When did you first become interested in Holloway prison?
I grew up a short distance away, and like anyone who grew up in Islington in the 1960s I remember it as a kind of medieval castle. I was about seven years old when they started knocking it down for redevelopment, and I remember thinking: who are the women in there, what have they done? When I was training to be a teacher in the late 1980s, I chose to do a work placement in the new Holloway prison, because I was scared of imprisonment, and I wanted to see what it was like inside.
I was in there for six weeks, teaching creative writing in the education centre. I learnt a lot, about the prison, and why women were there: many had been coerced into bringing drugs into the country, for example.
Later, while working as a journalist in Botswana I was arrested and put on trial twice, each time facing a two year sentence. The charges were dropped in the first case, and in the second I was acquitted but my source was imprisoned.
When I heard that Holloway was closing down a few years ago, I thought this is my last chance to write its full history. So I went in to research the prison, and interview the governor, chaplain, wardens and the last prisoner to be released. The officers gave her a sort of parade when she came out, holding up their batons.