No Bars Book




This book is the result of hard work and imaginative thinking on the part of around 40 prison inmates and artists teamed with support from a committed prison staff and funding from the National Lottery and DMU Local. For Drum and Brass it is a solid step along our road of bringing new voices to the arts.

The poems and plays in this book were written between 2018 and 2019 at weekly creative writing workshops held by Drum and Brass at HMP Leicester.

These drop-in sessions ranged from busy vibrant debates of universal themes such as time, freedom and family, to quiet one-man reflections on childhood, family and living with schizophrenia. Every session was a surprise; to us and to the men who took part.

All the works you will read here have been performed inside the prison by a cast of insiders and outsiders, who met and rehearsed together on the day of the performance. These encounters were a major logistical challenge for the prison and our heartfelt thanks go to the staff at HMP Leicester for their support for our work. Special mention goes to Simon Bland whose work to bring the arts into prisons has been transformative for inmates and staff alike.

The play “Not for Human Consumption” has also been performed at two secondary schools. This ‘through the gate’ cast included pupils and former inmates. The Q&A sessions which followed were invaluable insights into how life chances are made and lost. They have sparked new initiatives for Drum and Brass.

We hear many times from people we meet in prison, that they want to prevent young people from making the same mistakes they did. This book is therefore a kind of message to their younger selves. The money raised through sales of No Bars will support further work with those men to fulfil those ambitions.

This book was made possible by funding from


The National Lottery / Awards for All


Our thanks for their support go to:

Simon Bland, DLNR CRC based in HMP Leicester

Jess Bogic, Widening Participation Manager at

Jacqui Norton, senior lecturer in events management, DMU

The cast of Drum and Brass’s DIY Theatre

Jo, Anne, Cally, Gina, Julie, Elaine, Richard and Chris

All the participants and performers at HMP Leicester, Millgate School and Rawlins Academy.