Why did prison campaigner Faith Spear move to East Anglia? ‘I followed my heart’

Faith Spear

Faith Spear - Credit: Lawrence Cawley

Gina Long talks to Faith Spear FRSA, criminologist and campaigner, about her love of East Anglia and the East Anglian women who still inspire her today

Faith Spear is a prison commentator and campaigner for reform whose determination to highlight what she saw as the failings in the system led to her dismissal as Chair of HMP/YOI Hollesley Bay prison Independent Monitoring Board (IMB). She wrote an article in the Prisons Handbook challenging the idea that monitoring boards were truly independent. Despite her treatment by the Ministry of Justice, Faith has continued to campaign for prison reform and to speak out on issues facing prisoners. In 2017 she was nominated for the Contrarian Prize which values independence, courage and sacrifice.

In 2018 she was named as one of the 100 inspirational Suffolk women by Archant.

What is your connection to East Anglia?

As a child, I remember visiting the lavender fields of Norfolk and strolling around the Sandringham Estate with my family. I moved to East Anglia at the age of 19. I followed my heart.

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What is your East Anglian Heaven ie what do you love most about East Anglia?

It has to be the coastline, Aldeburgh, Shingle Street, walking along the coastal path to Felixstowe Ferry and catching the ferry to Bawdsey. I can't resist having a paddle in the sea.

What is your East Anglian Hell ie what you hate most about living here?

When the Orwell bridge is closed the whole area becomes gridlocked.

What's your favourite East Anglian restaurant?

I've had fantastic dinners at Wyken Vineyards, Leaping Hare. But I'm more of a lunch or tea and cake person. I love The Old Bakery, Dedham and Alder Carr, near Needham Market, hidden gems.

What's your favourite way to spend an East Anglian evening?

That's easy, bag of chips, walking on the beach at Aldeburgh at any time of the year.

What's your favourite East Anglian landmark?

I'm split between Snape Maltings and Alfred Munnings Art Museum, a world-class art gallery in Dedham.

What's the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?

For me, it's probably the Suffolk Show, an eyeopener for our rural heritage and the joy of sharing the countryside around us.

What is your specialist Mastermind subject?

I wish I could say quantum physics or something else equally academic, but it would have to be Poirot. I'm privileged to have had coffee with Hugh Fraser (Captain Hastings) actor and crime writer.

What is always in your fridge?

Peppers, fennel and locally produced sausages. Oh and chocolate. Emergency rations because you never know…

What's your simple philosophy of life?

Family first and don't judge.

What's your favourite film?

Bodyguard starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, closely followed by any Colin Firth film where he is wearing a wet shirt.

What was your first job?

I worked in business administration, payroll and finance for the National Association for Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO).

What is your most treasured possession?

A large hand-painted mirror we bought in Uzès, South of France when we lived near there.

Who do you admire most?

Suffragettes such as Dame Millicent Fawcett and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, both from East Anglia. Courage calls to courage everywhere.

What is your biggest indulgence?

Buying works of art by local artists including painters Peter Troy, Kit Lees and John Kearns and wood-turner John Garrett.

What do you like about yourself most?

Staying true to myself, maintaining integrity and not bowing to pressure to conform.

What's your worst character trait?

I cannot abide being late so I'm frequently the first to arrive anywhere.

Favourite holiday destination?

The Gower, South Wales. I spent many family holidays learning to surf, abseil and rock climb. Hilarious memories of trying to get out of a wetsuit in the freezing cold rain in the back of our Volvo estate will stay with me forever!

Best day of your life?

When I married my best friend 32 years ago, walking down the aisle to 'Faith Triumphant' composed especially for the occasion by Ken Joslin.

What's your favourite breakfast?

I will never tire of Salmon and scrambled egg.

What's your favourite tipple?

Adnams Copper House Gin with elderflower tonic and a slice of lime.

What's your hidden talent?

Able to connect and empathise with people from all walks of life.

When were you most embarrassed?

First trip to France and trying to ask for two kitkats in French with a strong English accent. Fortunately, my French language skills have vastly improved since then.

What's your earliest memory?

Sitting on the lawn at my grandparent's farm making daisy chains.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Benedictus from The Armed Man by Karl Jenkins. I particularly like the version by 2 Cellos. From the moment I first heard it, this piece of music has captivated me.

Tell us something people don't know about you?

I have a very high IQ and was invited by Mensa to join.

Tell us why you live here and nowhere else?

I love the fact that I live a short distance from the coastline. There are so many places to still explore even after over 30 years. It is a very vibrant and artistic area with many local art galleries and the vast skies inspire me to paint. It really is a beautiful part of the country; no immediate plans to move anywhere else.

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

This is one of my favourite poems:

Vision is often personal, but a cause is bigger than any one individual

People don't generally die for a vision, but they will die for a cause

Vision is something you possess; a cause possesses you

Vision doesn't eliminate the options; a cause leaves you without any options

A good vision may outlive you, but a cause is eternal

Vision will generate excitement, but a cause generates power

[Adapted from Houston (2001)]

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