Presentation on theme: "University of Strathclyde"— Presentation transcript:
1 University of Strathclyde Cultural Representations of Jimmy Boyle and the Barlinnie Special Unit Professor Mike Nellis University of Strathclyde1
2 Jimmy Boyle b1944Poverty-born - Gorbals delinquent from then gangland enforcerSentenced to life for a murder (which he denied) - police exultant at convictionVery violent in prison - served time in solitary in HMP Inverness “cages” - officers were violent in turn
3 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).
4 Barlinnie Special Unit 1973-1996 Therapeutic community for ten of Scotland’s most violent prisonersBoyle (& Larry Winters) in the first fiveSet up in D Wing of HMP Barlinnie, Glasgow (Ken Murray)Art therapy (Joyce Laing) was an after- thought ….… but a crucial catalyst
5 Richard Demarco & Joseph Beuys Visits & Visitors
8 “The Hardman” 1977Tom McGrath, upcoming playwright, art centre manager and underground writer, approached BoylePlay focus on poverty, violence & repressionStaged in Traverse Theatre - toured BritainAcclaimed……though police tried to boycott it
9 Memoir 1977 Written in BSU;therapy? Extracts in several major Scottish and English newspapersVery well reviewed - as serious prison literatureOne of Scotland’s 100 best books in 2005.Never out of print for over 25 yearsFull story? Sales?
10 The Initial Issues The BSU is not punishment - close it! Boyle does not deserve opportunitiesBoyle is devious - playing the systemPrisoners should not be allowed to express views on the prison systemBSU brought Scotland international acclaim in penal reform - and embarrassment at homeLiberal middle class Scotland - headed by arts community - saw Boyle as vindication of liberal hopes - decency & rehabilitation works
11 Diaries 1984 Boyle released from prison after serving 15 years in 1982 Married psychiatrist Sarah TrevelyanMoved to Edinburgh & together they set up Gateway ExchangePublished Diary - well reviewed
12 Art Exhibition: Glasgow Third Eye Centre had done several mini-exhibitions of BSU worksVenice BiennaleJoyce Laing co-curated biggest exhibition in Glasgow
13 Channel 4 TV Film Expressing new Channel 4’s social commitment Writer: Peter McDougalDirector John McKenzieConcentrates on Boyle’s violence & penal inhumanity (the cages) - no mention of BSU - but ending is iconica loss, said JimmyReid)Accompanied by major TV discussion on penal reform
15 1980s and 1990sPost-prison - Boyle becomes a serious celebrity - writes on penal reform - speaks at conferences - sculpts commercially and imports champagne - supports Labour - his life is under scrutinyMiddle 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” himPolice 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.
16 The Debt Collector (1999) dir: Anthony Neilson. FilmFour
17 A Long Gestated Novel 1999A fearful but brave hero in a surreal novel: drew on people from GatewayNational book tour - some Scottish boycotts2000: Boyle and Sarah separatedBoyle moved to France .. later Morocco …and remarried in 2005Sculpts … and does property development - occasional media interest in this.
18 French Documentary 2001Boyle’s story is the thread in a film about precarious use of arts in French prisons
19 Hardman Revival 2011The original has been acclaimed as a great Scottish playOften performed in rep.Boyle was involved in restaging the playToured ScotlandNo major reaction, except “poverty still generates violence”Was the controversy over? - Boyle’s old - living abroad?
20 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 jailCrucial penal debates were refracted thro’ him - personalised in popular cultureThe lad o’pairts - Jimmy Read and Billy Connolly working class men made good - The Scots arts community put Boyle “up” with themThe “democratic intellect” - all voices matter
21 Scottish True Crime/Histories There is a vast true crime industry in Scotland - focused on - tho’ not exclusive to - GlasgowBoyle has figured in it - but less and less - old imagesBSU - “so successful they closed it down” (Robert Jeffrey”Still no official history of BSU - uniquely it is known more thro’ convict than official voices
22 True Crime - cynical & popular Some of the old penal debates are officially more settled nowThere is no “need” for another Boyle - point proven - “desistance” is policy (belatedly)Desistance is not necessarily rehabilitationPublic/media appetite for violent redemption remainsTrue crime has discredited serious prison literature?