Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice



AWARD WINNERS 2012-13: Kevin from charity Media for Development, and Donovan & Simon from Kensington & Chelsea College, were nominated for their contributions to “Radio Wanno”. The 24-hour, prisoner-led radio station provides vocational skills training to those employed on it, and high quality information, advice and guidance to prisoners across the establishment. As project manager, Kevin is the driving force behind the station, while Simon and Donovan train and support the prisoners involved. (This Award is supported by Sodexo Justice Services).


[Simon Sujeewon gives his account of the work for which he won his Award]

Radio Wanno is a prison based project that uses Radio Production skills to aid rehabilitation. It’s an accessible communication tool which has a positive influence on the prison regime. It builds confidence, numeracy, literacy communication and ICT skills to help with life upon offender’s release.

An example of good practice relating to the project is the design of the radio production course. Radio Wanno is a partnership between the Prison Service at HMP Wandsworth, Media For Development and A4e Justice (but previously education was provided by Kensington & Chelsea College – KCC). When education was delivered by KCC, myself and Donovan McGrath developed the course together with Kevin Field who is Project Manager for Media For Development. The course had to fulfil three main criteria:

1) For HMP Wandsworth: A self-sustaining purposeful activity that provides offenders with skills that will not help them throughout life but, will contribute to the reduction of re-offending
2) For Media for Development: content for the 24h radio station that benefits its audience with the work produced by offenders
3) For the Education Provider: Accreditation based on the successful completion of qualifications.

Unlike other prison based radio projects of its time, the philosophy behind Radio Wanno is simple – to put the prisoner at the heart of the project.

What this means is that similar to the model of community radio (and some commercial radio stations), prisoners will not only present but produce, edit and initiate the idea for programmes. For that, we chose to build a course that teaches a variety of skills. The initial unit on the NCFE qualification is to produce a recording and this is mandatory for all students to do, however, looking at the three criteria to fulfil the role of the radio station, we took the decision to teach students about advertisements.

All adverts that were to be aired at Radio Wanno were to be prison focused. For example, the Bricks workshop at Wandsworth needed 30 students to join their brick laying course. Some of the new students who joined were tasked with creating a campaign of ads that encouraged their fellow prisoners to sign up to join the course.

This was an excellent thing to do as it employed literacy skills to write and develop a script – not necessarily in formal written English (Which is a plus point especially with a large number of foreign nationals who made up the population) since scripts were often written in a verbal style using a language that prisoners understood (“Mate” was a common word used amongst them!) It involved numeracy since the adverts were all 30 seconds long and means that they learnt a skill of writing to time.
These skills are invaluable especially since many of our students have not finished any formal schooling.

The adverts alone validated the remit that Radio Wanno had set out for its three-way partnership. For the prison, an advert creates awareness for many of the services that are available in the establishment (listeners, chaplaincy, CARATs etc), whilst the mechanism of students taken part in purposeful activity and learning life skills to help on the out. Secondly, Media For Development has content to use on the radio station – 100% written and produced by the prisoners (by the audience, for the audience) and completion of that mandatory unit generates accreditation of the education provider.

Further to that unit, subsequent units were chosen to enhance its aim of purposeful activity – Presentation of features give soft skills such as self-confidence which may be important to individuals upon release in situations such as job interviews.

An employment unit looks at job roles with in the industry and asks students to plan out short, medium and long term goals for their careers as well as help them, under our instruction, to produce a real CV which they can print off and use in other areas such as Job Club or even upon release.

Overall, the reason why this course is evidence of good practice with in the correctional setting is because, it actually has the power to work alongside the prison regime at HMP Wandsworth.

Anecdotal evidence of this is the former governor David Taylor explaining the 12 different ways that the prison benefits from having its own in house radio station to members of the public at an awards ceremony. From the course, prisoners have been given the tools to help their fellow inmates by creating information spots, they have been able to create features on serious issues such as testicular cancer as well as producing documentaries that create awareness of Mental Health issues and where to access help and support.

If it were not for what they have learnt, they would not understand how they can deliver such succinct information

Further proof that the model for the Radio Production course is a good example of good practice was that I went to HMP Isis where I advised them on how we implemented the course and what we taught on our scheme of work. They subsequently used it as a model for their own course which is now up and running and is also being adopted by the likes of the Prison Radio Association at HMP Highdown.


[The following article appeared in issue 5 of the Butler Trust’s magazine, Inspire]

Making award-winning programmes has been a major sucess for Radio Wanno, HMP Wandsworth’s community radio station. A Butler Trust Award has now confirmed its value as an education and media literacy project and recognised the achievements of the team that created it.

When the team started on the project, they were faced with run-down equipment in a virtually empty classroom. With Project Manager Kevin Field from the organisation Media for Development and Radio Tutors Simon Sujeewon and Donovan McGrath from Kensington and Chelsea College bringing their different skills and experience together, it turned into a professional environment with a keen set of students. Today the course is oversubscribed, with a waiting list, and has the best attendance rate of any course at the prison.

Early on in the project, the team set a working structure in place that created a safe, clean environment, far removed from prison. Prisoners agreed to adhere to the rules of a learning contract and become part of a culture that promotes teamwork and equality.

Each week, up to 12 men work towards their NCFE Level 1 or 2 Award qualification in radio production. At the same time as learning radio production techniques, they learn valuable transferable life skills, and the team responds to their different learning needs and levels of ability. Many of the men have barriers to learning, such as dyslexia, language problems and learning difficulties, or are tackling addiction, but at the project they find friendship and support as well as learning new skills. As soon as they start, they begin learning how to use sophisticated audio editing software and develop their literacy and IT skills while writing scripts for radio programmes.

After graduation they can apply for a place in the Broadcast Unit, where they will be involved in creating programme content daily for HMP Wandsworth and the National Prison Radio Service.

Radio Wanno has had a beneficial effect on the entire prison, improving communication and helping to reduce reoffending. A regular ‘Governor’s question time’ programme has resulted in changes such as increased gym and sports opportunities for prisoners and has helped to ‘humanise’ difficult decisions taken by staff. Prisoners have learned of new opportunities through the programmes and there is evidence of them changing their outlook on life.

The training has given many participants the chance of a new career after release and many of them have benefited from the ‘working prison day’ model – a full day’s work on the programme – particularly those who had never worked a full day.

Radio Wanno’s students have credited the programme with giving them ‘endless opportunities’ and changing their mindset. One commented:

‘After two or three times in prison, you think that’s it, that’s your life. Applying to work for the prison radio station was the turning point – finding something I loved doing changed my mind and it gave me confidence. Doors opened for me.’ The team is now going on to develop an area for Release On Temporary Licence (ROTL), sending participants out to work on licence to media and events companies, which will open even more doors to employment.

For more information: contact HMP Wandsworth

Top of the page