Tue 02 Feb, 2018

Making waves behind bars

James Batchelor has just been appointed the new tutor on the radio production course at HMP Swinfen Hall. It’s a complete role reversal for someone who not so long ago was himself behind bars and learning about radio.

James began his prison sentence on April Fools’ Day, 2012. He started off in HMP Wandsworth, where he worked on the prison’s local station, Radio Wanno. He later transferred to HMP Brixton, bringing his talents as a presenter and producer to National Prison Radio. Among the programmes he took charge of were Prime Time and the Album Show.

In February 2018, James returned to Brixton as a guest on NPR’s Past, Present and Future, where the famous and not so famous get to tell their life story – and pick a few tunes along the way. In the interview, he was candid about how he ended up inside:

“I’d do what I wanted, without thinking who I would affect in the long term – my daughter, my Mum, my Dad. I was selfish and self-glorifying.

“Prison was a bad experience, but it gave me a time to get my thoughts together and plan for the future.”

And getting out of prison in 2013 gave James a new lease of life:

“People say going to prison is like dying,” he says.  “Being released was like being born again.  I was focused.  I knew what I needed to do.”

Since his release, Jimmy’s run his own business and worked with disadvantaged young people.  Then the opportunity to work in HMP Swinfen Hall came up. The prison holds adults and young offenders, some of whom will now be taking qualifications in radio production under James’ tutorage. He says they’re going to be making content for NPR – and that hard work and quality will be their focus:

“Education is at the heart of it.  But I want to promote a work ethic too.  We’re going to do the best job possible, and make sure the radio we’re creating is something to be proud of.”