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Prisoner publishing showcased in BBC animated film

16 December 2020

A film co-written by a School of Modern Languages lecturer has premiered on BBC iplayer as part of a new series of animated shorts, showcasing research by UK academics.

The film, Writing from the Shadows, is part of the BBC’s Animated Thinking series and was written by Dr Joey Whitfield, Senior Lecturer in Hispanic Studies, together with Dr Lucy Bell of the University of Surrey.

The film, which is animated by Sophie Marsh, explores how writing and publishing are being used as tools for rehabilitation by imprisoned people in Mexico and the UK. It is a result of a project which supports grassroots organisations in Mexico who work with prisoners and marginalised people, bringing Latin American community practices such as Cartonera publishing to UK prisons.

Cartonera publishing, otherwise known as cardboard publishing, uses recycled cardboard to create diverse publishing projects. When introduced as an activity in prisons it has been proven to help literacy, self-esteem, creativity, and financial independence.

Dr Whitfield said, “In universities we tend to think of literary writing as a very individualistic and hierarchical process. Literature is made by a privileged, hyper-talented few for the rest of us to appreciate and study. This film explores how literary creation and book production can also be collective, community building practices that can have transformative effects on the lives people in very difficult situations.”

Within the School of Modern Languages, Dr Whitfield is also responsible for Cardiff University's Inside Out project which ran prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Inside Out is an educational exchange in which semester long modules are delivered to mixed classes of imprisoned learners and undergraduates inside HMP Cardiff. This transformative form of teaching works by breaking down boundaries. Both groups of learners are put in spaces that neither would normally inhabit and places them on an equal footing. The scheme is mutually beneficial to the University and the prison, improving the experience and opportunities of both prisoners and undergraduates.

Writing from the Shadows is available to watch on BBC iplayer

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