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A YEAR INSIDE THE KOESTLER C AROLINE ELLIS

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A YEAR INSIDE THE KOESTLER C AROLINE ELLIS

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CONTENTS

Introduction Tim Robertson Chief Executive

Winter Spring Joyti Waswani

Project Assistant & PA to the Chief Executive

Summer Autumn Dean Stalham Arts Worker

Winter Acknowledgements

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CONTENTS

Introduction Tim Robertson Chief Executive

Winter Spring Joyti Waswani

Project Assistant & PA to the Chief Executive

Summer Autumn Dean Stalham Arts Worker

Winter Acknowledgements

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INTRODUCTION

T

he Koestler Trust is the UK’s best-known prison arts charity. It awards, exhibits and sells artworks by offenders, detainees and high security patients. Since 1999, the Koestler Trust has been based in the former governor’s house next to the gates of HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs in East Acton, London. Founded in 1962 by the writer Arthur Koestler, the Trust’s awards now attract over 5,000 entries a year, and its exhibition – taking place for the next few years at Southbank Centre – attracts around

solid-looking Victorian brick building, much like hundreds of institutional buildings across the country. However, the building is brought to life, and given a constant makeover, by the works of art produced by people detained in some of those very same institutional buildings across the country. During the course of 2008, I have documented the cycle of activities in the building and this book is the result. It is my account of a year inside the Koestler Trust and I hope it does justice to the work of the artists who make the Koestler Trust

“I WAS STRUCK BY HOW ‘ALIVE’ THE BUILDING WAS” 10,000 visitors. The Trust also trains writers and artists as mentors to support talented prisoners to continue in the arts after release into the community.. At the end of 2007, the Chief Executive of the Koestler Trust invited me to produce a photographic portrait of the organisation, to reveal the Trust to new audiences as well as to the award applicants, many of whom may never have the opportunity to visit the building themselves. On first visiting the Koestler Trust, I was struck by how ‘alive’ the building was. It is a fairly rundown, cavernous and

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the vibrant place it is, and to the staff and volunteers at the Trust who work so hard to promote the role of the arts in the criminal justice system. Caroline Ellis, December 2008

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INTRODUCTION

T

he Koestler Trust is the UK’s best-known prison arts charity. It awards, exhibits and sells artworks by offenders, detainees and high security patients. Since 1999, the Koestler Trust has been based in the former governor’s house next to the gates of HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs in East Acton, London. Founded in 1962 by the writer Arthur Koestler, the Trust’s awards now attract over 5,000 entries a year, and its exhibition – taking place for the next few years at Southbank Centre – attracts around

solid-looking Victorian brick building, much like hundreds of institutional buildings across the country. However, the building is brought to life, and given a constant makeover, by the works of art produced by people detained in some of those very same institutional buildings across the country. During the course of 2008, I have documented the cycle of activities in the building and this book is the result. It is my account of a year inside the Koestler Trust and I hope it does justice to the work of the artists who make the Koestler Trust

“I WAS STRUCK BY HOW ‘ALIVE’ THE BUILDING WAS” 10,000 visitors. The Trust also trains writers and artists as mentors to support talented prisoners to continue in the arts after release into the community.. At the end of 2007, the Chief Executive of the Koestler Trust invited me to produce a photographic portrait of the organisation, to reveal the Trust to new audiences as well as to the award applicants, many of whom may never have the opportunity to visit the building themselves. On first visiting the Koestler Trust, I was struck by how ‘alive’ the building was. It is a fairly rundown, cavernous and

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the vibrant place it is, and to the staff and volunteers at the Trust who work so hard to promote the role of the arts in the criminal justice system. Caroline Ellis, December 2008

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H

er Majesty’s Prison Service has its problems, God knows. But the headlines give only a partial picture. The British penal system maintains some remarkably enlightened traditions, and one of those is the Koestler Awards. Since 1962, prisons and secure hospitals have encouraged their inmates to enter artwork to the Koestler

sold, before being packed up and returned. The rooms have just about emptied in the winter, before the next tide comes in. The building bustles with deliveries, collections, enquiries, meetings and visitors. It is the workplace of 8 staff and many volunteers, including prisoners on day release and artists trained to mentor Koestler Award winners. In Caroline’s photographs, though, we are given

“ WE M U S T T R EA D S O FT LY O N T H O SE D R E A M S” Trust. The best entries win cash prizes and are displayed and sold at an annual public exhibition. No other country in the world seems to have a national programme of this kind and perhaps even more commendably, HM Prison Service gives the Koestler Trust use of an entire 3-storey building from which to operate the scheme. It is this building, now known as the Koestler Arts Centre, that has been the subject of this year-long photography project. It is strongly suited to a 12-month pictorial narrative, because the Awards follow an annual cycle. In the spring, a deluge of parcels floods in – with over 5,000 entries in 52 artforms from around 300 establishments. The work is unwrapped, logged, judged, awarded, exhibited and

