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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Visitors' Centre

I am passing HMP Hull when I see a sign for ‘Visitors’ Centre’ and go in. As quickly emerges, there is no exhibition area, interactive display or café. I’ve misconstrued. Not that my idea of a visitors’ centre would be such a bad thing, as I explain, showing myself out. A student of mine has worked in the prison, and I ask him whether he has ever seen any violence or other dodgy dealings inside. He drops some hints about complicity and how it gets passed on: if you as a trainee witness an older officer doing something dodgy with a con, do you report him or say nothing? That wouldn’t be for me to say. There is a bar beside the prison called the Sportsman, which features as a watering hole for prison officers in Robert Edric’s Hull-based thrillers. Surely this would cause tension with prisoners’ family members, who would also drink there, I thought. My friend Mike confirms this, but tells me people have been known to get one over on prison officers by reporting them for drink driving when they leave the pub in an overly refreshed condition. The Sportsman is a music venue, and among the bands playing there are The Penetrators, two of whose members are siblings of Hull musician Trevor Bolder, bassist in David Bowie’s Spiders from Mars alongside his fellow Hull guitar legend Mick Ronson. On his Wikipedia page, I learn that while on tour with the ‘Cybernauts’ Trevor Bolder painted his face blue but then discovered the paint was semi-permanent and would not come off. ‘Bolder had to sell his car to raise the money needed for a specialist skin peeling process at a Swiss clinic. To this day he still has traces of blue paint behind his left ear.’