10 years of LGBT+ support group ‘BreakThrough’ at HMP Stafford

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10 years of LGBT+ support group ‘BreakThrough’ at HMP Stafford

On the 7th of June 2021, HMP Stafford celebrated 10 years of our LGBT+ support group ‘BreakThrough’ with an event for Pride month. The group was set up in 2011 by Senior Officer Andy Holmes and was the first of its kind in a UK prison. It was a safe and supportive space for those who identified as LGBT+ to be themselves and connect with others who shared their struggles.

In its first few years, BreakThrough grew in membership and established a presence at Stafford, and soon enough groups like this started to spread across the country. BreakThrough went on to host guests such as Lord Michael Cashman CBE, member of the House of Lords, author, and former actor; Stonewall National Executive Lisa Pinney MBE; and India Willoughby, Britain’s first transgender national newsreader.

On the 7th, we set up 10,000 rainbow dominos to represent 10 years of the groups’ presence at Stafford and to show that one small act can create great change – can cause a domino effect. The topple was orchestrated by a group of prisoners who chose to support the cause and dedicate their time to creating and practising the spectacle. The event was also sponsored by Domino’s Pizza themselves, who provided catering.

Throughout the afternoon, numerous guests from other prisons came together to commemorate the 10 years – from Governors to poets, probation workers to PIPP representatives. A quiz was held to raise awareness of significant LGBT+ events over the years, rainbow pin badges were sold to raise money for Stonewall UK, and the incredible Jenny Berry wrote and performed a poem named ‘Winging It’ for the event highlighting the struggles of LGBT+ individuals in custody.

To see so many staff and prisoners come together to voice their support for equality and share their own stories was inspiring to say the least. These open shows of solidarity help foster an environment where everyone is able to freely and fully express themselves, explore their potential and learn from one another. I for one am proud to be a part of it.