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moments of stillness in the middle of activity – the locations, details and slowly changing signs of the Koestler process. This brings into focus our underlying purpose as a charity – which is to handle offenders’ artworks with care, respect and even gentleness, to take seriously the creative aspirations of some of the most marginalised people in our society. Entrants to the Koestler Awards spread out their dreams under our feet – to paraphrase W.B Yeats. We must tread softly on those dreams. And that is precisely what Caroline ‘s beautifully tender images show us how to do. Tim Robertson, MA MSc AKC Chief Executive December 2008

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H

er Majesty’s Prison Service has its problems, God knows. But the headlines give only a partial picture. The British penal system maintains some remarkably enlightened traditions, and one of those is the Koestler Awards. Since 1962, prisons and secure hospitals have encouraged their inmates to enter artwork to the Koestler

sold, before being packed up and returned. The rooms have just about emptied in the winter, before the next tide comes in. The building bustles with deliveries, collections, enquiries, meetings and visitors. It is the workplace of 8 staff and many volunteers, including prisoners on day release and artists trained to mentor Koestler Award winners. In Caroline’s photographs, though, we are given

“ WE M U S T T R EA D S O FT LY O N T H O SE D R E A M S” Trust. The best entries win cash prizes and are displayed and sold at an annual public exhibition. No other country in the world seems to have a national programme of this kind and perhaps even more commendably, HM Prison Service gives the Koestler Trust use of an entire 3-storey building from which to operate the scheme. It is this building, now known as the Koestler Arts Centre, that has been the subject of this year-long photography project. It is strongly suited to a 12-month pictorial narrative, because the Awards follow an annual cycle. In the spring, a deluge of parcels floods in – with over 5,000 entries in 52 artforms from around 300 establishments. The work is unwrapped, logged, judged, awarded, exhibited and

a year inside the koestler final.indd 10-11

moments of stillness in the middle of activity – the locations, details and slowly changing signs of the Koestler process. This brings into focus our underlying purpose as a charity – which is to handle offenders’ artworks with care, respect and even gentleness, to take seriously the creative aspirations of some of the most marginalised people in our society. Entrants to the Koestler Awards spread out their dreams under our feet – to paraphrase W.B Yeats. We must tread softly on those dreams. And that is precisely what Caroline ‘s beautifully tender images show us how to do. Tim Robertson, MA MSc AKC Chief Executive December 2008

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WINTER SPRING SUMMER AUTUMN WINTER

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WINTER SPRING SUMMER AUTUMN WINTER

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WINTER SPRING SUMMER AUTUMN WINTER

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P. Thomas, Prying Eyes (detail), HMP Dumfries

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D. Hickman, Self Portrait in a Cell (detail), HMP Hewell

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P. Thomas, Prying Eyes (detail), HMP Dumfries

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D. Hickman, Self Portrait in a Cell (detail), HMP Hewell

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Above: N.Villa Christmas Wish List, HMP Wormwood Scrubs Right: B. Keburia, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (detail), HMP Canterbury

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Above: N.Villa Christmas Wish List, HMP Wormwood Scrubs Right: B. Keburia, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (detail), HMP Canterbury

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Anon, Diversity (detail), HMP Wormwood Scrubs

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W. Mathurin, Frida Kahlo (detail), HMP Coldingley

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Anon, Diversity (detail), HMP Wormwood Scrubs

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W. Mathurin, Frida Kahlo (detail), HMP Coldingley

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W

orking at Koestler is somewhat odd for me as I have never worked in the charity sector or with the arts before, but I do know what prison life is like and I know how much Koestler means to those on the other side of the fence! I had seen lifers work for months on their Koestler submissions whilst in prison.

and we liaise with entrants, their families and the establishments on a daily basis, with the same level of care and respect. That’s the thing I believe the Koestler entrants most appreciate. Koestler helps entrants use their time wisely, it stops dark thoughts overwhelming days and gets positivism and belief flowing hugely. That’s the real thing about working at Koestler, it’s not the art

“ I D O K N OW W H AT P R I S O N L I F E I S L I K E ” You learn to appreciate everything that gets entered, because no matter what you may think of it personally, the piece had time spent on it. Being able to spend time doing anything thing in prison is precious and so to spend time creating something wonderful and being congratulated for submitting your work (and possibly even winning an award) is a real buzz. The annual Koestler cycle is a fun and very busy one. I sit back at times and wonder with a sense of awe at just how much we manage to get through. Most of the time we also enjoy doing it! It’s a small group of people who really care about each other and what we do. We know the value of a participation certificate to an entrant, we treat the works with great care and respect

a year inside the koestler final.indd 36-37

itself, it’s what doing the art does to the people who create it. I love being part of the Koestler Team. It’s a good place to work with a good team of people.

