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University of Strathclyde

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1 University of Strathclyde
Cultural Representations of Jimmy    Boyle and the Barlinnie Special Unit  Professor Mike Nellis  University of Strathclyde 1

2 Jimmy Boyle b1944 Poverty-born - Gorbals delinquent from 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

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 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

5 Richard Demarco & Joseph Beuys
Visits & Visitors

6 Commissioned Work: Craigmillar Estate, Edinburgh


8 “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

9 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 2005. Never out of print for over 25 years Full story? Sales?

10 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

11 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

12 Art Exhibition: Glasgow
Third Eye Centre had done several mini-exhibitions of BSU works Venice Biennale Joyce Laing co-curated biggest exhibition in Glasgow

13 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

14 David Hayman Silent Scream. FilmFour

15 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.

16 The Debt Collector (1999) dir: Anthony Neilson. FilmFour

17 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.

18 French Documentary 2001 Boyle’s story is the thread in a film about precarious use of arts in French prisons

19 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?

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 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

21 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

22 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?

23 Arts & Imprisonment Now

24 Acknowledgements Joyce Laing, Christopher Carrell, Jimmy Boyle and Tom McGrath for the pictures. Thank you

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