 second silences in respect for Lefi and using the power of Lefi to place themselves inside a board game! What brilliant madness.

Giving a second chance.

The U-turn womens project – this month’s Charity of the Month – plays a vital role in the empowerment of women. many of the women that come to U-turn have suffered abuse from an early age. This is most cases has left a void not only emotionally but within their education. The U-turn project offers many programmes aimed to close this void, such as the second chance programme.

This programme makes a real difference to the lives of the women that the project works with. Giving them the opportunity to gain qualifications that may have passed them by,. Through this programme the women are not only gaining new skills and qualifications but an encouraging boost of self esteem – both of whcih will help towards future employment opportunities and generally a happier and more fulfilled lifestyle.

This programme was made possible by working in partnership with Raines Secondary School who continues to support this project with guidance given in the planning and preparation of all the material.

The Crisis Commision @ Somerset House

The Crisis Commision is an exhibition combining the works of celebrated artists with the works of the artistic homeless. I have been interested in the power of art to help those socially neglected for some time and the prospect of the Crisis Commsion exhibition has been exciting me since its announcemnet in January of this year.

For those of you who are unaware, Crisis is an organisation that aim to not only help the homeless through practical day to day intervention but work tirelessly to change our social infrastructure in order to eradicate homelessness as we know it forever. The great work of Crisis ranges from highlighting the issues of the homeless in the palace of Westminster (working to implement new policies and or to amend existing ones.

The exhibition currently on display at Somerset House, celebrates the talents of Homeless artists (Skylight artists), some of whom I have had the very great pleasure of working with in the past (The Going Places Project).  All the work within the exhibition is for sale – an auction of works by the prominent artists involved taking place at Christies, the work of the very talented Skylight artists will be auctioned throughout the duration of the exhibition.

Artists included in the exhibition include, Antony Gormley, Tracey Emin, Sir Anthony Caro, Yinka Shonibare, Gillian Wearing, Jonathan Yeo, Bob & Roberta Smith, Nathan Coley and Nika Neelova.  As well as the very talented William James West (Bill, Birmingham), Thomas Herald, and Conleth Moran all Skylight Artists that I would like to give special congratulatory recognition to (other Skylight artists were involved in the exhibition from across the UK).

The Crisis Commission will be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience major works from our greatest contemporary artists reacting to an issue that is sadly becoming ever more prominent in today’s society – homelessness. It is hugely exciting that artists of this calibre are right now making original works that will reflect on the exhibition’s themes of isolation, property, security and space. I can’t wait to install them in Somerset House for all to enjoy, but also to provoke thought on what it is like not to have a home.

– Laurence Sillars, Curator of the Crisis Commission and Chief Curator at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art (Somerset House/ Crisis Commission).