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Artists’ inside story of Holloway Prison closure

Pieces document last days at jail for women – and campaign for site to have affordable homes

16 February, 2018 — By Helen Chapman

Artist Charlotte W. Stubbs with her work inspired by the prison. Photos: Sisters Uncut

ART and photographs have gone on display which document the closure of Holloway Prison and the campaign to ensure its redevelopment includes affordable housing.

An exhibition at the Ringcross Community Centre, in Lough Road, Holloway, features work by members of Sisters Uncut, the group who have defiantly occupied the site in a protest against cuts to women’s services.

Susan Merrick

The women’s prison was closed in July 2016 – after functioning as a jail since 1852 – with plans to sell the site for housing. Inmates have been moved to prisons in Surrey.

Last month, Islington Council adopted a proposal pledging it would only back developments that hit a target of at least 50 per cent affordable housing and also include a space for community benefit, preferably for women.

Kate Kelly

Artist Susan Merrick is among those showing her work, which was created after holding workshops with women from the prison.

She said: “The women had mixed views about being at Holloway Prison but one thing that came across was that it had a spirit of camaraderie which has been lost along with the site.”

Artist Kate Kelly, meanwhile, painted a portrait of the last governor of Holloway Prison, Julia Killick, explaining: “I wanted the portrait to be soft to show the sensitive way she dealt with the job.”

Jess Zaydner

Curator Bod Jaman said: “The exhibition asks question about the site’s history and future. What does it mean to turn a place of incarceration into a place of probable luxury? How can we move ahead whilst remaining conscious of the site’s history?”

Savvas Panas, chief executive of the Pilion Trust charity, agreed to help host the exhibition.

“It opens up the debate for what they will do with the site,” he said. “The site is massive and it has scope for a legacy to be left for women. It could be a hub for women where, if they have a problem, they can go there for help.”

The exhibition runs until February 23.

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