Columnist: My voyage . . . from prison to columnist says Mark Humphries

Columnist: My voyage . . . from prison to columnist says Mark Humphries

Bury Free Press

I am delighted to be asked to write this column for Greener Growth. As regular readers will know Greener Growth are involved in some amazing projects around the local area and further afield. We will use this column to let you all know what is happening at various times in these projects. But first I thought that I had better introduce myself so that you know who it is that puts this together.

I am Mark Humphries and in 1992 I was on a voyage in my career that would take me to some amazing places. This voyage was cut short due to my imprisonment; at this point I don’t want to go into too much detail. What I will tell you was that I committed at least one offence that put people’s lives in danger. I handed myself into the police and admitted the charges straight away. Some years later I found myself back in prison – even though no criminal offences had been committed – and it was here, in 2015, that I met Jo Metcalfe from Greener Growth.

The group were running a project in a local prison. Greener Growth do more than simply teach people to create awesome garden spaces; they show people a whole new way of living alongside your garden. As a former smallholder I wanted to get involved with this group’s project; it would make my time in prison seem a bit more like being at work again. I have to say I enjoyed my whole time I was working on the project.

The project planned and sketched out what the garden was going to look like. We had adopted a piece of land that wasn’t being used. Soon there was a real team effort developing and the one thing that I noticed was the sharing of skills. Many of the men showing each other the skills that they had prior to coming into prison. The roofers and joiners got on with reclaiming a rotting aviary and created a wonderful potting shed; engineering skills and carpenters got on with building and installing the raised beds. I was able to show my peers how to grow food, create compost and the importance of using this natural resource in the raised beds.

I have now retrained as a writer and I have developed new skills that I am putting to great use in a variety of ways: I am writing novels, poetry and articles. I have been commissioned to write a Creative Writing course for men and women in custody, and I am study for a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. So when Greener Growth approached me to help write this column for them I jumped at the chance because it allows me to write, and at the same time to share the news from the projects that this group are helping to deliver.

Greener Growth is growing, says founder/director Jo Metcalfe. As a Community Interest Company focused on therapeutic horticulture, outdoor education and conservation, we helped develop 15 projects last year – which has now grown into 45! Working in East Anglia and Kent for almost 5 years, in schools, prisons and communities, it has been our pleasure to have been developing 7 new partnerships in and around Bury St Edmunds during 2018 so far. The BFP has covered stories around many of these, so we hope you have enjoyed reading about some of the greener growth in your area.

As our delivery in prisons accounts a more unusual element to our work, we thought it would reflect our ethos of creating new opportunities for all, by sharing the writing of our new column with one of our colleagues from our work at one of the local prisons. Mark is an ex-offender who we have known for over 3 years now, from “inside out”, and we are happy to help support his new beginning.