It was a day behind bars for Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, on Thursday, as she went behind bars and visited Brixton Prison as part of her campaign to increase literacy.
The Duchess was visiting the institute to highlight the work of a reading program being ran there; research shows 48% of prisoners have a reading level at or below the level expected of an 11-year-old.
Camilla, who is the patron of the National literacy Trust and a keen reader herself, joined a ‘Books Unlocked’ reading club at the South London Facility. The programme seeks to improve reading, writing, speaking and listening skills of inmates, by offering them the opportunity to read.
There, the attendees and the Duchess discussed the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted book, Pigeon English, with author Stephen Kelman.
This visit comes after, her visit at Boots opticians in Peterborough, donning a pair of children’s frog glasses, where she promoted the connection between eye health and children’s literacy.
Speaking on prison radio, Camilla explained her love of books in a light blue skirt suit: “I really only get time [to read] when we are away in Scotland,” and that she usually reads a few pages of her current book before bed.
Ensley, a 38-year-old inmate who met the Royal said: “It was great that she came to check out the prison and the rehabilitation programs here.”
“Books Unlocked is really important because of the knowledge and because you have so much time – it’s an escapism. It’s a way to get outside. You can get anywhere with a book. You can lose yourself even though you only have a really small space in the prison,” he added.
The Duchess of Cornwall has presented the Man Booker Prize for the past three years, and winners include Hilary Mantel’s ‘Wolf Hall’, and ‘Bring up the Bodies’, ‘Life of Pi’ by Yann Martel and Remains of the Day’ by Kazuo Ishiguro.
The 68-year-old Duchess also toured The Clink, the prison’s fully functional restaurant, which is open to the public; prisoners serve and prepare the food.
Meeting with others on various rehabilitation programmes as part of the Bounce Back course, Camilla jokingly offered a job to a trainee painter and decorator: “She even asked me if I would come and do the palace! I think that was a joke but of course I said yes and that I would come and meet Charlie,” said inmate Darren.
That evening, Duchess Camilla attended a reception for the Poppy Factory, to celebrate their achievement of putting 500 injured servicemen and women into work; the event took place at Admiralty House.
Camilla became patron in 2013.
The Poppy Factory is known for making the iconic Remembrance poppy seen in November each year at its factory in Richmond. A team of just 35 produces 30 million poppies and 100,000 wreaths each year. The organisation was founded in 1922 to provide veterans, disabled following The Great War, with work.
One veteran who is now in employment gave the Duchess a funny gift – a parking ticket! Ex-paratrooper Richard Dungate now works as a parking enforcement officer near Truro, Cornwall; he attached his business card to the framed ticket and told Camilla “this is your get out of jail free card if you ever get caught out in Cornwall.”
Camilla giggled and said she would ‘have to hang it on my wall’.
Mr Dungate said to Hello magazine: “I was going to put it on her motor, but they wouldn’t allow me.
“It was an honour to meet the Duchess – what a lovely lady and she listens as well.”