A SCULPTURE destined for a prestigious exhibition on London’s South Bank is now on display outside the artist’s temporary home – Kirklevington Grange prison.
The robot, called “Where’s Yoshimi now?” was made using recycled metal in the on-site welding shop at the jail near Yarm, Stockton.
It has been entered into the Koestler Trust awards, which promotes offenders’ art, and will go on show in the capital in September.
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The welding workshop, run by instructor Kevin Place, has a four-month waiting list for its bespoke products since the opening of The Grange cafe and shop to the public last year.
His hard-working staff of prisoners, who work Mondays to Fridays, was recently honoured with the prison’s team of the year at the Learner Awards Event during Adult Learner’s Week.
“Some of the guys have never had a qualification before and, for some this is the first time they have ever been presented with an award,” added Mr Place, who said the prison was recruiting another welding instructor to help meet the overwhelming demand.
The artist who designed and made the celebrated ‘robot’ is studying for an art degree behind bars and is aiming to pursue a creative career when he is released.
“I had never used the material before, but I love the fact that you can take a piece of metal and create something unique with it,” he said.
As well as producing decorative items to sell, prisoners have undertaken community jobs including constructing a model train in Saltburn and elaborate candlestick holders for a First World War art project in Yarm.
The value of the ‘community payback’ contributed by the prisoners during added up to £750,000 in 2012/13 and more than £1m in 2013/14.
“It can be monotonous in prison so it’s nice to be appreciated for something we do and to get really stuck into something," said another prisoner. "We would come in on Saturdays and Sundays if the workshop was open then."