Matt Talbot Community Trust, Dublin. Ph: 01 626 4899.

Interview with a Participant

January 15, 2018

With new courses beginning for our participants this week, we took the chance to speak to one of our group members, Mark, about his past year with us and what he has planned for 2018.

In 2017 Mark covered a range of different areas and completed courses such as Communiversity, Digital Storytelling, Missing Ingredients Culinary Skills, Web Authoring, Massage and Figure Analysis, and Reflexology following that.

He also completed a Local and Global Awareness course facilitated by a staff member at the Matt Talbot. Through this course Mark covered topics such as geography and examined issues such as global warming, recycling and the use of plastics. He also wrote to the Indian Ambassador about a process being used in India to source water from the ground and to suggest that perhaps we could do something similar in Ireland.

What have been your highlights of the last year (2016/2017)?

“Completing the Pearse College courses because they were FETAC Level 5, I would’ve gotten a distinction in Massage and Figure Analysis, and a distinction in Reflexology. I would be expecting the same with the Web Authoring course I completed before Christmas.

The Communiversity graduation was another highlight…receiving the certificates…we got a tour of buildings and there were photos taken and a presentation. There were different Communiversity groups there too from different areas so I got to meet them. We also went on a tour of Dail Eireann. We met some of the politicians…Brid Smith, Richard Boyd-Barrett…then we went to the canteen for some food.”

Communiversity courses are at degree level and designed to give participants an insight into university life. The initiative is a free university level programme that takes place in local libraries and engages adult learners. This is a huge achievement for our two participants as the programme runs for 17 weeks and includes 4 modules lasting 4 weeks each. Having undertaken classes in Local History, Philosophy, Economics and Politics, they finished the programme having covered a great range of subject areas.

Is there one thing you are particularly proud of?

I got involved in the Incarceration Alters exhibition through my friend Bernie Masterson, she worked in the units as an art teacher. I did an interview about 2 years ago. It was about an item in my cell that meant something to me.  They were some guitars I had in the cell, one guitar I had gotten while at Portlaoise Prison, it had been in the corner collecting dust and I cleared it off…and got into the music and writing songs.

I spent one week with the exhibition, I went there every morning from 9 to set up and turn on the screens. I sat at a desk for people who wanted to ask questions. We had the official opening then and I got to talk about my own contribution and play a song. There were people from the Irish Prison System and CDETB there.

People were very interested…they were asking me how I was involved so I told them that one of the stories was mine. People from the surrounding area said it was a great chance to go into the DIT Grangegorman campus as they wouldn’t usually have a chance to see it or be invited in.”

What kinds of support have you received at the Matt Talbot that has allowed you to accomplish these things?

This year, Mark plans to move out of Dublin to live with his family following his release. He says that the staff at the Matt Talbot have provided great support with this. He has met with individuals from Intreo, which is a new service from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection that provides supports for jobseekers. Mark has also met the local training and employment officer in the area. He hopes to start a 6 week course in domestic appliance repair in March to get him started with a job.

He has also started the process of registering with the local county council with a view to securing his own accommodation in the future. He has also set up an interview with HAP or Housing Assistance Payment which is a form of social housing support provided by local authorities.

“You have to show you’re interested and not wasting time.”

What are your plans/what are you hoping to achieve in 2018?

“I’m hoping to get out and do gigs and get a band together…it’s almost impossible to plan any of that at the moment. I did a lot when I was in Portlaoise Prison, I did all my Royal Academy of Music theory and harmony exams, it took me five years to get them all. I also did a lot of music history. I would have loved to have done a degree after that because that’s when my theory knowledge would’ve been at its best. It starts to slip when you’re not using it. I hope to get stuck into music when I get out, I hope to give guitar lessons and start doing theory lessons as well with people. Music will be kind of like a plan B. I also have a course in Understanding Social Media that is starting this evening.”

We would like to thank Mark for taking part in the interview.

Last modified: January 18, 2018