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Final 24 Hour Shepton Prison Charity Lock-In Raises £24,000 for SOS Africa and Supports Shepton Mallet Community Centre Refurbishment

19 Jul 2017

It was an extraordinary charity fundraising event during which “guilty” individuals from across the UK endured 24 hours incarceration at the UK’s oldest prison, to safeguard the education of children in South Africa.

Ms United Kingdom participated in SOS Africa's 24 Hour Charity Prison Lock-InShepton Mallet Prison officers kept a close eye on 72 year old Inmate Judy

From Ms United Kingdom to local businessmen, town councillors, prison officers and a 72-year-old retiree, “Nominate an Inmate” attracted fundraisers from all walks of life. A great leveller, no matter what their circumstances, after marching down the High Street “in irons” and enduring heckling from residents, as soon as they passed through the prison’s iconic gates, all inmates became equal. Before long, each inmate would find their role within a new social order; after only a few hours, the prison’s final residents were fully adjusted to the new routine.

Officers from SOS Africa's "Nominate an Inmate" 24 Hour Shepton Mallet Prison Lock-In Event

After a chastening introductory talk by Officers Williams, Hinde and Long, nervous smiles quickly began to fade as the much-anticipated challenge quickly became a reality. It is unanimously agreed that the most striking moment of the experience has to be when the inmates are marched into C Wing and first enter their cells; the chilling feeling as the cell doors shut behind them is often recalled:

“I was really quite shocked – I think it was the lack of warning and the lack of consultation. It was a sign of the lack of control I would have over my own doings over the next 24 hours and it unsettled me.” (Inmate Collins)

SOS Africa Charity Event Inmates Line-Up outside their cells at HMP Shepton MalletMorning fitness sessions run by Sarah King from "Eat and Do"

Throughout their sentence, SOS Africa’s staff and volunteers implemented a strict timetable of activities designed to “encourage” inmates out of their comfort zones; from 6am gym sessions to sewing lessons and regular choir practice… If you listen carefully, the powerful words of Queen’s “I want to break free” still echo throughout the cells of C Wing. Taking full advantage of a captive audience, over the course of the 24 hours, SOS Africa’s Matt and Claudia shared the story of the charity’s history and vision for the future. Looking back on the experience, many inmates said that reflecting on the life-changing difference their sacrifices would make to the lives SOS Africa children, helped them sleep a little easier that night.

The last inmates of HMP Cornhill Shepton Mallet sing "I want to break free" by Queen"Nominate an Inmate" group photos at the end of the 24 hour prison lock-in charity challenge

Prior to their release, the inmates were treated to a tour of the prison by former officers Laura and Graham Miller. Officers and Inmates alike were in constant awe of the antiquity enshrined within the prison’s great walls; having completed SOS Africa’s 24-Hour Lock-In Challenge, the last inmates of HMP Cornhill, Shepton Mallet have now become a small part of this rich history. And once the final inmate was released and the remaining sponsorship collected, the event raised an incredible £24,000, equating to 100 years of school tuition for the SOS Africa children. In addition, we are delighted to announce that the event has also supported the refurbishment of Paul Street Community Centre. The centre itself supports a wide range of local community groups, clubs and societies and provided invaluable support to SOS Africa throughout both 24-hour Lock-In events.

SOS Africa's "Nominate an Inmate" event also supported the refurbishment of Shepton Mallet's Paul Street Community Centre

And the winner is…

It is also our great pleasure to announce the winner of our “Nominate an Inmate” event fundraising competition. In the lead up to the event, we challenged inmates to reach a £350 fundraising target which would enable them to be entered into a special prize draw to win 2 flights tickets to South Africa to meet the SOS Africa children. After a formidable fundraising effort, 15 inmates were entered into the draw, which took place at SOS Africa’s Grabouw Aftercare Centre last week. After much excitement, SOS Africa’s Linden drew the winning name of Inmate Abigail Collins out of the hat. Surely a deserving winner, SOS Africa child sponsor Abigail was the event’s top fundraiser. It will be a special moment when she is able to visit South Africa with her daughter Kristyna and meet the SOS Africa child they have supported, for the very first time.

SOS Africa Charity fundraising competition winner Abigail Collins will fly out to South Africa to meet the children she has supportedAbigail and her daughter Kristyna sponsor SOS Africa's Michlene

Finally, we would like to take a moment to thank everyone involved in both our 2015 and 2017 “Nominate an Inmate” events; from our fantastic officers, activity organisers, volunteers and inmates to local businesses who enabled us to organise the events with minimal expense to the charity. Thanks to your efforts, both events combined have raised an incredible £60,000 for the SOS Africa children, the legacy of which will be seen for generations to come.

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