A Salford pub is helping to provide a better life for LGBTQ+ prisoners in Manchester’s prisons.

The Kings Arms, partnered with the UK charity Books Beyond Bars, has become a donation hub for unwanted fiction and non-fiction books to go to LGBTQ+ prisoners.

Staff member Felix McNulty said: ”We just wanted to build a community between the incarcerated LGBTQ+ and the outside world to show that there are people out here who care about them. It is especially difficult for those who are transgender and may no longer have a family.”

Felix also works with the charity to host events at the pub off Trinity Way such as writing letters to prisoners.

Felix said: “We’re only early on with the charity work but we aim to host monthly drop-in sessions and letter writing at The Kings Arms. We are also hosting a film screening and letter writing event on March 19 at 7.30pm at the Nexus Art Cafe, which everyone is invited to.”

The most recent letter writing session took place just before Christmas, and Felix explained the positive impact it had on those who received the letters. One of the recipients said: ”Thank you for all the cards that I received over Christmas. It was great to hear from other people, it made my Christmas.”

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The partner charity, Books Beyond Bars, is a collection of queer activists based throughout the UK who want to give those incarcerated more control over their own education and knowledge. It also accepts donations for other prisons in the UK, which are to be sent to their Manchester headquarters.

The charity asks that the book donations are in a decent condition, meaning they have “no annotations or writing, a functioning spine and no spillages or stains” so they can last long enough in prison.

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These books are then forwarded to Greater Manchester’s prisons and distributed throughout the LGBTQ+ community. Books Beyond Bars asks those in prison to register their interest in the programme and the type of educational material they would like to receive, so they can personalise the type of books that they receive.

Felix explained: ”Information about what we are doing and the charity usually spreads through word of mouth, so people usually write to us. We try to build up a relationship between ourselves and those in prison before sending them an order form.”

Due to restrictions on post entering prisons, the charity sometimes has to send the reading materials to education workers within the prison before they are passed on to the appropriate inmates, which can be a little less straightforward than sending them via direct post.

Felix said: ”We get a lot of requests for fiction books, especially speculative or science fiction. There is also a demand for novels where characters share similar aspects to the recipient, such as being gay or transgender. They usually want narratives that capture a part of the LGBTQ+ experience.”

In the UK, nearly 2,000 people in prison identify as either lesbian, gay or bisexual however this only makes up 2.6 per cent of the prison population. As the LGBTQ+ is a minority in the prison system, Books Beyond Bars hopes its project can improve their quality of life in the prison.

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The charity accepts monetary donations and also has an Amazon wish list where supporters can buy books requested by the prisoners. It hopes to expand its work to help LGTBQ+ people in both immigration and mental health detention centres.

The charity encourages anyone to get involve and host fundraising sessions, or buy Books Beyond Bars official merchandise available  at all fundraising events.

Supporters can also send any unwanted books to:

Books Beyond Bars
PO Box 5554
Manchester
M61 0SQ

Picture Credits: Madeline Bateson

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