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Freedom and Redemption: Katy Emck OBE

20 March 2023

We are excited to bring you the second episode of Journeys of Discovery – Change Makers‘ collaborative series with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Over the course of these interviews, Michael explores fundamental questions about what it means to be human that accompany nine incredible concerts. 

The themes are redemption and freedom and our guest Katy Emck OBE knows a thing or two about both of those.

As Founding Director of Fine Cell Work, Katy speaks to Michael about how she is helping to transform the lives of prisoners and ex-prisoners through needlework. Prisons can be “places of soul, spirit and connection”, says Katy. Rather than carrying out their sentences “full of rage and self hate”, prisoners should be permitted to embark on a journey of “self understanding and self acceptance”.
Craftwork in prisons is common, but Katy feels there is something about the intense focus of needlework that provides a much needed “release from the here and now”. Whilst momentarily being transported out of their cell’s confinement, prisoners are also developing a skill, creating something they can be proud of, and generating income. This positions them with the self belief to rebuild meaningful, independent, crime free lives once they have finished their sentences.

There is no better depiction of Katy’s belief in the power of freedom and redemption than her favourite song by Nina Simone, ‘I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free’, which she describes as the ultimate song about freedom, release and the longing we all have to break free of inhibition and to be connected.

Through needlework, Fine Cell Work is opening one of the few doors of opportunity available to prisoners – allowing them both a glimpse of freedom, and a chance for redemption.

“I wish I could give, all I am longing to give,
I wish I could live all I am longing to live
I wish I could do all the things that I can do,
Though I’m way overdue, i’d be starting anew”

– Nina Simone, I Wish I Knew How it Felt to be Free

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