new_bigcommentsgraphicCILIP ‏@CILIPinfo Jul 31

Right to Read and Write campaign to improve literacy provision in prisons via mini-mag GoDoSeeBuy!


   Send your comments to:, or write to: GoDoSeeBuy! The Big Issue, 1-5 Wandsworth Road, London SW8 2LN or tweet to: @johnbirdswords


Unlocking hidden talent

GoDoSeeBuy! looks north for inspiration. The Scottish Prison Service’s strapline is Unlocking Potential – Transforming Lives, and one project that follows this mission is STIR magazine.


The magazine, established in 2012, is issued three times a year and is a high-quality colour publication featuring contributions from inmates in seven prisons in the west of Scotland.

STIR is based at HMP Shotts, where prisoners are involved in design and layout, editorial work and print management. The magazine represents a new way of working with prisoners in an education setting. The model not only provides a focus for learning in a long-term prison where opportunities for progression and sustained learning are limited, it gives a context for education in all prisons, including those with short-term populations.

Here the editorial team continues the story…

The creative arts provide a valuable outlet for people from all walks of life. In a prison environment, where time can bear down on the individual and crush the spirit, any positive activity that engages people must surely be seen as a success.

Stir- 1 -Just-Because-You-Feel-It-Doesnt-Mean-Its-Real_Benno

STIR is an award-winning creative arts magazine designed and produced by prisoners for prisoners (Herald Society Best Education Initiative Award, Scottish Magazine Chairman’s Award and Koestler Trust Magazine and Graphic Design Platinum Awards). We are focussed on raising aspirations, strengthening literacy and encouraging originality. Our hands are not bound by commercialism: our currency is creativity.


STIR is essentially a creative collaboration between the prisoners in seven Scottish prisons (HMP Barlinnie, HMP YOI Cornton Vale, HMP Dumfries, HMP Glenochil, HMP Greenock, HMP Low Moss and HMP Shotts), which is overseen by New College Lanarkshire. The magazine features a variety of art forms ranging from visual art, creative writing, and music to sculpture. We try to present a different aspect of prison “art” from that which is often depicted and expected in the mainstream media, that is why we are so proud after three years.

Stir- 2 - Our-World,-Anon

STIR over time has become an essential outlet for prisoners of every race, colour, gender, sexuality and creed. It allows inmates to have a voice and express their thoughts and emotions in a meaningful way. It is well known that art has therapeutic qualities and this can be extremely beneficial for those who want to change their lives and rehabilitate themselves while in prison. It is for this reason that STIR and its continuation have become vitally important to prisoners all across Scotland.


Some of our prison readers have told us that, “[STIR] takes you away from troubled thoughts and releases you from tension” and “it gives purpose and meaning to inmates with our art, reading and writing”. Whereas people on the outside feel that it “shows powerfully what talent lies behind the prison walls and why access to creative learning opportunities in prison is so important”.

As editors of the magazine, these reactions are what still makes STIR exciting: whether it is a case of giving someone an outlet, or indeed inspiring them to put a paintbrush to canvas or pen to paper, knowing we’ve made a difference is what matters.

STIR has bridged the gap between prison and the outside community. We are online

STIR Editorial Team

What are your thoughts on this? If you’d like to join the Right to Read (and Write) campaign get in touch. Email or write to: Right to Read (and Write), GoDoSeeBuy!, The Big Issue, 1-5 Wandsworth Road, London SW8 2LN. Never miss campaign updates by simply signing up to receive our GoDoSeeBuy! mini-mag every week