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27 Mar 2014

The Ballad Of Not Reading In Gaol: Carol Ann Duffy to lead poetry event outside Pentonville prison

The Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, is to lead a poetry reading outside a London prison tomorrow (28 March) to protest against the ban on sending books and other essentials to prisoners.

Writers and actors including Kathy Lette, Vanessa Redgrave, Samuel West, David Hare and Ruth Padel will also read poems at the event outside Pentonville prison.

‘The Ballad Of Not Reading In Gaol’ is the biggest event arranged so far as part of the Howard League for Penal Reform’s Books for Prisoners campaign.

The campaign began when Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, wrote an article outlining the restrictions imposed by the government on families and friends wishing to send parcels to prisoners.

Leading writers including Alan Bennett, Salman Rushdie, Mark Haddon, Ian McEwan, Ian Rankin, Irvine Welsh and Nick Hornby have called on the Justice Secretary to remove the restrictions, which have been in place since last November.

There is also support from other organisations, such as Liberty, English PEN and the Royal Society of Literature.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “We are delighted that so many famous authors and other eminent figures in the arts are supporting our campaign to ensure friends and family can send books and other essentials to prisoners behind bars. That the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, has volunteered to arrange this reading outside Pentonville speaks volumes about the opposition that the Ministry of Justice faces on this ill-thought-out and petty measure.”

Speakers reading poems will include…

  • Carol Ann Duffy
  • Kathy Lette
  • Vanessa Redgrave
  • Samuel West
  • April De Angelis
  • Ruth Padel
  • David Hare
  • Stella Feehily
  • AL Kennedy
  • Sadie Jones
  • Tracy Chevalier

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. The campaign was triggered by an article written for by Frances Crook
  3. About 80 writers and dramatists urged the government to lift the restrictions on sending books and essentials in a letter to the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday
  4. A second letter, signed by 100 leading figures, was published by the Evening Standard.
  5. Howard League supporters have tweeted “#shelfie #booksforprisoners” photographs of their bookshelves to the Ministry of Justice, to show books they would post to prisoners if the restrictions were lifted. Tomorrow we ask the 20,000+ signatories to a petition to do the same.

Further information

Rob Preece
Press Officer
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