A prison workshop. Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Ayrshire

Hannah Teasdale, 15.04.2013
The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is undertaking a two-year project funded by Creative Scotland entitled Independent Mind. It provides opportunities for creative engagement with Robert Burns for people who are not already involved with the museum.

The museum is currently working with HMP Kilmarnock and writer Kevin Williamson. Over the past three months, Williamson has been working within the prison exploring a wealth of different topics.  

Key Burns texts have fuelled discussions as well as objects from the museum’s collections. Slavery, religion and Scottish independence have all been discussed in the context of Burns’s poems and life in Scotland today.  

Using these discussions as a starting point the group has created their own written responses in the form of poems and creative writing. The workshops have given not only the opportunity to explore written expression but will also count towards qualifications within HMP Kilmarnock.
Craig Maxwell, head of learning at HMP Kilmarnock, says: “These sessions have been invaluable in helping us engage with the prisoner population. The programme of debates, readings, activities and workshops have allowed prisoners to develop creative responses to issues critical to Burns.

“Kevin’s choice of topics and the rapport he has built with his learners, will, hopefully, encourage those who would not normally engage with education to do so, now that they see the benefits of being able to express themselves in an articulate manner.”

A collected work of poems will be produced and available at the museum, alongside a recording of the inmates’ poetry read by themselves.

The poems will be available to purchase from the museum and all sales donated to the Prisoners Education Trust, allowing further valuable education work to happen across the country.

Hannah Teasdale is the learning and cultural engagement officer at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum