Read about my experience inside HMP Brixton, who I met and why we were there
Who are the “Bad Boys”
There were a lot of funny looks when I told my family and friends that I was going to Brixton prison on a Friday in late June. I realised then that a rephrasing to I am ‘visiting’ Brixton prison would have been better, my mum’s heart rate at that point slowed down.
I was extremely excited to have been invited to Bad Boys Bakery (BBB), and as the names tells you, it is a bakery for the incarcerated ‘’bad boys’’ of the South London slammer. It was set up as a way to teach invaluable skills to inmates willing to change and move forward from their lives of crime. The program is the perfect system to teach patience, routine and team work, whilst nurturing creativity and artistry. It’s also a great way for the lads to have fun while living in a quite hostile and scary environment. The thought that they might have a chance at a new career after their release date gives them hope and this is the exact mindset we try and encourage at Social Pantry – giving people a second chance.
Our visit was, as you could imagine, full of nerves and apprehension. I was wondering what I was going to be greeted by behind the towering bleak concrete walls covered in barbed wire and cameras. It’s a bit like a scene out of Shawshank Redemption, but in 2019, and on steroids! I talked to the boys about their time at Brixton, how BBB has changed their experience and the enjoyment in learning to bake. They all agreed that before entering Brixton they didn’t think they’d ever be enjoying making bright pink cupcakes with glitter sprinkles, I had to add ‘everyone has a feminine side’. We moved to more serious notes, hearing how some of them had a couple of years left on their sentence was a strange thought for me – in two years a lot can change in the ‘real’ world (one minute we have Theresa, the other Boris – I prefer my chances in prison). One of the boys said that finding BBB gave him more of a purpose to change the way he thought about re-offending, he was learning a great skill for the outside which he said is an opportunity he hadn’t had before. Once he learnt that we have recently employed Kyle (a previous member of the BBB team) three weeks prior we could see a light flicker in his eye to hear that someone will in fact recognise him after release. I went on to tell him that I had bought one of his lemon drizzle cakes – which was delicious – at the Brixton Prison Street Party the week before, I felt it made him realise that the work they put in on a daily basis is worthwhile and people do recognise it.
As we left (not quite ‘through the gift shop’), I was greeted to the sound of bottles of champagne popping and bassline from the finest U.K. Drill music blaring from subwoofers of a car. After a bit of confusion, we learnt it wasn’t for us but for an inmate whose friends were waiting for him to be released. I couldn’t help but give him a congratulations, but this again reminded me of how real it all was and how some of these men’s lives have been completely changed forever. This is why programs like Bad Boys Bakery are extremely vital to giving them another chance at life and a positive future.
Watch this space for a special Social Pantry x Bad Boys Bakery collaboration. We’re going to put our heads together with the Bad Boys team and develop a yummy (baked obviously) product to sell in our cafés.
We’re already working on some ideas and will soon head back to Bad Boys for some all-important recipe testing with the guys! To try them, head to Crane’s Kitchen and Social Pantry Café in Battersea in the next few months.
Thank you again for inviting me to Bad Boys Bakery it was an absolute pleasure and experience, I can’t wait to return!
Written by: Danny Nichols