Playwright LANCE FLYNN recalls the true-life drama of his time behind bars. while Sue Wilson (next page) talks to the boys from BA 1) as they enact their own stories of prison life.
tithe summer of 1977 I had the honourof
serving my Queen and country by
spending three months in one of
IIM Detention Centres. Afterwards I
renounced petty crime. studied part-time
for my A-levels and went on to study Drama at university. My career in theatre is
Within the hour I was on my way to North Sea (.‘amp Detention Centre in Lincolnshire.
Nothing can prepare you for the petty-mindedness ofthe penal system. I‘d had a short-back-and-sides for the court performance. but regulations said new
i. ,22‘ l } é .51
linked to my imprisonment but [wouldn‘t want that to serve as a recommendation for the short. sharp shock.
The court scene was my first introduction to theatre. Everyone was allocated a role to play. The judge. firm but fair. The prosecutor. outraged. The defence. appealing. Myself. third spear-carrier to the left in a line-up of twelve names read out like the roll call from 'l‘rumpmn. llugh. Pugh. Barney McGrew. (‘uthbert. Dibble and (irub. you stand accused today etc etc.
We got through our guilty pleas without corpsing or prompts. then settled back into our role as the chorus. Now the real acting . started. ()ur solicitors rose to give the court our personal details. Then it hit me. the sentence wasn‘t dependent on the crime. but on my worth to society and my personal history as related by my solicitor. I felt I was about to face St Peter at the pearly gates. Pause.
l braced myself for the stream of lies.
1. Regular churchgoer and ex-altar boy — all bollocks ofcourse. but this was my cue to
look shamefacedly at the judge. while
hoping he wasn't a member of an Orange Lodge. 2. That I had a steady job with good prospects — l was an unskilled factory
worker. Here I was in cahoots with
capitalism. My boss. putting profits before honesty. had supplied the court with a
glowing personal reference in a desperate
bid to keep me out ofjail and in his factory.
It wasn’t that l was a good worker. just that
it would temporarily cut his profits to train some other moron to carry things and sweep tip. not to mention the cost ofthe advert. Iiinally. 3. I‘d just recently got engaged— I another whopper (Andrew Lloyd Webber i and the Iiarl of (‘aithness are more : attractive to women than I was at the age of i seventeen). Nonetheless. I cast a sheepish glance towards a girl in the public gallery. And that was it. I thought ifl stayed out of i trouble and out of court. I'd only have to experience this character-whitewash twice again: from a best man’s speech and a
After giving us some headmasterly ' admonition the judge passed sentence. All l rise. Three months Detention (‘entrel '
arrivals had to have a haircut so I got a number two. Anyone arriving with hair down their back got a short-back—and-sides. I think if I‘d arrived with alopecia I‘d have still had to undergo the ritual.
After exchanging my suit for the regulation gear I was packed off to the induction dorms. There were two. each with bars across the window and capable of holding about 30 people. They never had any vacancy problems. For the first two weeks. you stay there doing drill and circuit training every day and getting used to the warders‘ Esperanto. ‘You. There. Now!‘ Verbs were a luxury only ever used in the imperative with a preceding profanity. Your average warder got by on insults. personal pronouns. imperatives and a few basic verbs. There was a strict division of language in the social intercourse between warder and inmate. Warder. imperative and negative. inmate. inquisitive and affirmative. ‘Sir. can I see a doctor? I feel sick.‘ 'Sick‘." (more ofan order to die on the spot than a question) ‘Yes. Sir‘ ‘No. No Doctor. Not today.‘ There must have been some deep and meaningful conversations down the warders' social club.
The camp was run along strict military lines and staffed by ex-Sgt Majors who lamented the passing of National Service. capital punishment. punitive wars against uppity colonies. the birch (the Isle of Man was a favourite holiday destination). the thumb screw. ducking witches. the rack. the stocks. slavery. child labour. gladiatorial contests. public executions. ()swald Mosley's blackshirts. the B-specials and the McCarthy era.
After two weeks in induction we were moved out to open dorms and allocated jobs. The jobs fell into three main areas: the farm. which involved doing things with animals; the marsh. which involved a short journey out to the coast and a whole day spent reclaiming land: and engineers. which involved everything bar engineering. I'd worked in an engineering factory so I was sent to the engineering section to become a painter and decorator.
The whole memory of D.(.‘. is one of marching. working. marching and being ; shouted at. The only respite was the Sunday visit to church. Asa Roman Catholic (lapsed) this meant a bus journey to some
Young offenders lace up to a two-week stretch in the Grassmarket Project’s Bad
sacred bleeding heart church or other in the nearby town of Boston. The Protestants were given halfan hour of hell-fire and damnation at the centre and then had to clean up the dorms. Meanwhile we (‘atholics (plus a large minority of Protestants who knew enough to sign up for the (‘hurch of Rome) were excluded from clearing up the dorms as we were several miles away. kneeling in pews. being given lashings of guilt and suffering. We were only too happy l to return to sparkling clean dorms. i There is a lot that can be said about the frustrations. the anger. the pettiness and stupidity of Detention (‘entres but time
made my final exit toward the wings with a smirk on my face ( I had expected longer). _J
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