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News story

Author David Mitchell visits Brixton prison as part of Books Unlocked

13 Oct 2017

HMP Brixton

Man Booker Prize shortlisted author David Mitchell visited HMP Brixton to take part in a prison reading group, as part of our Books Unlocked programme.

Books Unlocked provides free copies of Man Booker Prize-shortlisted titles for participants to read, discuss and keep. The programme is funded by the Booker Foundation.

David Mitchell, author of seven books including Cloud Atlas and Slade House, visited HMP Brixton to take part in a reading group with a number of prisoners. The reading group was recorded for National Prison Radio, who are one of our partners on Books Unlocked.

National Prison Radio is a free radio service broadcasting directly into almost 80,000 cells in prisons and young offender institutions across England and Wales. As part of the Books Unlocked programme, the station serialises Man Booker Prize shortlisted titles for prisoners to listen to.

David Mitchell’s popular book, Cloud Atlas, was chosen as the book of the month for October on National Prison Radio. He visited the prison to meet with prisoners who have been reading or listening to the book, to answer their questions about the title. The visit marked the first time he had been inside a prison.

The prisoners were very keen to meet David and to get the chance to find out more about his writing. They asked detailed, complex questions about how he came up with the structure for the book, his inventive use of language in the novel and how he felt about Cloud Atlas being turned into a film. Their questions sparked a wide-ranging discussion about how language has developed over time and the importance of being able to express your thoughts and feelings.

David also shared advice for some of the prisoners who are writers themselves. He told them about the importance of editing and re-editing their work, saying that it’s important not to expect to get a sentence right on the very first try.

At the end of the recording, he signed copies of books for the prisoners to take with them. As he wrote in the National Prison Radio guestbook: 

“My mind has been unlocked by the readers in this group.”

Find out more about Books Unlocked.
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