Joyti Waswani Project Assistant & PA to the Chief Executive December 2008

Anon, Self Portrait - Lloyd, HMP Manchester

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W

orking at Koestler is somewhat odd for me as I have never worked in the charity sector or with the arts before, but I do know what prison life is like and I know how much Koestler means to those on the other side of the fence! I had seen lifers work for months on their Koestler submissions whilst in prison.

and we liaise with entrants, their families and the establishments on a daily basis, with the same level of care and respect. That’s the thing I believe the Koestler entrants most appreciate. Koestler helps entrants use their time wisely, it stops dark thoughts overwhelming days and gets positivism and belief flowing hugely. That’s the real thing about working at Koestler, it’s not the art

“ I D O K N OW W H AT P R I S O N L I F E I S L I K E ” You learn to appreciate everything that gets entered, because no matter what you may think of it personally, the piece had time spent on it. Being able to spend time doing anything thing in prison is precious and so to spend time creating something wonderful and being congratulated for submitting your work (and possibly even winning an award) is a real buzz. The annual Koestler cycle is a fun and very busy one. I sit back at times and wonder with a sense of awe at just how much we manage to get through. Most of the time we also enjoy doing it! It’s a small group of people who really care about each other and what we do. We know the value of a participation certificate to an entrant, we treat the works with great care and respect

a year inside the koestler final.indd 36-37

itself, it’s what doing the art does to the people who create it. I love being part of the Koestler Team. It’s a good place to work with a good team of people.

Joyti Waswani Project Assistant & PA to the Chief Executive December 2008

Anon, Self Portrait - Lloyd, HMP Manchester

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WINTER SPRING SUMMER AUTUMN WINTER

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WINTER SPRING SUMMER AUTUMN WINTER

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Previous page: Anon, Easter Heads, HMP Full Sutton

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Previous page: Anon, Easter Heads, HMP Full Sutton

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Previous page bottom left: L. Gandini, Mother and Child (detail), HMP High Down Left: Anon, Ciggie Time!, HMP Styal Above: J. Ryman, Riding My Bird 2 (detail), HMP Wormwood Scrubs

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Previous page bottom left: L. Gandini, Mother and Child (detail), HMP High Down Left: Anon, Ciggie Time!, HMP Styal Above: J. Ryman, Riding My Bird 2 (detail), HMP Wormwood Scrubs

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Left: M. Allahverdyan, Rococo Roses (detail), HMP Erlestoke

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Left: M. Allahverdyan, Rococo Roses (detail), HMP Erlestoke

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WINTER SPRING SUMMER AUTUMN WINTER

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WINTER SPRING SUMMER AUTUMN WINTER

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Previous page: A. Ballion, Psychodelic (detail), HMP Lowdham Grange

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Top main image: B. Gosling, Landscape with figures & trees, HMP & Young Offender Institution Guys Marsh Bottom: C. Nokes, Go Ask Alice (detail), HMP Downview

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Previous page: A. Ballion, Psychodelic (detail), HMP Lowdham Grange

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Top main image: B. Gosling, Landscape with figures & trees, HMP & Young Offender Institution Guys Marsh Bottom: C. Nokes, Go Ask Alice (detail), HMP Downview

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Top: D. Akinyemi, 1960s Guitars (detail), HMP Wakefield Bottom: Anon, Pink Slippers, HMP Holloway

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Right: P. Hancock, Stonehenge (detail), HMP Camp Hill

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Top: D. Akinyemi, 1960s Guitars (detail), HMP Wakefield Bottom: Anon, Pink Slippers, HMP Holloway

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Right: P. Hancock, Stonehenge (detail), HMP Camp Hill

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Previous page: C. Thorpe, Bringing Music to Life (detail), HMP Frankland Above: R. Orr, Uma (detail), HMP Hull Right: P. Griffiths, J. Green, Flower Cup & Sculpted Form (detail), Kneesworth House

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Previous page: C. Thorpe, Bringing Music to Life (detail), HMP Frankland Above: R. Orr, Uma (detail), HMP Hull Right: P. Griffiths, J. Green, Flower Cup & Sculpted Form (detail), Kneesworth House

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L. Stephenson, Toilet (detail), HMP Manchester

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P. J Craggs, Swivel (detail), HMP Ashwell

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L. Stephenson, Toilet (detail), HMP Manchester

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P. J Craggs, Swivel (detail), HMP Ashwell

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M

y life spiralled out of control in 2003. Before that I was a very successful and happy architectural antique dealer specialising in ‘BIG’ items; Corinthian columns, statues, Georgian fireplaces, stained glass windows, anything that had history of human nature, things people would have looked at in amazement. I believe that the Koestler Arts building falls

cycle of activity that envelops this place. In Winter the big, cast iron radiators give off a welcome heat as the place takes on a quiet resolve. This is ‘getting the art back’ period and you know the artists are waiting for the return of an old friend, all of them winners. During this time we’re quiet, the house it tired. Spring sees the new entries, the place is buzzing, nothing better than new art, the Koestler Arts building comes alive!

