HMP Lewes reading fair

Chloe Bradbury
May 8, 2024

I recently had the pleasure of attending the very first reading fair to take place at HMP Lewes. The purpose of the reading fair was to support the men in HMP Lewes to develop their literacy skills whilst serving their sentence, as well as offer support and advice on how they could continue accessing this support upon release.


On the morning of the reading fair, myself, Shannon Trust facilitators Joey and Becca, and volunteer Lucy arrived at the prison gate at 8am, where we were met by Isabel from the pre-release team. Isabel and I had met on a number of occasions, along with other key staff members at HMP Lewes to plan and organise the event, and were both really pleased that it was going ahead, and quite excited for how the day would unfold.


After we met Isabel, we headed to the social visits hall, where the reading fair was being held, and put together a selection of Shannon Trust bookmarks, pencils and other information to be shared with the men attending. Once we had set up our Shannon Trust station, the fair began, and wing by wing, those who had been invited to the fair started to arrive.


Our Shannon Trust station was made up of a selection of readers, manuals, and activity books. We were signing men up to join Shannon Trust as either a mentor or learner as they visited us.


On arrival, the men were encouraged to take the time to speak with each station, ask questions, and sign up with each service so that they could follow up after the fair. 108 men were invited to the fair, and those who attended had the opportunity to meet with Shannon Trust, the prison library, education, the neurodiversity support manager, the employment hub, the pre-release team, and family services, all providing a station to discuss the support on offer.


The canteen offered refreshments throughout the course of the reading fair, which meant there was a great opportunity to sit down with the men over a cup of teaand really understand what they wanted to get out of the reading fair.


It was great to see so many services on offer for the men at HMP Lewes, and fantastic that so many of the men invited attended the reading fair. It was lovely to hear how so many of the men talk about Shannon Trust in such a positive way, and many were keen to gain support with their literacy skills, as well as eager to mentor others to develop theirs.


Shannon Trust mentor, M, spent the afternoon supporting facilitators on the Shannon Trust station. M spent time talking with one potential learner who set the goal of becoming a mentor when they finish their own learning journey. It was great to see how M was encouraging the learner, and shared his own experiences and top tips for mentoring. M discussed his favourite books, and shared how he preferred reading non-fiction over fiction, something I was very much able to relate to.


Overall, the fair felt like a huge success and I felt lucky to be a part of it. It was fantastic to see so many men engaged with services supporting them with a focus on developing their reading skills.


A huge thank you to all at HMP Lewes that supported in the organising and running of the reading fair, in particular Isabel who dedicated a huge amount of time to ensure the fair went ahead. A special thankyou also goes to the men working in the canteen throughout the day, ensuring the tea, coffee and biscuits continued to flow. 


As a result of such a successful day, HMP Lewes are keen to make the reading fair a regular occurrence, and with the support of our facilitators, I believe this will continue to be a success.

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