France: Concertina, the second edition uses escapes as its theme
After a resounding success in 2021, this year's summer gatherings focused on imprisonment, Concertina, seeks to address the deprivation of freedom in relation to the longing to escape. Interview.
How can we talk about imprisonment at convivial summer gatherings? That is the challenge of Concertina, the annual event that brings together people from near and far to discuss the many issues raised by freedom deprivation. The second edition, powered by a stronger team, was held from 1 to 3 July 2022 in Dieulefit.
New edition results, feedback and perspectives: Prison Insider asked three questions to Prison Insider founder and Concertina creator Bernard Bolze.
Prison Insider. A year ago, you told us about your goal to rally people around the issue of freedom deprivation in a cheerful annual meeting. Did you succeed?¶
Bernard Bolze.The first edition of Concertina was undoubtedly a successful endeavour. It was a success because of the quality of the speakers who agreed to take part in the event without really knowing what to expect, and because of the welcome they received on site. The speakers were pleased with the way they were greeted, accommodated and supported. It was also a success in terms of attendance. We had 250 guests. This may not seem like much, but we felt it was enough for a first edition. The work, especially in workshops, requires proximity. The goal was for everyone to be able to meet and talk to each other. Feedback was very positive and people wanted more, so we are doing it again!
In prison, escapes are primarily metaphorical. These desires to escape are shared by everyone.
PI. The second Concertina edition will focus on the theme of escapes. Why talk about imprisonment from this perspective?¶
BB. The reason for this radical yet delightful choice of theme is the season in which the meetings take place. During summer, people dream of escaping. Prison is a heavy, serious topic that often involves mistreatment, cruelty, degradation and human difficulties of all kinds. For this second edition, we did not want to choose a topic with a leaden message. This approach does not prevent us from dealing with extremely serious matters, however: we have planned and designed this edition to cover all aspects of escape, from a young child running away from home to the silent escape that is suicide.
First off, in the original sense of the word: escaping from prison. Famous escapees will be invited to share their stories. There will also be comparative law: how do prison administrations and the justice system deal with real escapes? Some countries punish them harshly. Others, on the contrary, consider that there is a legitimate right to escape. If caught, escapees return to prison without their sentence being extended. This has not been the case in France since 2004.
Symbolic escapes will also be discussed: reading, television, cinema, sports, drugs. Inside, as well as outside, we can all relate.
There are escapes that lift us up. The same can be said for prisoners. If these escapes are symbolic, they are no less beneficial. For example, they sometimes prevent people from ending up in a situation of constant reoffending. The prisoner then claims to feel free before even having been released. Culture and training in prison needs to be cultivated with the utmost care.
Sometimes, during their sentence, prisoners discover an author, an artistic discipline, a way of being that allows them to “escape” their imprisonment and move forward. We are going to discuss the benefits of these escapes, in particular thanks to “factories”. The speakers will share how they go about passing on their knowledge and introducing prisoners to various disciplines. Christian Budex presents the philosophy factory and how to lead a philosophical discussion with people who are not necessarily ready for it, but who want to learn. This is a real opportunity for training, and it’s free. There is also the writing factory led by writer Fabienne Swiatly, and the integration factory.
The last type of escape evokes a form of freedom that everyone can relate to. A breakaway woman escapes from her gilded cage. Let us also agree to shift the subject by calling on a parliamentarian specialising in tax evasion, which is at the core of deep-rooted problems in our societies: the arrogant wealth of some in contrast with the growing impoverishment of many.
This year, our approach has been to open these meetings up to all.
BB. In this second edition, the number of meetings is increasing with more than 50 events, compared to 40 last year. The spectrum of meetings is widening. The quality of the speakers is once again remarkable. The mobilisation of the locals is also significant, as they are the ones hosting speakers in their homes. The dynamic is good, with an increased budget, easier to obtain thanks to a large number of financial partners. Private donors: Secours Catholique, Fondation M6, Fondation Après-Tout. Public donors: local authorities and administrations, including the Council of Europe.
The very term concertina evokes both imprisonment and celebration. I invite you to discover the programme. Michelle Perrot, historian and president of this edition, is a major asset for our work, as is the presence of the Council of Europe with Mykola Gnatovskyy, former president of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture. He is a judge at the International Criminal Court living in Ukraine. A true inspiration. Others will be joining from Madagascar and the Congo, from Tunisia, or are doing research in South America.
During the first edition, we were criticised for having a somewhat exclusive attitude, which was reflected in the local population’s low level of participation, the lack of representation from abolitionist circles and the absence of various administrative staff. By definition, the meeting leaves no one behind. This year, our approach was to welcome everyone with open arms. I would also like to emphasise the close ties between Concertina and Prison Insider, for whom I initially created these meetings. This partnership is natural for us and the programme will be strengthened in the years to come.
Interview by Jeanne Ulhaq Translated by Tania Solari and proofread by William Avery Hudson
RENCONTRES ESTIVALES AUTOUR DES ENFERMEMENTS
Concertina is a three-day summer gathering focused on imprisonment. This second edition will address the subject of escapes through workshops, stories and different artistic performances.