This is a social enterprise that trains prisoners in paid, skilled, and creative neeedlework and we wander round an exhibition held at Lady Sew & Sew’s warehouse in Henley-upon-Thames.
Originally founded by Lady Anne Tree, back in 1997, Fine Cell Work trains prisoners to do high-quality, creative needlework in their cells and textiles training in prison workshops to foster hope, discipline and confidence. Their aim is to enable them to finish their sentences with work skills, having earned and saved some money, and acquired the self-belief to stop offending. We also seek to guide them towards training and support on release.
Currently working in over 30 British prisons with a work force of up to 500 prisoners each year, Fine Cell Work specifically addresses key issues affecting prisoners’ offending behaviour: development of work skills, building relationships and mental resilience.
Prisoners are taught in groups by experienced volunteers before continuing their work in-cell. Having the opportunity to work independently helps them to regain control of their lives and allows them to maintain dignity. Prisoners gain a sense of connection to the world outside prison through the sale of their work. This also helps them to establish a work ethic, and allows them to send money to their families or save for their release.
In this exhibition you get to see lots of examples of their work in the form of cushions, small baby quilts and indeed larger quilts too – including ‘The Sleep Quilt’, which was commissioned by Tracy Chevalier and also the Cell Quilt – which is life-size and depicts a prison cell that accomodates two people.
Allowing prisoners to take up needlework is not without it’s challenges – needles and scissors after all being considered dangerous weapons!
Tony in HMP Wandworth says: I made a log cabin quilt out of a man’s ties. His wife used to buy him one every Christmas before he died. You are entrusted with someone’s memory.
You can find out much more about Fine Cell by visiting their website at https://www.finecellwork.co.uk/about_us
and there is also a shop where you can purchase items; they take commissions, and you can also find out how to become involved.
The exhibition was held at the warehouse premises of Lady Sew & Sew in Henley upon Thames and was combined with an evening talk from Tracy Chevalier. The event was a great success raising in excess of £3000 for Fine Cell Work. – well done all concerned!
We caught up with Tracy that evening and you can enjoy our interview by clicking here.