Clink FM: Saughton Prison gets own radio station

Andrew Whiting behind the mic at  Clink FM. Picture :Phil Wilkinson
Andrew Whiting behind the mic at Clink FM. Picture :Phil Wilkinson
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PRISONERS at Saughton Prison are bopping away their sentences to a new internal radio station.

The appropriately titled Clink FM is a new radio station for inmates at HMP Edinburgh which is currently only broadcasting to a select few prisoners. But the dedicated team behind the project is already attempting to line up an excellent guest wish-list including The Proclaimers and Hibs and Hearts stars.

Former Jambos stalwart Gary Mackay has already been interviewed by radio crews, revealed project leader and regimes officer Andy Whiting.

The driving force behind the project, the keen DJ said: “If you’re serving a long-term sentence, you’re not going to get the chance to go to a concert. If we can bring the concerts here, it just provides a bit of entertainment for the prisoners.”

Run by officers and a team of inmates, Clink FM is only broadcasting to one hall at the moment – Hermiston House. The hall – which opened in 2003 – is “home” to 280
prisoners.

The captive audience receive a schedule of programmes including music, poetry, messages from relatives and information about prison services.

One inmate has already told of the new service’s positive impact. Scott, who did not want to give his full name, said: “I’ve always been interested in music, and if I’d had gone to college to study music when I was younger I probably would have chosen a different path in life.

“Working with Clink FM has given me the opportunity to develop useful technical skills and my confidence.”

Mr Whiting said the station’s offering would grow to cater for the wide range of musical tastes at HMP Edinburgh.

“Our first programme was at Christmas and since then we’ve had shows with varying content, trying to find the things prisoners like the most,” he said.

“They absolutely love dance music, as well as a fair bit of R&B. We’ve even had requests for the likes of UB40. And it would be great to bring in a group like The Proclaimers.”

He said guest appearances by stars from the world of rock and sports would offer prisoners a taste of the outside world.

“Johnny Cash sang his songs at Folsom and San Quentin prisons in America in the Sixties as if he was a prisoner – hearing the train outside but not being able to see it. That was when prisoners were locked up and forgotten about. Of course, it’s not like that anymore. If we could get people in who are famous, I think it would really benefit prisoners.”

The team working on Clink FM also streams video and photos to prison cell TVs. “At the moment, it’s limited – it’s in its infancy and we are still learning. What we are ultimately looking for is to run 24 hours a day to all blocks in the prison,” said Mr Whiting.

The £15,000 project was funded by internal, prison funds and money from Edinburgh City Libraries. The transmissions cannot be received outside the prison walls

‘Prisoners can tune out of re-offending’

FORMER Hearts midfielder Gary Mackay has hailed Clink FM as a service that will help inmates find “common ground” and could dissuade them from re-offending.

He recently took part in a three-minute audio recording to talk about his work with Show Racism the Red Card – a campaign using top footballers to educate against prejudice.

He said: “Anything that helps prisoners to talk about things and find common ground with each other can only be beneficial. Bringing the campaign to the prison is another string to our bow.

“I think Clink FM, run

by people with a clear drive to see it succeed, will allow prisoners to engage with each other and the outside world, and could even stop thoughts of re-offending.”

PLENTY TO HELP WHILE AWAY TIME

PRISONERS at HMP Edinburgh have access to a wide range of training opportunities, including classes in catering, gardening, information technology, bricklaying, hairdressing, joinery and plumbing.

Officer Andy Whiting said that Clink FM and similar activities were important for preparing inmates for life outside prison walls.

But Councillor Cameron Rose, city Conservative group leader, said: “The state almost takes responsibility for prisoners and their behaviour, but ultimately responsibility should lie with individuals.”