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Jail date for popular storyteller

PUBLISHED: 11:05 02 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:46 03 March 2010

IPSWICH poet and storyteller John Row could tell you a thing or two about life behind bars.

But the well-known entertainer is going to jail by choice.

IPSWICH poet and storyteller John Row could tell you a thing or two about life behind bars.

But the well-known entertainer is going to jail by choice. Over the past two years, he has been visiting Wayland Prison in Norfolk to stage a series of unique dramas written by and starring some of the inmates.

Now this ground-breaking project is set to take the TV spotlight, in tomorrow night's edition of the documentary series Artistic Convictions, showing at 7.30pm on the satellite station Artsworld.

John, 54, from Belvedere Road, was the first storyteller in Britain to be appointed to a residency in a jail.

"It's just like working anywhere else," he said. "There's a community of about 600 people and it's a question of finding enough people who are interested in drama."

John works together with prisoners to rehearse and stage their own plays.

The first production, Four Get Jail, was designed to increase drug awareness, and won a prestigious Koestler Award.

Tomorrow night's programme shows John and the inmates of D Wing rehearsing and performing a black comedy set in a hospice – with the aid of a large pair of plastic breasts.

John adapted the script from the men's personal stories, which they told each other during storytelling groups in the prison. He said the main aim was to put on a good drama – but the project has also helped to build confidence and self-esteem.

"Director Lucy Fyson contacted me and she came into the prison to film us rehearsing the play," he said.

John has a number of other projects in the pipeline, including an epic poem about the history of Ipswich, which will involve contributions from people all over the town.

He will also be presenting a poetry show, Eat Your Own Words, every Thursday on Ipswich Community Radio, which returns to the airwaves on November 12.

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