Making it Up

In July 2018, we launched a new family reading initiative, Making it Up.

Family contact for prisoners is key in aiding rehabilitation. We wanted to help increase parents’ confidence in reading with their children so that they could engage and bond over reading during a family visit.

We all use stories: to help better understanding, to make us laugh, or to share something. Making it Up is about the power of stories and the connection they can build between fathers and their children.

Leading up to a special family visit day, fathers took part in workshops led by David Kendall, where they learnt about the importance of reading with their children and created their own storybooks.

July 2018

Family group

On the day, families who came into the prison exchanged stories and listened as author and illustrator Chris Riddell spoke about his love of reading and drawing. All the children received signed copies of one of his books. Feedback from the families and prison staff was very encouraging and following on from this pilot, the prison agreed to part-fund Making it Up for the next year.

“Much better, more relaxed…One day you’ve taken prison away from my family.”

December 2018

Again, fathers taking part in Making it Up had attended workshops leading up to the visit day and put together their own story books for their children. This time, comic illustrator and writer ILYA joined in on the visit day with a comic drawing demonstration, and all the children received a book to take home at the end of the day.

“Absolutely brilliant. Gets kids involved, gives them ideas. Using imagination, ours and theirs.”

Since its inception we have continued to run the project and received incredible feedback from both the fathers and their families. Here are some answers from the fathers and their families from sessions in 2019 when we asked what they enjoyed most about the day:

“drawing and making stories with daddy”

“spending time together as a family reading and making books”

“seeing my son and his dad spending quality time together creating characters and reading each other stories.”

Read our blog about our first Making it Up session here.


After more than a year running the project successfully, we came up against the challenge of how we could run the project remotely. We created a special pack which fathers at Wormwood Scrubs could use to create a book for their child, and promoted the project around the prison.

We were delighted that so many men chose to take part and make some wonderful book creations for their children.

“I have now given out 15 of the packs as part of the pilot – choosing men who I know have young children/ grandchildren and who have told me they are creative. I went onto B Wing yesterday and got shown the most incredible book that one of our men has made – all based about the minions from Despicable Me.” Staff at HMP Wormwood Scrubs

We hope to resume Making it Up workshops in person as soon as possible, but are very encouraged by this first remote session and the opportunity it provides to maintain family contact in the short term.


Making it Up has been running very effectively remotely throughout lockdown, and is now running in 4 prisons, including women’s prison HMP Downview.

All three women heard about the project from the library, signed up because they wanted to do something for their kids…. felt the storybook had strengthened bonds a little and will definitely do more reading and creative work as a result of participating.

We are excited to start up in-person workshops and visits again soon. Our poster in Wormwood Scrubs visitor centre (above) showcases some of the wonderful books created by parents in prison.

Updated June 2021

Arts Council England Lottery Funded

Making it Up is supported by the Arts Council National Lottery Project Grant.


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