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Poetry at Grendon

Opened in Buckinghamshire in 1962, HMP Grendon is a therapeutic community prison – the only one of its kind in Europe – where community members undertake daily therapy (including art therapy) towards their rehabilitation.

In 2022 Matthew Bevis collaborated with IKON on the exhibition Edward Lear: Moment to Moment. IKON is an art venue in central Birmingham and an educational charity committed to encouraging public engagement with art. As part of the programme for the exhibition Bevis led a workshop at Grendon which explored Lear’s achievement as poet and painter. “Edward Lear Under the Weather” considered art’s relationship with physical and mental health, and helped to inspire “There is no masterpiece” (2023), an exhibition at the Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Studio at Grendon, featuring work by artists inside and outside the prison.


The studio – a dedicated space for both workshops and art-historical and contemporary exhibitions – is, as Frieze art magazine recently noted, “perhaps the only prison-based art gallery and art school anywhere in the world.” It is supported by the Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust, which has funded Art at HMP Grendon since 2011. This programme includes a groundbreaking artist residency which fosters the development of the prisoners’ artistic practice, and also research symposia and public events at IKON which allow a platform for public discussion about the role of art in criminal justice.

Poetry at Grendon was founded as an educational initiative by Matthew Bevis in 2023 in order to encourage both the reading and writing of poetry inside the prison. A monthly meeting, held in the prison library, is open to all prisoners who wish to attend. Poems are circulated in advance and at each meeting Bevis helps to lead a discussion. It is hoped that in future years Poetry at Grendon might extend to poetry workshops, readings, and other collaborations.

For more information about Grendon, therapy, and art therapy:

Article in Apollo Art Magazine
Channel 4 News – “Inside Grendon Prison”
IKON Gallery – Therapeutic Practice at HMP Grendon