Imagining a World Without Police and Prisons
"Abolition requires that we change one thing, everything.” - Ruth Wilson Gilmore

March’s Anchor Event was a day of creativity, affirmation and hope where we explored alternatives to the traditional prison system as well as what we could do as individuals and as a community to build a society where we all feel respected, valued and safe. It was an empowering and uplifting collaboration between writer Phil Crockett Thomas, Mez from harm reduction and outreach charity Crew 2000, Maddie from grassroots movement Edinburgh Anti-Raids, and CWC members Jj Fadaka, Chantal Auguste, Raymond Collins and Josie Tothill.

The day began with a comforting mushroom stew with cheesy mashed potatoes from Chantal of Queen Vital Vegan, which we enjoyed together as a community. With our bellies and hearts full, we listened intently as Phil Crockett Thomas introduced Abolition Science Fiction: a collection of short stories exploring themes of transformative justice through the lens of sci-fi. We took turns to read stories aloud to one another, then reflected on what we had read together in relation to lived experiences of harm. Many people shared stories of harm from various perspectives, which highlighted that harm is not necessarily a simple binary of the harmful and the harmed, but a complex state experienced in different ways by all parties involved. One person shared a story of how someone who had committed a violent crime had reached out to the person he had harmed and was able to not only heal the damage that they had caused but also to build a lasting friendship, which was an incredible illustration of the power of restorative justice. We went on to discuss the difficulties that people face when they leave prison, and how damaging that experience can be to their lives and their ability to return to their communities as valued citizens.

Phil and Jj then held a sci-fi writing workshop where participants could use classic sci-fi themes to develop characters and imagine new worlds. In a sensory writing opener, we wrote about memories triggered by touch, taste, sound, smell and sight. People shared memories of their favourite meal, a trip outside their neighbourhood or the last person they held. Then, Phil introduced us to the Grid Exercise, which asked the group to suggest different characters, scenarios and fantasy items which were then randomised into fun stories. We finished the workshop with a world-building exercise, imagining a world where people were able to walk through walls, based on a short story from Abolition Science Fiction. People wrote their own short stories depicting families reuniting with former prisoners, guards responding to this new superpower and what life might look like a year after this power is discovered. The creative writing workshop created space to reflect on feelings, critiques and hopes for abolition, as well as a fun way to engage with the expansiveness science fiction gives us.

We gathered around a table with Mez of Crew 2000, Maddie of Edinburgh Anti-Raids and Raymond representing community justice organisation Sacro to discuss what resources are available to us as citizens, and what we would like to see more of in our society. It was a collaborative and respectful discussion where people shared their personal experiences to inform our dialogue about what could be done to address the causes of harm as well as its after effects; themes that arose included mutual respect, access to resources, positive connection with the self and education around our rights and responsibilities as individuals and communities.

This set the tone nicely for a workshop facilitated by Jj based on collectively creating a sense of community safety that involved us passing different coloured yarn to one another as we reflected on what we have to offer our community, what helps us to feel safe within our community and what we wish to see an abundance of within our community, with each reflection having its own designated colour so that we could really see and appreciate how each string complemented the others. It was an emotionally and visually beautiful process, as by the end of the workshop we had all woven a colourful web of hope, affirmation and mutual support together which we felt was so emblematic of the day that we decided to use it to decorate the stage for our open mic night.

The open mic session, hosted by Raymond, was a warm, welcoming and encouraging environment where one person who mustered the courage to share their voice with us for the first time was cheered on to sing a second song! It was also another person’s first time onstage playing guitar as a solo act, which was amazing to see. The session culminated in a group sing-song of I Want to Break Free by Queen, during which guitars of all kinds came out - real guitars, air guitars, and even a broom guitar!

We look forward to seeing you at our next Anchor Event: Health and Social Care By and For The People, Saturday 29th April at the Community Wellbeing Space from 12:30-7pm, where we’ll be joined by Nick Kemp and the Common Weal Care Reform Group as we delve into the history of social care before creating our own space of care and solidarity together as a community.

Community Wellbeing Space,
Westside Plaza Shopping Centre,
Wester Hailes Road, EH14 2SW

All activities are FREE
Edinburgh Art Festival
The Scottish Government
The City of Edinburgh Council
Creative Scotland
Kingdom of the Netherlands
Mondriaan fund