Voices from HMP Holloway

Women in Prison was delighted to host an exhibition in Parliament of a beautiful and powerful patchwork quilt created in 2012 by women in HMP Holloway, which is now closed. Each patch tells a different story about life in prison. The quilt is made using materials found inside the prison including curtains and prison officers' trousers.

The overall design is inspired by the Holloway Brooch presented to the
Suffragettes, who have a long history with the prison. The portcullis
symbol forms the structure of the quilt.

You discover something new every time you look at it. Details to note include footprints made by babies living in the prison on the Mother & Baby Unit and the vibrant words on the outer edge are a response to what the women are looking towards upon release; ‘FAMILY, FREEDOM, RESPECT, LOVE, SEX, MONEY & CAKE’.

BirdWord, the charity behind the quilt, was formed by three staff in Holloway to give women an opportunity to express themselves creatively. They held workshops over several months with more than 100 women from the prison taking part.

The exhibit in Parliament had a huge impact on MPs and Peers - with many of them tweeting photos and contacting WIP to offer their support. They included John Bird, now Baron Bird, who alongside Gordon Roddick of The Body Shop, founded The Big Issue magazine, which provides homeless people with an income and an outlet for their talent.

WIP hosted this exhibit as part of our purpose to provide a platform for women in prison to share their stories and speak “truth to power”. The quilt also helped to ensure politicians didn’t ignore the impact that the closure of Holloway has had on women.

The quilt can now be found in the Museum of London and is held alongside famous quilts by the Suffragettes and other campaign movements.