What a night!
Attending the annual Longford Lecture at Church House, Westminster last night, it was a huge privilege to receive the Longford Prize 2016 on behalf of Unlock together with my Co-director Christopher Stacey.
The Longford Prize ‘recognises the contribution of an individual, group or organisation working in the area of penal or social reform in showing outstanding qualities of humanity, courage, persistence, originality and commitment to diversity’. Unlock was joint winner with The Shakespeare Trilogy.
Presenting the award Lord Longford’s daughter Rachel Billington was joined on stage by Kevin McGrath of the McGrath Charitable Trust who generously donated prize money of £5,000, shared between the winners. The award itself had been commissioned by the Trust from one of is former Longford Scholars, Ben Levings, now forging a successful career as a carver and stonemason, who designed the award. Rachel commented, “Made of stainless steel, glass and Yew, the detail on the statuette represents the lock indicator found on UK prison doors. The award represents, Ben says, the door unlocked, transparency and reflection – some of the things that he felt are celebrated by the Longford Prize and the work of those who receive it.”
It has pride of place in our office today.
What further added to the joy of the occasion was the first person to come and offer his congratulations. None other than Bob Turney, who was one of Unlock’s founders back in 1999 and a patron of the Longford Trust. Bob beamed as he shook our hands saying “I am so proud! It’s fantastic to see Unlock win this prize. You’re doing a brilliant job!” Having re-established contact with him he’s keen to be kept up-to-date with our work.
A good friend to Unlock over the years, former Director of the Prison Reform Trust, Juliet Lyon was also honoured when she was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her commitment to those on the margins of society. A well-deserved recognition.
PRT’s new Director, Peter Dawson, too offered his congratulations saying that one of the things he really admired about Unlock was that we were willing to do “the boring stuff” – “stuff that nobody else wants to do but what is SO important”. He summed it up pretty well!
By Julie Harmsworth, Co-director