We are currently working on the next edition of our Newsletter and we are looking for artwork. The theme of this edition of the newsletter is "role models". So we welcome images along these lines or any LGBTQ images that could be included in the newsletter.
Please send us drawings, photographs, illustrations, graphics, cartoons.
Email us at: bent.bars.project [at] gmail.com
Or post images to use at: Bent Bars Project, PO Box 66754, London, WC1A 9BF
Bent Bars Newsletter 6 - Call for Contributions:
"Voices from the Outside"
Our first five newsletters have been written by and for prisoners involved in Bent Bars. For our next newsletter, we are inviting contributions from non-imprisoned / outside penpals. We want to hear from you about what its like being a penpal.
-Tell us about your experiences as a penpal: the ups, the downs, the inbetweens
-What have you learned as a penpal?
-What do you like most about being a penal?
-What advice would you give to other penpals?
-What challenges have come up in being a penpal and how have you navigated them?
-What got you interested in Bent Bars?
We welcome contributions of writing and reflections of up to 1000 words. Poetry and artwork also welcome.
Please send submissions to: bent.bars.project [at] gmail.com with "Newsletter Contribution" as the subject line. Or send paper contributions to: Bent Bars Project, PO Box 66754, London WC1A 9BF.
Submissions Deadline: 1 December 2014
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We are excited to present the latest issue of the Bent Bars Newsletter (Summer 2014). The theme for this issue is "identity outside the box". As usual, the newsletter is filled with a fantastic collection of letters, poetry, artwork and commentary from Bent Bars members inside prison. You can download a copy from the link below or request a paper copy in the post by dropping us a line.
Please note the file is quite large (7.4MB)
OPEN LETTER TO BFI FLARE FROM THE BENT BARS PROJECT
21 MARCH 2014
Dear BFI Flare Organisers:
We are writing to express our disappointment about your decision to host a prison-themed after-party as part of your 2014 BFI Flare: London LGBT Film festival.
As an organisation that supports LGBTQ prisoners in the UK and aims to build solidarity between LGBTQ communities across prison walls, we want to share our concerns in the hope that you will reconsider your event.
According to your website, “In celebration of We Love Caged Lesbians” you will be “… throwing the cells doors open, unleashing the inmates” and having a “party on G-Wing.” The blue room will be “transformed for the night to a prison block you’ll never want to leave” and “promises to be a night of musical mischief, intimate interrogations and sexy cell block encounters” with a mug shot photo booth, conjugal visits and a competition for ‘best screw’ and ‘best crim’ costume.
You may not be aware, but LGBTQ people are still disproportionately targeted by the prison system in Britain, often as a result of interlinked patterns of discrimination, racism, poverty and ableism. The reality of life behind bars for most LGBTQ people is not fun, sexy or exciting. Prisons are places of routine violence, neglect, harm and oppression, and the people who are targeted by this violence tend to come primarily from poor backgrounds, face mental health issues, addictions and other social problems.
While you may intend your event to be one of harmless fun, we feel the theme trivialises the reality of life behind bars and works to romanticise and eroticise oppressive experiences of LGBTQ people in prison.
Presumably you would not organize a Guantanamo Bay prison-themed celebration, with invitations to participate in waterboarding or torture, so we question why you feel that prisons more generally can be turned into a good time.
We support creative, playful and subversive social events – and appreciate that provocative events can challenge mainstream assumptions in important ways – but this event achieves none of these things. Instead, it reinforces stereotypes about prisoners and masks the reality of prison life.
We welcome opportunities to open dialogue about prison issues so we are not opposed to the film Caged being screened or discussed, but we feel the after party lacks sensitivity and does not reflect the values of the festival, which aims to be “inclusive and welcoming to all audiences.”
We at Bent Bars love a good, fun, sexy and subversive party as much as any other queers, but we want parties that include everyone in our community and work to challenge rather than reinforce oppression.
From the Bent Bars Collective
On February 26th the Bent Bars Collective made a special prison visit, as part of a prisoner-organised event for LGBT history month. We gave a brief talk about our work and then spent time meeting with the 30 prisoners who attended the event.
Prisoners made special food for the day, decorated the room with posters about LGBT history and culture, and several shared moving stories about their experiences of being gay inside prison.
It was a great afternoon and we made some wonderful connections with people inside - both those who have been writing to us already and those keen to get newly involved.
We did it! The Bent Bars Project is celebrating its fifth birthday this month!
This is an exciting achievement for a grassroots, self-funded and completely volunteer project. So we want to send a huge thank you to all those who have kept us going and contributed to the project. Whether you have joined the project as a penpal (inside or outside), contributed stamps or donations, helped organise fundraisers, designed posters and flyers, given advice, spread the word or offered encouragement and support, we thank everyone for all your work -- big and small -- in keeping us going. We couldn't do it without you.
The Bent Bars Collective is reminded every week of the difference this project makes in the everyday lives of prisoners. We regularly recieve letters telling us how much people appreciate the connection they've made with their penpal and how much it means to know that people inside and outside prison are supporting each other.
We also want to celebrate that we have been able to do this work without a regular source of funding and without accepting money that comes with strings which could compromise our values. Operating on a shoestring budget has its challenges, but it also keeps our priorities in check and protects our autonomy. So we are pleased that we have been able to sustain our work over the years - through all the wonderful contributions of our supporters and volunteers.
So thanks again - and we look forward to the next five years.
The Bent Bars Collective wishes everyone all the best for 2014!
Please note there will be no open meeting in January 2014, but we will resume our regular meeting (second Thursday of every month) on Thursday February 13th 2014 from 7-9pm.
Tattoo Circus is back in town!
11am - 10pm Saturday September 21
12noon - 6pm Sunday September 22
Join in the amazingly fabulous DIY Prisoner Support Benefit Fundraiser!
Come down and get a tattoo or piercing, find out about prisoner support projects, attend a talk or workshop, catch some music, films or just join in for a great social scene....There will be cabaret, a cafe, info stalls, and cinema with all proceeds benefiting prisoner support projects - including Bent Bars.
Phone from Saturday Sept 21 at 10am for the location:
07539 316 878 or 07539 316 822
The government has recently opened a public consultation on whether to expand hate crime legislation in England and Wales. The legislation would enable stiffer penalties (i.e. longer prison sentences) for people convicted of hate motivated violence on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation and disability. The Bent Bars Collective has concerns about the proposals and will be speaking about these issues at an upcoming public forum on August 8 in London.
Details about the Hate Crime Forum event are here:
The Bent Bars Collective will also release a public statement about the hate crime proposals soon.
Watch this space...