Former staff and inmates of Holloway Prison are sharing their memories of the jail in a series of oral histories, films, and workshops.
Holloway prison project
The Echoes of Holloway Prison project aims to preserve the history of what was once the largest women’s-only prison in Western Europe. The research and interviews were conducted by volunteer members of the public.
The project has been made possible by a £73,700 grant from the National Lottery Fund. It will also become an exhibition at Clerkenwell’s Islington Museum.
Roz Currie, curator at the Museum and co-ordinator of the project, said: “There are still people who know the prison and parts of its history that haven’t been recorded. We want to capture their stories before that community disperses. We have 25 people we’ll be talking to from all over the prison—guards, staff, former inmates, charity workers.”
Prison system overhaul
The prison closure was announced in late 2015 as part of an overhaul of the woman’s prison system.
“I was lucky enough to visit the prison both before and after it closed. When you go in there there’s a real sense of history. Not just of the suffragettes and the other famous inmates, but of all the people whose stories are not known. At any point in the last century there were hundreds of people working and incarcerated there.
“The response so far has been fantastic. We’re still appealing for members of the public who would like to conduct the interviews donations. Any objects people might have from the prison’s past are very welcome.”
Effects of Holloway closure
It is also hoped the project will help raise awareness of those affected by the closure of the prison. A number of campaign groups are calling for the redeveloped site to be partly occupied by social and affordable housing, communal space, and a women’s centre. The groups have the support of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The bidding process for the site is now closed and the sale is expected to raise up to £70m for the Ministry of Justice.