Norwich prison residents beat lockdown to build new visitor centre play area

Norwich prison residents beat lockdown to build new visitor centre play area

While coronavirus put Norwich through lockdown, prison residents in the city were rolling up their sleeves and doing their bit to transform the children’s play area of a prison visitor centre.

The visitor centre at Norwich Prison, run by Spurgeons Children’s Charity, has been closed since 23rd March, when prison visits were suspended due to the pandemic. Now with visits set to restart shortly, residents’ children and families can look forward to enjoying a much brighter and better appointed play/garden space, thanks to the Spurgeons team of staff and volunteers… with some much welcome support from low-risk offenders housed in the prison’s Brittania House resettlement unit.

Norwich Visitor Centre Play Area – Before the work

Men from ‘The House’, many of whom are nearing the end of their sentences and carry out work in the community, repainted and mended picnic benches, a Wendy House and sand tray, as well as doing all the necessary heavy lifting and clearing up messy areas. They also helped plant up some containers and generally helped get the visitor centre ready again for visits.

Brittania House resident painting

Additional help was provided by young people from St Edmunds Society, the Norwich-based collaborative vocational learning hub for teenagers who would otherwise not be in education or training, who supplied and painted the colourful fence panels and built some steps down to the shed area.

Dedicated volunteer Angela Consterdine was also on hand to make a bug hotel from old pallets, create a children’s planting area and put together a play table from an old electric cable drum.

The new play area is now ready for family visits

Funding for the project was largely met by a £15,000 donation from the KPE4 Trust, which was needed to cover the cost of laying the new flooring but also stretched to purchase a screen and Nintendo Wii for use on prison Family Day visits.

One member of the Brittania House team said:

“The work has been a positive motivation as since the Covid-19 outbreak I have missed the daily focus.

I am pleased to be back in the visitor centre now, helping to get the centre ready for visits to start again and working on the garden area. It’s been great to be involved in the transformation from a tired, worn out area to a beautiful colourful garden which I believe the children will love playing in.

Another commented:

“I’m extremely proud of helping Spurgeons’ staff to prepare for visitors.

“Visits are an important part of life in prison for offenders’ mind-sets and I am eager to help them restart. We’ve refurbished the outdoor garden play area to a high standard for the visitors and I know my daughter would enjoy playing in here now. I hope families and children will enjoy this transformation for years to come.”

Family Services Manager Naomi Webb added: “We wanted to create a space that welcomes the children to play outside while they wait for their prison visit. Visiting days can be long and tiring for families, some having to travel considerable distances to visit their loved ones, and so having a safe outside area at the Visitors Centre that is enriching and inviting makes a real difference to the whole experience for children and families.”

About Spurgeons Children’s Charity

Spurgeons is a Christian children’s charity founded in 1867. Today we run 48 services/projects in 18 Local Authority areas across England (Midlands, East, West, South and London). More than 360 staff and 200 volunteers deliver a range of support services, including:

  • Health and wellbeing for Early Years
  • Children’s centres
  • Domestic violence/abuse
  • Young carers
  • Prisoner family services
  • Separated parents information programmes
  • Specialist support for girls in gangs