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Collage banner featuring book display, Gartree Library artwork sign and island artwork

HMP Gartree Exhibition

“It’s probably the best prison Library in the UK I’ve ever had the honour to work in. Its spacious well stocked with books, DVDs, magazines and new items coming in all the time which I love to explore.” - Orderly

Gartree Exhibition – The Novels that Shaped Our World.

Leicestershire Library Service are pleased to showcase the fantastic activity that has been taking place by members of the HMP Gartree reading community in response to a project developed by the BBC.

‘100 Novels that Shaped Our World’ is a project developed by the BBC in partnership with the Reading Agency, the Publishers Association, CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) and the British Library. A panel of experts selected a 100 novels that they felt had made a difference to the world we live in. The project aimed to get more people reading, and to get people reading books that they might not have tried otherwise. We were delighted to receive funding to make the full list of 100 books available in the Gartree Prison Library. The Library Service used this as a springboard to undertake a project based on the concept of life-changing or world-changing novels.

The 100 books were divided into 10 different themes ranging from “Love, Sex and Romance”, “Adventure” through to “Politics, Power and Protest”. The list below includes some of the novels that were popular with participants:

  • ‘Bridget Jones Diary’ by Helen Fielding Screenshot of an article: Explore the list of 100 Novels that shaped our world featuring an image of a group of people reading in a library
  • ‘His Dark Material Trilogy’ by Philip by Pullman
  • ‘Lord of the Rings Trilogy’ by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert
  • ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ by C.S.Lewis
  • ‘The Sandman’ Series by Neil Gaiman
  • ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini
  • ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee
  • ‘Cannery Row’ by John Steinbeck
  • ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ by Mohsin Hamid
  • ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ by George Orwell

You can check out the full list here:  BBC 100 Novels that Shaped the World

Gartree 100 Novels Project

This unique project has involved activities to engage participants in reading the books on the list and sharing their feedback, as well as supporting individuals to choose their own list of books they felt made a difference to them. You can find out more about the activities undertaken below, or take a look at some of the books that were read or chosen by participants here. Our 100 novels project has been a great success, and so far over 230 people have taken part in the project at HMP Gartree.

Exhibition Feedback

Visitors to the physical exhibition currently at Harborough Museum have been invited to leave their comments. Click here to read some of their feedback!

Shared Reading

Sessions were run by a trained shared reading volunteer who came into the library on a weekly basis. Each week a passage was read from a book chosen by the volunteer and discussed with the group. Some of the books chosen were Middlemarch by George Elliot and Hard Times by Dickens. The group really engaged participants, and they enjoyed listening to the excerpt and discussing their responses to the books.

Another session was about poetry and participants brought in their poems to read aloud and it also inspired others to write some poetry.

You can read one of the poems here which was written by one of the library ‘Orderlies’. Orderlies are members of the prison population who take on a role in the library such as introducing new users to the library, working with the book stock and promoting the library offer to others.

“Due to Covid I do most of my talking to the people on my own wing, which I know will be thankful to hear about new authors or stuff about the library choices. I have also drawn new readers to read, as in able to talk on a one to one basis on my wing with people making their experience better, and help them choose a good book which I can now get from the Library.”- Orderly

Screenshot of an article: Explore the list of 100 Novels that shaped our world featuring an image of a group of people reading in a libraryBook Group and Tick and Collect

The Library Book Group is chaired by the Library Supervisor, and is a session where participants read a specific novel and then come together to discuss it. When the Covid19 pandemic restrictions came into place users could no longer visit the library or meet for the book group. Library staff were quick to ensure access to the library continued by starting a ‘tick and collect service’, and a library newsletter was created by the library supervisor with input from the orderlies. Readers were encouraged to write reviews of the books they had been reading, and these were then shared with other readers, keeping the sense of connection going in the Gartree reading community.

Click on the newsletter to take a look or click here read some of the reviews

“Thank you for the magnificent work you have all been doing in the past year… Your determination to help all 700 prisoners, despite the obstacles in your way has been very much appreciated by me and by everyone I have spoken to over the past months…”- Orderly


Artistic display based on the book Treasure Island featuring wooden frames and treasure boxes

Art Workshops

As well as promoting reading, the library staff encourage creative responses to the books that are read. As a result of reading Treasure Island, several participants contributed to making a display, and a number made their own ‘treasure boxes’ in the Gartree workshops. In addition to encouraging and supporting creativity in the workshops, the library staff have also run events which support with wellbeing, connection, and informal education, such as:

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Card-making
  • Health and wellbeing workshops
  • Author talks

Some of the creations were on display at Harborough Museum and are available to be viewed online now.