November 24, 2023

Insights from Insights23: Radio Wanno – 20 Years of Making Waves Behind Bars 

Katie Light
Senior Policy Advisor

Katie Light went behind the scenes at Radio Wanno -the multi-award winning prison community radio station for HMP Wandsworth. She tells us about her day and reflections on her own work in resettlement policy. 

I was part of small group given the opportunity to visit Wandsworth’s prison radio station, Radio Wanno. Not only did this sound like an exciting chance to step into the world of prison radio production, but I was keen to learn how this activity supports the rehabilitation of people in prison given my role in Reducing Reoffending policy at the Ministry of Justice.  

The visit showcased the excellent work which goes into the production of Radio Wanno which celebrates its 20 year anniversary this year. Following a tour of the prison radio facilities we discussed the key relationship between education and prison radio that makes this project so successful, honing skills in radio production and media providing a potential springboard into media employment alongside transferable skills such as self-confidence, presentation and working in a team. The day also provided an opportunity to connect with colleagues working across the Criminal Justice System with a shared passion for rehabilitation for people in prison. 

The best part of the day was undoubtedly the opportunity to write, record and produce content for the radio. Partnered with presenters and producers (prison staff and course participants) our challenge was to write an advert no longer than 30 seconds long – surprisingly, more difficult than you think! Our studio skills were then put to the test as we recorded our content which was broadcast live to the prison. It was both humbling and insightful to hear from participants about what Radio Wanno meant to them. One man told me about his goal to pursue a career in music and radio production and it was heartening to hear how the work of Radio Wanno has supported others to realise their potential.  

The day really reinforced the importance of meaningful activity within prisons (and what ‘meaningful activity’ can mean to different people). This is something I will keep at the forefront of my mind in my day-to-day work, particularly as I consider resettlement policy  and how purposeful regimes can support rehabilitation and reduce reoffending. It was exciting to see how the use of technology and the power of creative learning can come together to provide a service for people in prison and provide participants with the specialist skills to pursue a career in radio. I left Radio Wanno feeling energised and inspired (although admittedly, will not be giving up my day job to become a radio presenter!).  

If there’s anything I could share with others it would be this - take up any opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and participate in an event like this one. It’s such a brilliant chance to engage with the frontline, witness the brilliant work that takes place and remind ourselves why we do what we do.  

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