Nina McNamara and Kate Littler outside Pentonville Prison
Pentonville prisoners have spoken out about life behind bars in a new podcast produced by two Finsbury Park flatmates.
Kate Littler and Nina McNamara interviewed seven inmates, all kept anonymous, in the prison – piecing together a story of young lives forgotten by society and almost destined for a life of crime.
One prisoner talks about how his father, a “big name” on the estate, had been in prison as he grew up and prison then became a mark of respect. “We wanted to go to Feltham [the young offenders’ institute],” he said. “Then on the first day, I cried to my mum on the phone all night.”
Another prisoner said he “grew up” carrying a knife. “That was part of my attire, pick up my keys, my phone and my knife,” he said.
A podcast is like a radio show but it is available online to listen to.
Kate and Nina, both 30, have been running The Bird podcast for more than a year.
Kate, who used to work in the drug and alcohol services in Pentonville, said: “We read so much in the papers about the negative aspects of prisons. It’s depicted like a place to dump people and forget about them or let them rot.
“But having worked in there I know there is so much wasted talent in there and we wanted to showcase that people do have potential and we wanted to tap into that. And explore as a society how we can help people once they are released.”
Nina, who works as a software designer, added: “We wanted the podcast to be solution focused and promote a more positive hopeful message. These are real people and we want to get people to think about how many are affected.
“It is a hidden world. If we can get people to look at prisons differently then we will have achieved something.”
The pair believe there needs to be a much greater focus on rehabilitation in prisons and the public should view them as an opportunity to help prisoners not just punish them.
Listen to the podcast at: https://anchor.fm/birdpodcast
Homegrown food in exchange for a cuppa at the Ark
A CAFÉ in Finsbury Park is looking to “barter” with customers, encouraging donations of homegrown produce in return for a cup of coffee.
For 20 years it stood on the corner of Seven Sisters Road opposite Finsbury Park with the name Park Café.
“We took the P off,” said Hercules Fisherman, who has been running the Ark Café since January, “mainly because it was falling off anyway.”
He says he is interested in running the café in line with the “ecological movement”, referring to the work of campaign group Extinction Rebellion, adding: “I have been talking with people and encouraging customers to bring in homegrown vegetables, like tomatoes or cucumbers, that I can cook with in exchange for a cup of coffee. We can barter, I don’t mind. We can work out what is worth what.
“I want to have a lot of plants here too, if people are happy to bring some in. The flowers on the table are donated or picked locally. Some are just weeds I think but they still look good.”
The tables and stools in the Ark Café are made from Yew trees that fell during the 1987 storm – a friend of Hercules, who works as a tree surgeon, made them.
Hercules is encouraging artists in the neighbourhood to get in touch. “I’d like to commission things I can hang in the windows,” he says. “I designed something myself for the shutters, it is a psychedelic design. I wanted the place to look sunny even when it is shut and when police or ambulances go by with their sirens going, it shimmers.”
Hercules previously worked in publishing, running art magazines and was the chief technology officer of the Fizzback Group, a technology company enabling customer feedback.
“It may seem like a crazy idea to now be running a café but I wanted to do something with the community,” said Hercules, who lives in Finsbury Park.
The Ark Cafe is at 296 Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park N4 2AA. It hosts life drawing sessions every Monday from 7 to 9.30pm, at £10 or £7 for students, and a chess club every Sunday from 4- 7pm. The cafe’s opening hours are from 7am-9pm Monday to Saturday and 8am-8pm on Sunday. For more information go to www.finsburyark.com/