HMP Barlinnie exhibit launches at Kelvingrove

Kelvingrove Art Gallery has launched arguably its most controversial exhibit, playing host to works by convicts from the Barlinnie Prison Special Unit.

A vast range of different art work from sculptures to poetry were on show to the 1.2 million tourists from around the world who flock to famous museum.

The Special Unit also provided the prisoners with artistic works to learn about and review as part of the rehabilitation process.

Ex-prisoner and poet Billy McAlear said: “Everybody had heard about the Special Unit but we didn’t really know the in-depth stuff about the objects and who had done them.

“We read over a three month period and we learned hundreds about it and we put on shows showing the stuff here.”

McAlear got experience in poetry and being a tour guide by working in Barlinnie’s in-house radio station ‘Barbed Wireless Radio‘ before moving on to the Special Unit.

Mr McAlear said: “It’s been great, to turn up here today off my own back and not be back in prison – I’m proud of this moment.

“I used to live in Partick and this was my old run about when I was young, where we’d dog school and walk about all day.

“Now, to think that some of my stuff is actually in one of these cabinets – it’s amazing.”

You can watch the video from Billy and Open Museum curator Claire Coia here:


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