'Closure' Exhibition Marks End of an Era at Shrewsbury Prison
05 Apr 2023

A new photographic exhibition 'Closure' by David Martin marks 10 years since the closure of HM Prison 'The Dana' in Shrewsbury - at The Gateway Gallery in Shrewsbury until April 28. 

Photographs capturing chillingly empty cells at Shrewsbury Prison are part of a new exhibition to mark 10 years since the closure of 'The Dana'. 

An atmospheric collection of images by David Martin, together with sculptures from Shropshire sculptor Bob Knowles, will be on show at The Gateway Gallery in Shrewsbury, until April 28. 

Toilets at The Dana Prison

Photographer David Martin aims to reflect a 'melancholic feeling of space' that captures something of the building's former use

Shrewsbury Prison, known as 'The Dana', was closed by the Department of Justice in 2013. The 136 year-old prison was one of seven prisons to close around the same time to save costs of around £63m a year. Staff had less than three months to find new locations for inmates, the last being transferred by the end of February of that year. 

Photographer David explained his photographic essay aims to give a sense of prior occupation - and absence from - the empty prison and embody the spirit of the place. 

“I was finally able to take the photographs in the September following the closure, after an endless exchange of emails with the DOJ. The images are real photographs of the (empty) prison after it had been cleaned following the relocation to other prisons, of all the inmates, some of which had been there for many years.

"I was allowed around three hours unsupervised. They hopefully communicate the ‘uncanny’ atmosphere of an institutional location that, when occupied, would have been busy, noisy, and somewhat intimidating for most people and a very ‘different place’ for a relatively short period after being closed and then subsequently sold for commercial use and opened to the public.

Dana barbed wire

"I am trying to reflect a somewhat melancholic feeling of a space that, during its previous occupation, would have been a very different experience to both inmates and staff. I am hopeful that that stark contrast can encourage a sense of engagement and reflection by the viewer.”

Emma Sherry, Gateway Gallery Chair, said: "We are delighted to have such a vast selection of photos of HM Dana, they definitely evoke an emotional response and really give the viewer a sense of what it must have been like to be an inmate there. My favourite photo is the one of the ‘First Night’ room – just imagining how some of the prisoners must have felt on their very first night at HM Dana." 

Emma added: "We're also pleased to have a thought provoking sculpture entitled ‘Rewilding’ from Shropshire Sculptor, Bob Knowles.”

The Gateway Gallery has a superb reputation for showcasing contemporary works and is a fantastic space for artists to promote their art in a central location. Having recently reopened, it is sure to be a popular destination for artists and art-lovers alike. 

The gallery team look forward to welcoming visitors to the ‘Closure’ exhibition throughout April.

David Martin is a photographer, designer, writer and digital artist based near Coventry where he studied in 2012 for an MA in Contemporary Arts Practice, later completing a PhD studying avant-garde filmmaking by the ‘Housewatch’ group of artists in London between 1985 and 1997.

All images © David Martin 2023