Benefits are Two-fold for Erlestoke’s Origami group.

Started in March 2017, HMP Erlestoke’s Origami project is increasing its benefits by the week.

Learners relish their “Fun Fridays” where they have the opportunity to take part in different arts and crafts and creative projects with the innovative Origami classes having become a regular hit.

Earlier this year creations from the learners were featured in major displays and installations at Salisbury Cathedral, including this summer when it was the venue for an aerial display called ‘Les Colombes’, where origami doves had been were suspended above the nave of the cathedral.

Some of the doves are now on display in the visits centre at the prison and now they are working on an Origami Christmas Tree that will be one of 100 trees displayed there over the Christmas period.

In the group room learners value the opportunity to give back to the community saying “It’s nice that we are giving something back, that we are showing people that there are good things coming from prison, not like the horrible headlines that we see every day.”

The group also produce their bread and butter –Origami cards – every week. These, amongst other goods produced by learners, are sold in the prison’s Farm Shop and four retail outlets around Wiltshire,raising funds for Friends of Erlestoke and the prison’s EHCIC charity. Since its inception in March of 2017, the Origami Project has raised more than £7,000 for The Friends of Erlestoke and the prison’s EHCIC charity.

Learners also really enjoy the opportunity given to them as an alternative to “normal” prison work or education: “I work in Farms during the week, but I don’t see Friday as either work or a class- it’s like I am with my family… It’s great spending time with like-minded people.”

The learners involved recognise the therapeutic nature of the tasks – the calming effect of folding – and the positive group dynamic it has created. Learners welcome how everybody brings their own style or ideas and how the group as a whole will benefit as a result – with new ideas to pursue.

One of these new ideas was Teddy Bears! These were a mammoth project made to look easy. Each individual bear is made up of 1,500 separate folded pieces. When complete, the Teddy Bears are also offered for sale through the prison’s Farm Shop.

Finally the learners sometimes find time to work on their own personal projects. Some have designs on next year’s Koestler Awards, others might want to make a present for a family member or loved one.But a learner did point out that “It’s all a matter of balance… but we have to accept that making the cards is what allows all of us to be here. It’s great to work on our own projects but we can’t be selfish all of the time. We need to give our priority to making the cards on our Fridays – at least making sure that we reach our planned quota for that day, before we work on our own projects.” Honourable intentions indeed and a real commitment to maintaining the project’s progress.