The Women Prisoners Being Led a Merry Dance; New Icon: Dancing Queen Mary

Article excerpt

Byline: George Mair

THEY may be well practised at leading the courts a merry dance. But inmates of Scotland's only women's jail are now being given courtly dancing lessons of a very different kind.

Bosses at Cornton Vale Prison near Stirling are encouraging some of the country's toughest women prisoners to dress up in 16th century finery as characters from the court of Mary, Queen of Scots to learn the formal, slow-stepping dances of the time.

A performer dressed as the ill-fated monarch, who was executed in 1587, also details what was deemed fashionable wear five centuries ago - as well as describing how grim life behind bars was in less lenient times.

The classes are part of an adult learning course called A Room With A View, which aims to 'stimulate their imagination' and bring out their sensitive sides. Around a dozen young prisoners are taking part in the publiclyfunded project, organised by Historic Scotland, Stirling Council, Edinburgh Lothian and Borders Criminal Justice Authority, Carnegie College and the Scottish Prison Service.

Kirsten Wood, Historic Scotland's Stirling Castle education officer, said: 'The idea is that we stimulate the imagination by creating hands-on, and fun, activities such as dressing in replica period costume and taking part in courtly dancing. …