The barber's Shop is now open for Business. For the last four years FOGM members have filed past the Barber’s Shop in Guys Marsh on their way to a meeting room. The shop itself was well equipped with clean basins, three barbers chairs, mirrors and boxes where the equipment was stored. However government cutbacks during the last Labour administration meant that it had had to close and it has remained empty and unused ever since.
The shop fulfilled two purposes. The obvious one being that, with some 550 inmates, it provided a necessary service and, as importantly, it allowed prisoners formally to train as competent barbers and emerge with NVQ qualifications at the end of the 11 week course.
FOGM, with their on-going desire to see men leave Guys Marsh with meaningful and relevant work-based qualifications, undertook a campaign for the re-opening of the Shop.
We have had our ups and downs throughout 2014 but eventually Prison management were persuaded as to its merits and serious discussions began between the charity, the management and Weston College who are responsible for the provision of in-prison education in the West of England.
The story has a satisfactory conclusion. The prison was persuaded to give up a rarely used storage area adjacent to the Shop and this was converted by prisoners (undertaking an NVQ building course) with walls coming down and new flooring being installed. The lighting was significantly improved and a further 3 chairs and mirrors were put in.
In February of this year (2015) the Shop re-opened to take in its first 4 prisoners pursuing the barbering qualification. An excellent lady instructor is now in charge and they are videoed during training; this video is then shown on an in-shop screen as a training tool.
Shortly, sessions will accommodate 8 prisoners on the 11 week courses and NVQ certificates will be issued. FOGM contributed nearly £1000 to provide new equipment for the shop and are reviewing whether they can afford to provide qualified prisoners, on their release, with a barbering set, to help them get established.
The satisfaction gained in seeing the Shop open both mornings and afternoons five days a week, the enthusiasm of the trainees and the long queues of those awaiting their hair appointments is hard to quantify.