Group blog June 2018

Animal Farm, George Orwell
Report from HMP Ashfield

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I’d wondered if this book would provoke discussion, or whether it would be written off as “simplistic.” When the group met it was soon clear that all had enjoyed the book, and nobody had found this allegorical fable childish. None of the group (possibly excluding T who arrived almost at the end) had read the book before, or knew of its reputation as an allegory of Russian politics in the early twentieth century. This allowed the discussion to range wider, and with more curiosity than if they’d been corralled by the usual background notes.

G – I’ve been doing my exams, and there are so many other times in history this could have been applied to. German reformation, French revolution, and also, I was thinking, the English aristocracy.

H – It is very accurate on how things work. I was in Berlin when they put up the wall. This is how those in power keep in power.

J – It showed how they get control of the media.

E – The wall. They kept altering the wall. Adding words.

JM – I never trust the BBC, as they are paid for by the government.  It’s all propaganda.

G – It’s paid for by the licence payer, by us.

JM – And the government make you pay for it therefore they are in control!

G – And now we have all this fake news.

E – That’s what the wall is about. They can’t remember how it was before.

JM – Like when you watch the BBC, and it’s constantly talking about how much sugar children are eating. All that repetition makes you think it must be right.

G – So then who can we trust? With all this fake news we have to be critical of all sources.


Lord of the FliesWilliam Golding
Report from HMP & YOI Isis

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We opened the group by asking if people had enjoyed reading the book. L said that he struggled to finish it, as he found that he lost interest. However by the end of the group as we continued to discuss the text L was adamant that he will have to go back and finish reading the whole book. We  discussed how the book was similar to other stories about desert islands like Robinson Crusoe, Life of Pi, and the TV show Lost. We talked about how there was a dialogue between all of these different texts and you can see how things like Lost were influenced by Lord of the Flies. Not all members of the group had had time to read the whole book and so we read some chapters aloud. E talked about how brutal the book was and everyone agreed that it was shocking to think about how young the majority of characters in the book are meant to be.

We talked about how killing the pig seems to be some kind of turning point for the boys, allowing them to become more violent, and how when they are hunting other boys later they represent it as another kind of animal hunt.

We spoke about the character of Piggy and how vulnerable and likable he seemed. L said “I can’t believe they kill Piggy, brutal!” We read through the last section as the boys are finally found and seem about to be rescued. We talked about how Ralph is finally able to cry when the adults arrive because up to then he has just been trying to survive and hasn’t fully been able to comprehend the events that have taken place.

The group discussed how the boys so quickly separate out into gangs and how a lot of the book has to do with power, and who has power and what represents power. L mentioned the conch and how important it seems at the beginning and we discussed how this is smashed when Piggy is killed.


The Muse, Jessie Barton
Report from HMP Send

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…A huge range of responses, and it seemed to me to relate to age. We older women were much keener on the book. The two time-shifts put the younger ones off, I think; they weren’t confident enough to relax into it. Whereas we oldies remembered Dolcis with affection; one member reminisced about a pair of sandals she saved up for and got in the sale. A younger member loved the book but ‘had to read it with a dictionary beside me – and most of the words weren’t in it, what’s a finca?’ ‘Didn’t you watch that property programme about Spain, plenty of fincas in that’ was the helpful reply. We talked about the racism of 1960s London. Some younger members didn’t know what ‘wog’ meant. By the time Vanessa had finished with jam and collecting badges, it didn’t sound so bad – interesting how much has to be explained. A good discussion on whether Olive should have revealed herself/been revealed by Teresa as the artist; opinion divided. We ended with a Una Marson poem, one of the poets Odelle had been listening to in Trinidad. We agreed that Odelle’s voice was the best thing in the book.