Young People Take Part in Reading Prison and Abbey Quarter Project

READING MUSEUM teamed up with the National Citizen Service (NCS) this month, to deliver an innovative challenge project for a group of local young people.

On 24th and 25th July a group of 12 young people visited Reading Abbey grounds and Reading Prison, accompanied by an ex-warden and Reading Museum staff, to photograph and document the history of the grounds.

On Sunday 24th, the group found out about the background to the prison to give them a steer on what types of photography to focus on.

Stuart Kennedy, Assistant Curator at Reading Museum, explained: “This is a very rewarding project to support. The groups are positive and inspiring. Even over a couple of days it is possible to see their confidence grow.

“Our aim was for the group to learn more about their local history through this exciting project. It was a fantastic opportunity for them to try out the new photographic skills they have developed.

“When Reading Prison closed it was a Young Offenders Institute and many of the last inmates would have been a similar age to those taking part. It was challenging for them to imagine what these places were like for the people their own age who had to stay.”

The two day project is part of a 4 week program, run by the NCS, focused on social inclusion and social action, which seeks to take groups of young people from diverse backgrounds, aged 15-17, and challenge them physically, mentally and socially.

This is the second year Reading Museum has supported the NCS project, with last year’s group contributing to the presentation to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the Reading Abbey Revealed bid.

One of the young people participating in the NCS Challenge, said: “The walk around the prison was very informative, it gave us an opportunity to understand the difficulties a prisoner faces. We also got a chance to take photographs of the prison landings. We feel fortunate to have been able to develop our skills and also find out more about the heritage.”

Paul Gittings, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture, said: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to support such a fantastic initiative and facilitate this group of young people in accessing Reading’s wealth of heritage within the Abbey Quarter, as well as developing their skills and abilities.”


Notes for Editors:

The 4 week NCS program starts with a week at a residential activity centre where the group are taken out of their comfort zones and forced to overcome challenges, such as fear of heights or water, as well as having to bond both within their group.

After returning the groups move into their second phase of the program. This week is also residential, where the groups will be living in Reading University halls and will be given increased responsibility to cook for themselves as well as their team leaders.

This is followed by the Prison/Abbey project days.

Finally, for the remaining two weeks, the groups will work with a charity organisation to design and deliver a social action project. This will include raising money and awareness for their charity, through working in their local community and pitching their social action project to local businesses and business people to raise capital. The young people will then complete the program by visiting their partners on the last day and delivering the social action project they have designed.

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Victoria Nickless

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