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A prison for all

Inveraray Jail is many things. There’s the old prison, the new prison, the courthouse, the airing yards, the exhibitions and the shop. Visitors can explore at their leisure, interact with costumed staff, sample punishments, witness early justice and generally marvel at history brought to life. But how do you get all of this across in one small promotional leaflet that appeals to everyone – mums, dads, grannies, kids and teenagers? This was the challenge facing Prison Governor, Gavin Dick, last month as he tried to find a way to sum up all that Inveraray Jail has to offer – in a few words and one photo.

Visitors behind bars

The models get locked up in the airing yard.

It was the jail’s history that provided the inspiration in the end.  ‘Men, women, children, babies, lunatics and even dogs were all locked up in Inveraray Jail and the same applies today – even dogs are welcome,’ he explains. ‘So I thought, why not call it a “Prison For All” and link the past with the present?’ With the theme and strapline set, it was down to photographer Tony Marsh to capture the image – and that’s when the real fun started.

The first task was to round up the models for the shoot, and a good cross-section of the population was needed. Gavin roped in various friends and volunteers to take part.

Brendon Wallace, who provides IT support to Inveraray Jail, his wife Rachel and their three young children Georgia, Holly and Jaydon took on the family role. Dougie Gibson and Maureen Renton, who works in the jail’s shop, represented the older generation. Meanwhile, Tony’s son Alfie and his friend Alistair provided the teenage element. Last but not least, Dougie’s faithful collie Mac acted on behalf of the canines.

Before they all arrived Tony did a quick recce of the venue looking for good backdrops and interesting angles. His eyes lit up when he saw the thumbscrews in the ‘Torture, Death and Damnation’ exhibition. He wanted to use props to get across how hands-on Inveraray Jail is. The whipping table, leg irons and crank wheel were all noted. Tony was also taken with the low light and the authenticity of the cells and planned to capture this by shooting naturally with as little flash as possible.

The shoot took place on a busy day at the jail. It was quite a job to get the lighting right, coordinate all the models and try not to disturb the real visitors too much. But being an old hand, Tony expertly guided his gang of models  around the venue, getting them in place, asking them to pose, cajoling, encouraging, adjusting and even ‘woofing’ loudly to get Mac to turn around and look at the camera. It’s not a job for the self-conscious. For the final shot he lined them all up in the exercise yard. This turned out to be the perfect ‘Prison for All’ shot – young, old, men and women – behind bars at Inveraray Jail.

Jaydon and Holly try out the whipping table

Jaydon and Holly try out the whipping table.

Gavin was also keen to get some photos of young prisoners, so Alfie and Alistair were dressed up in prison outfits and sent to the cells. An audience gathered as they were tied to the whipping table and the warden summoned. ‘One, two, three SCREAM!!’ shouted Tony, encouraging his son to look suitably terrified. An hour later and the boys were released. ‘It was great fun,’ Alfie says. ‘But it took ages because dad’s such a perfectionist.’

So was the perfectionist happy with the results of the photoshoot? Absolutely.  And so was Gavin. ‘We’ve got some great images of the jail from the day,’ he explains. ‘And most of all we’ve got the one shot I need for my leaflet – I couldn’t be happier.’

There’s something for everyone at Inveraray Jail. Why not come and experience it for yourself? You can even bring the dog…


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Inveraray Jail, Argyll, Scotland, PA32 8TX