On Friday 12th October, we held the first ‘Graduate Reunion’  for all the women who have been through The Clink programme at HMP Styal, since it opened in April 2015. Graduates, as well as friends and families, attended the event at The Clink Café in Manchester and were entertained on arrival by Mr Alexander Wells, the amazing magician, illusionist and conjurer.

The event was to celebrate all of the women’s successes and to thank them for their hard work in achieving such great results. It was also to acknowledge the role that they have played in being fantastic ambassadors for The Clink Charity whilst training at the restaurant, but also by continuing to speak positively about their experiences following release. For those who went out on ROTL (released on temporary licence) work placements prior to release, we paid thanks to them for consistently making such a good impression to all our local employers. This has meant that the employers have kept offering placements to our candidates as they have been so impressed (as well as offering full time jobs on release).

Special mentions were made for a number of women – including Sue, who not only worked front of house at The Clink in 2017, but also developed her role by giving amazing, insightful and educational talks to the customers about the history of Styal. Customers would phone up not just to book a table but to book Sue for her talk on Styal, so we wanted to let her know that her contribution did not go unnoticed.

Image: Sandy Lindsay MBE

There have been different cohorts of women who have come through the programme so it was really heartening that women who were from the very first cohort, and who left HMP Styal over two years ago, decided to attend the event, as well as our more recent releases.

Sandy Lindsay MBE was invited to speak at the event and gave an inspirational and motivational speech about how she succeeded in business and shared some of her pearls of wisdom with all the guests. The whole restaurant team from The Clink also attended and were introduced to everyone – leading to the possibility of a graduate coming back to The Clink to give a masterclass to the current trainees.

Finally, the evening wouldn’t have been complete without the women themselves speaking. Kerri and Michelle were honest about their situations both before and after coming to prison. They told the guests about their individual journeys and how The Clink and support that they had received has had a really positive impact on their lives.

Report written by Sophie Campion, Resettlement Support Worker at The Clink Restaurant

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