COMMENDEE 2019-20: Tim is a Radio Trainer for the education provider Novus who works in HMP Liverpool. He receives a Commendation for his work reinventing the prison’s Radio Walton into a hub of creativity and learning that now enjoys a higher profile, both inside and outside the prison community. His passion for this work is reflected in a range of related activities which include a focus on the ‘no more knives’ campaign.
[Report based on the original nomination submitted to the Trust]
Initial nominator and Education Manager, Emma Worrall, explains that Tim has been delivering a radio course for learners at HMP Liverpool for 9 years, and “is relentless in his mission to provide high quality and valuable experiences for the learners and the wider prison.” His enthusiasm has enticed a range of high profile guest speakers into the station, including the Olympic Boxer Natasha Jonas, mixed martial artist Molly ‘Meatball’ McCann, the artist who created artwork for the Hillsborough disaster ‘Cyrano Denn’, the boxer James ‘Jazza’ Dickens, musician Paul Kappa, DJ Lee Butler, The Zutons’ frontman Dave McCabe, and Paul Walmsley, coach to the two time unified heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua – among many others.
These speakers are interviewed by learners at the radio station, helping them build confidence and team work skills by preparing, carrying out and editing the interviews for broadcast, says Emma:
“The sense of achievement is clear to see when they have had a guest speaker – learners are really appreciative of the opportunity to speak to the high-profile visitors, listen to the positive messages they are sending and then share these with the wider prison. The messages broadcast from the radio station relate to topical issues i.e. gun crime, violence reduction, mental health awareness and positive motivational messages regarding making positive changes and believing in yourself. Often the guests have had difficulties in their past which they have overcome and the hope is to inspire others listening to believe that they can to overcome their current situation to realise a positive future.”
Tim has also gone ‘beyond the gate’ linking with a community radio station who have visited several times, adds Emma. “Blown away by the provision set up and run by Tim, they have offered voluntary training opportunities to men being released who have worked in the radio station.” She adds that “Tim often spreads his net wider – looking always for opportunities to spread positive messages and raise awareness of topical issues.”
She gives a recent example when Tim linked up with HMP Liverpool’s yoga teacher and organised an event in the chapel to raise awareness for mental health: “Boxers from the community, men and staff at Liverpool engaged in the yoga class which was filmed for broadcast. A poster was designed by artist Cyrano Denn to raise awareness of mental health and to encourage individuals struggling to speak out.”
Butler Trust Local Champion and Head of Business Assurance at Liverpool, Clare Stanway, says that since Tim has taken over in this area “the Prison Radio Course has taken on a new lease of life. Walton Radio is back to being an enduring project providing meaningful training and educational qualifications for offenders that is supporting employment on release and developing employability skills.” She notes that the prison radio has also been used “to support key messages regarding the changes that HMP Liverpool is experiencing as we move forward following a poor HMIP report,” and reports that Tim also “motivates the offenders he works with to get involved in mentoring work and supporting other offenders across the prison.”
She describes Tim as “passionate about this work” and adds that his “bringing together the inside and the outside world has a positive impact in supporting our men and breaks down some of the barriers and stigma attached to the prison… none of this would have been possible without Tims drive and dedication.”
Learning Skills Manager Clare Ferguson says that, “from building community links, support family ties and taking part in fundraising, Tim has taken the initiative to organise events, visits from sports men and women, musicians and other high-profile visitors and to improved ties with National Prison Radio.” One offender learner, Adam*, adds his own poignant testimonial:
“Before coming to the radio class I struggled to find employment within the prison and sat in my cell for around 4 months. I started as a learner in the radio class and completed my course in 3 weeks. After a conversation with Tim he put me forward for the mentor course as I told him I was interested in mentoring troubled youths. Ever since having the chance to complete the mentor course I have excelled in my work. Since meeting Tim, he has always gone the extra mile for me and got me involved in as much as he can. He does a lot for the radio and the prisoners and will always give someone a chance.”
Another offender learner, Dwight*, adds his own testimonial, and says Tim “has been a great help to me from the first day I went into the radio station. Tim has helped me to develop new skills I didn’t know I had. From the outset Tim saw potential in me to progress from a regular DJ on the radio to take interviews with special guests, produce edit and create new themed radio content – Tim saw me as the ideal candidate! At first, I wasn’t sure, but Tim was reassuring and had faith in me which boosted my confidence. Now I have settled into this position and grown from there, in terms of mentoring peers to do the same. I now offer support to other prisoners within the prison and have become a DARS [Drugs and Alcohol Recovery Service] mentor and I see my confidence and progress being down to Tim being a positive catalyst in my first time in a prison system.”
Liverpool Governor Pia Sinha gives a vivid portrait of the impact of Tim’s enthusiasm:
“When I started as Governor at Liverpool, I was actively looking for people who would be positive ‘culture carriers’ for the prison. Tim approached me with his ideas and it was the most uplifting half an hour I spent! He was really keen to use the medium of radio to engage our men and involve them in our improvement journey. We set up ‘Ask the Governor’ Question & Answer sessions where key changes were communicated directly by me. Tim, using his vast contact list, invited high profile and inspirational musicians and sports people to speak and perform – not only providing valuable experience to his class but sending a really important message to our men and our staff that they were worth investing in. The ‘no more knives’ campaign that Tim has initiated has been particularly poignant.
Tim’s positivity and creativity is second to none. I know when I bump into Tim along the corridors that I am going to be late for my next appointment because he is full of new initiatives that he wants to get approval for. Saying ‘yes’ to Tim is one of the easiest and most worthwhile decisions I have made! His energy and genuine desire to improve the quality of our men’s lives is truly humbling – Thank God for people like Tim in Liverpool – he has given much needed hope to this establishment when it has needed it the most!”
Tim himself outlines how he has taken the small station to “a full 24 hour radio station” as well as opening up a linked recording studio. “The idea is to give men in my class a real experience of running a radio station, with each man having key roles, from station manager, producer, event planner, quality control. Each man that joins my team will create 3 radio shows each week, providing information and inspiring content for the prison to listen to, they will also plan a project that they want to expand on, such as poetry, music production, interviewing guests, filming and video editing, and event planning.” His weekly guitar lesson class for beginners leads, after 6 weeks, to their performing a song to prisoners and staff at the “Walton Radio’s #NoMoreKnives Gigs”.
The list of over 300 guests he’s brought in from the community from all walks of life, with inspiring stories – a fraction of which are noted above – is remarkable, and he’s also corralled support for #NoMoreKnives charity matches, raising awareness and funds “for Alan Cook and Paul Bentley’s #NoMoreKnives campaign in Liverpool. Alan Cook is the father of Sam Cook who was sadly killed in 2017, Alan came in to take part in the game and give a speech at the end relating to what’s happened to him, which was emotional and touching for the men to hear.” Tim adds:
“I see a massive change in my men, with confidence and real life skills that they can take with them, as my class is a creative one I try my best to find strengths in each individual and push their potential.”
Unsurprisingly, he has lots of plans to expand, explore other media including social, Youtube and television. He concludes by observing:
“I have seen men in my class, who are high risk, dramatically change and have great comments from the wing staff on how much they have changed for the good.”
* Names have been anonymised
With thanks to HMP Liverpool, to initial nominator and Education Manager Emma Worrall, Butler Trust Local Champion and Head of Business Assurance Clare Stanway, to Learning Skills Manager Clare Ferguson and offender-learners Adam & Dwight, and to Governor Pia Sinha, for their contributions.