Review by Joe Jones
18th September 2019
Ironically, it’s difficult to get into Brixton Prison. I had to book months ago!
We always aim to hold interesting networking events, and when we heard of The Clink, we had to go.
The Clink is a restaurant inside Brixton Prison. The waiters are prisoners and the food is cooked by prisoners. Prisoners with 4-18 months of their sentence left are put into programme to help them gain City and Guilds Qualifications. This sets them up for their release and stats say 49.6% of prisoners are less likely to re-offend by entering the programme.
So – what was it like?
You meet in a Portacabin by the prison walls. Here you put everything in a locker. Everything. No watches, keys, phones, guns etc. You are also checked for what you are wearing. No low tops or short skirts, no football tops, and, strangely, no light-up Christmas jumpers (something to do with the electrics!)
You then enter ‘The Gate’. This is a prison gate which looks and sounds exactly how you would imagine a Victorian Prison gate to look. 5 people were being released today, by the way – according to a sign just after you got through the gate. Also, the status of the prison was in capitals written HEIGHTENED, which was comforting.
Next you stand in a holding room behind the door, where you’re searched. Each person was asked (slightly aggressively – which I loved)
“got anything you shouldn’t have on you”?
Which we all replied
“um, no” ….
in quite timid voices.
Visitors are then led across the yard and into a Victorian building. There are bars on every window and a huge locked gate in front of the door. Outside it was imposing and institutional, but behind the walls it was warm and welcoming as we walked into what looked like a pretty nice restaurant, maybe the sort you would get in a hotel.
Running the restaurant were perhaps 6 prisoners. No one seemed to be supervising, which made it very chilled. All were wearing their prison tracksuits.
A really nice guy, Martin, was in charge of our table. He was chatty and clearly liked to talk – but wasn’t annoying at all. His comment “why would I want to be in the kitchen all day and meet no one when I could be out here meeting loads of people”. Apparently, Jeremy Paxman had been in the other day.
I’ll do the food bit quickly.
“I have some really bad news for you” Martin told us.
As we were within prison walls, we probably all went a bit darker with our assumptions of how bad it would be.
“We are out of smoked salmon”
Ok. This is fine.
I had a fry up. It was great. The hash brown was superb.
One thing I really liked about The Clink is that it felt like the prisoners were doing a good thing for themselves but weren’t pretending to be people they weren’t. When the food was brought out of the kitchen, one chap was holding a tray without about 6 plates on it. Clearly heavy. He looked around and looked at his mate on the other side of the restaurant who was being really slow and mouthed
“are you taking the piss bruv” then looked at me and cracked up.
When I went to pay, I got up to the counter which one guy had been cleaning for about an hour. A guy came out of the kitchen and put down a water jug on the surface. He got his hand slapped and jovially told that if he did that again, he would have his neck snapped. We all laughed. Me a bit more forced than them!
We were then led back out of the prison and it was all over.
In summary. If this helps the prisoners, it’s brilliant. It was a hell of an experience and we’ll definitely be going back. Probably for the Christmas lunch, just without the light-up jumper.