Blog post: UK Production update


Ex offenders working on grounds maintenance for Blue Sky

You may have read our initial blog post about producing games in UK prisons and then seen that we went ahead and had our new strategy game, Bridget, finished in two UK prisons, and going on sale in October 2013.

Four months on and a very very busy Christmas later we thought you might like to hear how prison production went and if you are looking into it for yourself, glean a bit of insight from our experience.

In short it went incredibly well. Since we started production in late autumn we produced around 1,750 games, all of them going through the two prisons we have been working with. We were able to supply our stockists right up until Christmas and fulfill all the orders here on the website.

Production ran as smoothly as can be expected for the first year of any new product. This was in no small way due to the hard work of the prison workshop officers, David Harding and Robin Willis from High Down Prison, along with the work of Blue Sky Inside (the partner that coordinates the work for us) and their employee Allison Enenche. One thing we have found lacking in some of the mid sized manufacturing companies in the UK is willingness to try something new and adapt a process to fit a new product. However, in Prison production and Blue Sky Inside we have this flexibility, ingenuity and willingness.

Bridget is not made in Prison alone. We have suppliers from all round the UK: skilled artisans working in both small and large enterprises. And in these we have found that same flexibility and creativity we have appreciated so much in Prison. Tiviot Prints up in Broadbottom, who do the fabric printing for our organic canvas bags, are a great example of this.

On chatting to the inmates that have been working on Bridget it is hugely encouraging to hear how they have taken responsibility and enjoyed the project. One inmate said recently how much he liked the speed and pressures of production in the run up to Christmas. Likewise other inmates have been able to put some of the skills they learnt in previous jobs in warehousing and factory management to good use.

So in short we have been very happy with Prison production, however, if you are considering it yourself there are some issues to be aware of.

Firstly, establishing production in Prison did involve considerable input on our behalf, often tailoring the process to suite the skill levels available or to make them appropriate to the facilities in the workshop. But as pointed out above we see the need for flexibility and creativity from all sides as essential to increase UK manufacturing. With the process now finely tuned we can hand it all over to Blue Sky who will take on the full management of production this year.

Secondly when it comes to day-to-day workings it is good to be aware that prison shut-downs are not uncommon. This can be for many reasons from security issues to staffing problems. These delays can’t be avoided and can put a stop to work at any time. However, this only really becomes a problem when timings are very tight.

Finally, prisons are unsurprisingly not that easy to get stuff into and out of. This is either because the item itself poses security risks, or because there are quite a few stages of clearance to get through. Equally we found delivery companies seem to be baffled by prisons or just rather scared of going in the gates. Again this just takes timing and practice to work round and then the system should start to flow nicely.

From a commercial perspective prison production has been a huge success for us. It has enabled us to produce Bridget in the UK and it has done so efficiently and affordably. We still also greatly believe in its redemptive potential for prisoners, especially when coupled with the training, re-housing and employment programs run by Blue Sky.

If you have any thoughts or experience on this do contribute to the discussion on Facebook or get in contact with us here.