Presentation on theme: "Cultural Representations of Jimmy Boyle and the Barlinnie Special Unit Professor Mike Nellis University of Strathclyde."— Presentation transcript:
Cultural Representations of Jimmy Boyle and the Barlinnie Special Unit Professor Mike Nellis University of Strathclyde
Jimmy Boyle b1944 Poverty-born - Gorbals delinquent from 12 - then gangland enforcer Sentenced to life for a murder (which he denied) - police exultant at conviction Very violent in prison - served time in solitary in HMP Inverness “cages” - officers were violent in turn
Macleod (2004) The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Scotland). Boyle, Jimmy (1944-) Reformed criminal, now artist and writer, b Gorbals, Glasgow. His youth was spent in remand homes and prisons for a variety of crimes, and his later membership of a violent gang led to several charges of murder, on the third of which he was imprisoned in Barlinnie. A rehabilitation programme there led him to develop an interest in sculpture and writing. Since his release he has worked to help young offenders. His publications include the autobiographical A Sense of Freedom (1977) and a novel, Hero of the Underworld (1999).
Barlinnie Special Unit Therapeutic community for ten of Scotland’s most violent prisoners Boyle (& Larry Winters) in the first five Set up in D Wing of HMP Barlinnie, Glasgow (Ken Murray) Art therapy (Joyce Laing) was an after- thought …. … but a crucial catalyst
Richard Demarco & Joseph Beuys Visits & Visitors
“The Hardman” 1977 Tom McGrath, upcoming playwright, art centre manager and underground writer, approached Boyle Play focus on poverty, violence & repression Staged in Traverse Theatre - toured Britain Acclaimed……though police tried to boycott it
Memoir 1977 Written in BSU;therapy? Extracts in several major Scottish and English newspapers Very well reviewed - as serious prison literature One of Scotland’s 100 best books in Never out of print for over 25 years Full story? Sales?
The Initial Issues The BSU is not punishment - close it! Boyle does not deserve opportunities Boyle is devious - playing the system Prisoners should not be allowed to express views on the prison system BSU brought Scotland international acclaim in penal reform - and embarrassment at home Liberal middle class Scotland - headed by arts community - saw Boyle as vindication of liberal hopes - decency & rehabilitation works
Diaries 1984 Boyle released from prison after serving 15 years in 1982 Married psychiatrist Sarah Trevelyan Moved to Edinburgh & together they set up Gateway Exchange Published Diary - well reviewed
Art Exhibition: Glasgow Third Eye Centre had done several mini-exhibitions of BSU works Venice Biennale Joyce Laing co- curated biggest exhibition in Glasgow
Channel 4 TV Film Expressing new Channel 4’s social commitment Writer: Peter McDougal Director John McKenzie Concentrates on Boyle’s violence & penal inhumanity (the cages) - no mention of BSU - but ending is iconic a loss, said JimmyReid) Accompanied by major TV discussion on penal reform
David Hayman Silent Scream. FilmFour
1980s and 1990s Post-prison - Boyle becomes a serious celebrity - writes on penal reform - speaks at conferences - sculpts commercially and imports champagne - supports Labour - his life is under scrutiny Middle class Scotland remains divided - undercurrent among some - he has not changed - evidence of entrepreneurship but not criminality - no previous models for this - his supporters “romanticise” him Police memoirs ignore him: tabloids call him “Killer Boyle” no matter what he does - resent his success - feel he “beat the system” Working class Scotland is also ambivalent, Many find it hard to forgive his - and those still like him predatoriness as an enforcer.
The Debt Collector (1999) dir: Anthony Neilson. FilmFour
A Long Gestated Novel 1999 A fearful but brave hero in a surreal novel: drew on people from Gateway National book tour - some Scottish boycotts 2000: Boyle and Sarah separated Boyle moved to France.. later Morocco …and remarried in 2005 Sculpts … and does property development - occasional media interest in this.
French Documentary 2001 Boyle’s story is the thread in a film about precarious use of arts in French prisons
Hardman Revival 2011 The original has been acclaimed as a great Scottish play Often performed in rep. Boyle was involved in restaging the play Toured Scotland No major reaction, except “poverty still generates violence” Was the controversy over? - Boyle’s old - living abroad?
Observations & Interpretations No other modern Scottish criminal changed so dramatically or publicly or got debated in so many media for so long (tho’ he was not a BSU one-off) Broke the mould/defied the engrained cultural narrative that said violent Scottish criminals don’t/can’t change - or die, become drunks or rot in jail Crucial penal debates were refracted thro’ him - personalised in popular culture The lad o’pairts - Jimmy Read and Billy Connolly working class men made good - The Scots arts community put Boyle “up” with them The “democratic intellect” - all voices matter
Scottish True Crime/Histories There is a vast true crime industry in Scotland - focused on - tho’ not exclusive to - Glasgow Boyle has figured in it - but less and less - old images BSU - “so successful they closed it down” (Robert Jeffrey” Still no official history of BSU - uniquely it is known more thro’ convict than official voices
True Crime - cynical & popular Some of the old penal debates are officially more settled now There is no “need” for another Boyle - point proven - “desistance” is policy (belatedly) Desistance is not necessarily rehabilitation Public/media appetite for violent redemption remains True crime has discredited serious prison literature?
Arts & Imprisonment Now
Acknowledgements Joyce Laing, Christopher Carrell, Jimmy Boyle and Tom McGrath for the pictures. Thank you