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New podcast tackles addiction and prison stigma

The More Than My Past campaign (led by rehabilitation charity The Forward Trust) has launched a new podcast telling the stories of notable former prisoners and addicts, presented by actor Jason Flemyng.

This podcast builds on the online campaign that celebrates stories of recovery from addiction and imprisonment, and challenges the barriers and stigmas which prevent people with difficult pasts from finding work and reaching their full potential.

Guests on the first batch of episodes include Squeeze lead songwriter and ex-alcoholic Chris Difford, Big Issue co-founder, crossbench peer and ex-prisoner Lord John Bird and inspirational ex-addict and ex-offender turned drug and alcohol treatment centre manager Kirsty Day. Each guest is interviewed by Jason Flemyng, actor from Guy Ritchie blockbusters Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, as well as acclaimed current Sky drama Save Me.

Difford, who has penned a host of classic tracks with Squeeze since founding the band in the late 1970s, speaks candidly about his addiction problems:

Some people don’t understand the word moderation, and I was definitely one of those people. I can’t blame anybody but myself.

Moving onto music, he divulged the process behind writing Squeeze’s 1979 classic ‘Up The Junction’:

I was sitting in a laundrette and I had nothing to do, so I got a pen and my notepad, wrote the first line and the rest just followed suit…I’d never been to Clapham and I didn’t know anything about it, so it was all from my imagination.

Lord Bird tells the story of his fascinating life’s journey “from lockup to the Lords”, including childhood homelessness, formative stints in prison and a successful career in the print industry before founding the Big Issue and receiving his peerage.  His remarkable experiences have informed his political views on rehabilitation, which he works to bring to fruition in the House of Lords. He commented:

I think I’m the highest placed ex-offender in the country. We have to promote the healthy growth of people while they’re banged up – and not just treat it as ’you are a naughty boy or girl, we are now going to punish you.’

Kirsty Day provides a moving account of how a Forward Trust program helped her overcome her struggles with addiction and offending. Day is now a manager at the Nelson Trust in Gloucestershire, which has been visited by the Duchess of Cambridge as part of her work looking into the link between the adult prison population and adverse childhood experiences. 

Flemyng himself has worked in prisons near his South London home for twenty years, including training listeners for the Samaritans and helping run a prisoners’ radio station at Wandsworth. He said:

I’ve got interested in these people’s stories as they come out and struggle to make something of their new lives outside of incarceration. We’re going to bring you some amazing guests who you would not believe have gone through that system.

Mike Trace, CEO of The Forward Trust, is interviewed in the podcast’s introductory episode and explains the intent behind the podcast:

The cliché of evil criminals who have just decided to live that life doesn’t hold – a lot of people in prison, with drug and alcohol problems or homeless are struggling to turn their lives around. We have lots of events within Forward Trust where our community gets together and celebrates those who have done well. We’re just trying to replicate that online and take it to a wider audience.

 The More Than My Past podcast is available now on all major podcast platforms.

Photo: Jason Flemyng, The Forward Trust

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