I first became involved with The Clink Restaurant a couple of months ago after having unintentionally met the CEO, Chris Moore, on a train to London. He has been a friend of the family for many years and through catching up with the latest news on the way to London Victoria he began to explain his new role at The Clink Restaurant. I was immediately captivated by the project.
The Clink Restaurant opened in May 2009 and holds the title as the first commercial restaurant to open inside a British prison. The restaurant provides prisoners with the opportunity to learn an honest trade, achieve a national catering qualification and eventually escape the 40.1% reconviction rate when they leave prison. Chris Moore revealed to me that soon The Clink Restaurant will be shown on TV as a documentary and wanted changes made to the website.
Whilst their current website did the job of providing information about The Clink Charity; in my opinion it didn’t do this task in an aesthetically pleasing way or in a manner which would use the power of social networks. Working full-time for Microsoft is a time consuming and often stressful task but redesigning The Clink website was a project which I could somehow find time for after contracted working hours.
Over the last few weeks taking advantage of some after Microsoft hours and weekends The Clink website I’ve been working on is shaping up well. Currently only the old website is live but by the end of next month the new one should be up and running. Since starting the project Chris Moore has insisted that one day I visit The Clink Restaurant to get a real feel for what the charity is about. With permission from Microsoft I got to visit The Clink Restaurant yesterday on the basis of a volunteering day. Not only did I get the chance to have a look around The Clink Restaurant side of the prison but I was able to also use the day to continue website scripting. A welcomed reprieve from using up evening or weekend time!
The Clink is not the sort of Restaurant you can Foursquare yourself into. It is based within the confines of H. M. P High Down and therefore it is necessary for visitors to follow prison rules. All visitors must be over 18 years old, carry identification on arrival and abide by the list of prohibited items. Emphasis to: NO MOBILES, NO IT EQUIPMENT, NO DRUGS and NO KNIVES. All of which seemed to slip my mind as I entered the visitors entrance carrying two smartphones, 2 pen drives, a packet of Marlboro Gold and a lighter. I usually carry around a fairly sharp pen knife as well but thankfully this wasn’t on my keys. Not complying with the rules is a criminal offence, for this reason I went back to the car to drop everything off. In my case I was also given the strict instructions to not write any pre-tweets or pre-blogs concerning my visit. As you can imagine these prohibitions and restrictions are done for visitor personal safety. Giving news of my visit before arriving could never have a benefit, only risk a threat.
Despite the kerfuffle of safety don’t think visiting The Clink Restaurant is a stressful procedure. For security reasons I can’t explain the security checks or pathway through the prison to the restaurant. Neither can I disclose the names of the prisoners or ex-offenders who I spoke with or was served by. Once inside the The Clink Restaurant it is difficult to imagine that you are eating inside a prison. Earlier this week I was lucky enough to eat in a restaurant in the London Mayfair and I can honestly say that The Clink’s furnishings were on par. There is no doubt some furnishings are done with safety and security in mind, for instance the cutlery was plastic and the tables were glass. As for the food, exquisite.
Must confess that the prisoners almost seemed to be too pleasant and that collecting dishes on a couple of occasions was poorly planned but that is the point of the Clink. These errors are made as The Clink trains prisoners into a catering career path. The restaurant is a charity and the charity is a restaurant. They are one in the same. However I wanted to know how the prisoners viewed The Clink. Whilst speaking with an ex-offender he explained that many prisoners aren’t keen to join The Clink due to the working hours, it is a real job and some of which are simply not driven for. Working for the restaurant may pay more compared to other jobs in the prison but that isn’t the point for many prisoners, instead the prospect of leaving prison with a qualification is a better drive. It helps avoid reconvictions and introduced offenders back into society again.
Due to being involved with the charity I got the chance for a behind the scenes look about how the restaurant is managed. Again, I can’t explain any of this other than The Clink also caters for business meetings offering a well-designed meeting room which overlooks the restaurant floor.
Feel free to visit The Clink Restaurant’s website (my version of it will appear late March) and I highly recommend booking a table as a group to enjoy a great meal and a unique experience.