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‘Echoes of Holloway Prison’ exhibition tells stories of the women who passed through its doors

Echoes of Holloway Prison Exhibition, launch event. Photo credit: Islington Museum.

Echoes of Holloway Prison Exhibition, launch event. Photo credit: Islington Museum.

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A new exhibition by Islington Museum explores the history and significance of Holloway Prison, the impact of its closure, and the memories of those who lived and worked there.

Until its closure in June 2016, Holloway Prison was western Europe’s largest women’s prison, holding over 500 inmates including both adult women and young offenders. Converted to a female-only establishment in 1902, the prison has housed women from all over Britain.

Notable inmates include many suffragettes in the early 1900s, when the prison became infamous for force-feeding practices and the notorious ‘Cat and Mouse’ legislation. The prison also housed internees during WW2 including Diane Mosley; and Ruth Ellis, who became the last woman to be executed in the UK when she was hanged in Holloway in 1955.

At the height of its modern usage, Holloway Prison formed a complex community of inmates (both sentenced and on remand), prison officers, governors, ‘civilian’ workers, and charities.

‘Echoes of Holloway Prison’ is a landmark exhibition that seeks to capture the stories of those associated with the prison, including inmates, prison staff and the local community, before these fade from memory. The exhibition brings together a collection of unusual and rarely seen objects related to the prison from throughout its history, as well as film, talks, events and oral histories, allowing women to tell their stories in their own voices.

The exhibition, curated by Roz Currie and a team of volunteers, is funded by is funded by a National Lottery grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and is presented in partnership with Holloway Prison Stories, an online repository for people with connections to the prison, and the Middlesex University department of criminology and sociology.

Highlights of the ‘Echoes of Holloway Prison’ exhibition include:

  • A rarely seen cell door and original sign from the Victorian “Holloway Castle”, on loan from the Museum of London;
  • A cell bed and signage from the modern prison as it was when it closed, collected in 2016 by Islington Museum;
  • Small everyday objects used in the prison such as prison toothpaste, and a cookery book intended to assist women cooking for their children on release from the prison;
  • Second World War collections, including an exercise book diary of an 8-year-old girl held with her mother as German Jewish enemy aliens, and an embroidery piece on loan from the Imperial War Museum, signed by fascist sympathiser Diana Mosley and other internees, on loan from the Imperial War Museum;
  • Prisoner artwork produced on the closure of the prison; and
  • Original banners hung from Holloway Prison by feminist activist group Sisters Uncut, during their occupation of the prison’s Visitor Centre in May of last year.

Islington Councillor Asima Shaikh, Executive Member for Economic Development, said:

“Holloway Prison has housed women from all over Britain in its history, women whose voices are often under-represented. I’m proud that this exhibition will help to give them a voice, remembering their experiences inside Holloway’s walls, but also recognising that the prison was also, in many ways, a microcosm of the kinds of social issues and events occurring in the world outside them.

“Thanks to the support made possible by National Lottery players, Echoes of Holloway Prison will explore our collective memories of this important local landmark.

“It’s vital as a community that we capture the echoes of our important places before they’re gone forever.”

Maureen Mansfield of Holloway Prison Stories, said:

“We are delighted that the story of Holloway Prison, and its closure has been recognised in this project. Echoes of Holloway Prison blends the story of a historically significant site and the lived reality of a prison, and brings it to the local community. The nuanced and reflective approach of Islington Museum has allowed women’s voices to be central to the project.

Notes to editor:

For further information please contact:

Kate Robson
Senior Media Officer
Islington Council
Room G16, Upper Street, London, N1 2UD
Tel: 0207 527 8004
Out of hours mob: 07769 163303
Alternative contact: Media line 020 7527 2307
www.islington.gov.uk
Follow us on Twitter @IslingtonBC and @IslingtonLife

Echoes_of_Holloway_Prison_Exhibition%2c_launch_event._Photo_credit%3a_Islington_Museum.

Echoes of Holloway Prison Exhibition, launch event. Photo credit: Islington Museum.

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Echoes_of_Holloway_Prison_Exhibition%2c_Exhibits._Photo_credit%3a_Islington_Museum.

Echoes of Holloway Prison Exhibition, Exhibits. Photo credit: Islington Museum.

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Echoes_of_Holloway_Prison_Exhibition%2c_launch_event._Photo_credit%3a_Islington_Museum.

Echoes of Holloway Prison Exhibition, launch event. Photo credit: Islington Museum.

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