‘‘MY LIFE SPIRALLED OUT OF CONTROL IN 2003’’ into that category. It is a beautiful, imposing mid Victorian building built to house the Governor of Wormwood Scrubs Prison. In my humble opinion it is more suited to house art. When I came to meet Tim to discuss working here, a smile spread across my face as I took in the sash windows, with original glass and the cast iron balustrades, amongst its many original features. After being in prison for three and a half years it really felt like I was coming home. I’ve been here for nearly two years, so I’ve seen the

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In the Summer and Autumn we exhibit, the building stands tall and proud. This place is a living, breathing, loving friend, a building that has its ghosts... but that is another story... Dean Stalham, Arts Worker, December 2008

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M

y life spiralled out of control in 2003. Before that I was a very successful and happy architectural antique dealer specialising in ‘BIG’ items; Corinthian columns, statues, Georgian fireplaces, stained glass windows, anything that had history of human nature, things people would have looked at in amazement. I believe that the Koestler Arts building falls

cycle of activity that envelops this place. In Winter the big, cast iron radiators give off a welcome heat as the place takes on a quiet resolve. This is ‘getting the art back’ period and you know the artists are waiting for the return of an old friend, all of them winners. During this time we’re quiet, the house it tired. Spring sees the new entries, the place is buzzing, nothing better than new art, the Koestler Arts building comes alive!

‘‘MY LIFE SPIRALLED OUT OF CONTROL IN 2003’’ into that category. It is a beautiful, imposing mid Victorian building built to house the Governor of Wormwood Scrubs Prison. In my humble opinion it is more suited to house art. When I came to meet Tim to discuss working here, a smile spread across my face as I took in the sash windows, with original glass and the cast iron balustrades, amongst its many original features. After being in prison for three and a half years it really felt like I was coming home. I’ve been here for nearly two years, so I’ve seen the

a year inside the koestler final.indd 62-63

In the Summer and Autumn we exhibit, the building stands tall and proud. This place is a living, breathing, loving friend, a building that has its ghosts... but that is another story... Dean Stalham, Arts Worker, December 2008

5/1/09 19:58:12


WINTER SPRING SUMMER AUTUMN WINTER

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WINTER SPRING SUMMER AUTUMN WINTER

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Previous page: S. Edwards, I Predict a Riot, HMP Birmingham Above: E. Shuttle, Psychedelic Poinsettia (detail), HMP Wandsworth

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Above: P. Cummings, H.M.P (detail), HMP Leyhill

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Previous page: S. Edwards, I Predict a Riot, HMP Birmingham Above: E. Shuttle, Psychedelic Poinsettia (detail), HMP Wandsworth

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Above: P. Cummings, H.M.P (detail), HMP Leyhill

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Right: Anon, Pandora Sailing Ship (detail), HMP Wakefield

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Right: Anon, Pandora Sailing Ship (detail), HMP Wakefield

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Anon, Self Portrait-Lloyd (detail), HMP Manchester

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Anon, Crustacean Crisis (detail), HMP & Young Offenders Institution Ashfield

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Anon, Self Portrait-Lloyd (detail), HMP Manchester

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Anon, Crustacean Crisis (detail), HMP & Young Offenders Institution Ashfield

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Thank you to everyone who supported me with this book; to Ness and to all the staff & volunteers at The Koestler Trust who made me so welcome.

Koestler Arts Centre 168a Du Cane Road London W12 0TX Telephone +44 (0)20 8740 0333 Fax +44 (0)20 8742 9274 www.koestlertrust.org.uk info@koestlertrust.org.uk Left: C. Sweet, Cowboy, Rowan House

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Š All photographs, Caroline Ellis, 2008

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Thank you to everyone who supported me with this book; to Ness and to all the staff & volunteers at The Koestler Trust who made me so welcome.

Koestler Arts Centre 168a Du Cane Road London W12 0TX Telephone +44 (0)20 8740 0333 Fax +44 (0)20 8742 9274 www.koestlertrust.org.uk info@koestlertrust.org.uk Left: C. Sweet, Cowboy, Rowan House

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Š All photographs, Caroline Ellis, 2008

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Caroline Ellis