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A Bit of a Stretch - The Podcast

A Bit of a Stretch - The Podcast

By Chris Atkins

Chris Atkins is a documentary maker who went to prison for tax fraud in 2016. He spent nine months in HMP Wandsworth, one of the most dangerous prisons in the UK, and has written about his surreal experiences in his bestselling book A Bit of a Stretch. After his release he interviewed 20 ex-prisoners about their time in jail, and turned the recordings into season 1 of this podcast. Their stories are shocking, uplifting, heartbreaking, hilarious, and often downright weird, taking you headfirst into the biggest prison crisis in history. It reveals a collapsing system that is failing victims and wider society, and reveals how the human spirit can thrive in the darkest corners. Each episode is centred around a different theme, like Arrival, Family and Change, and was a huge hit on its release and the winner of the Criminal Justice Alliance media award in 2021.

Over the last two years Chris has discovered a lot these contributors have gone back to prison, sometimes several times, and so he's written a follow up book Time After Time, asking why so many prisoners reoffend. It follows a colourful cast of criminals who just can't go straight, including Alex who spent nine months living in luxury hotels pretending to be the Duke of Marlborough, and Ed who has been recalled to prison four times since his release, despite not being convicted of any further offences. Season 2 of the podcast will dip into some of these crazy stories, as Chris interviews a fascinating cast of convicts as they cycle through our hideously dysfunctional justice system.

Hosted on Acast. See for more information.


London Bridge

Marc Conway was an extremely disturbed and dangerous criminal for many years. He grew up on a crime ridden estate in the 80s, and by his teens he was a prolific armed robber. He served ten prison sentences, which only made him more violent and accelerated his offending. In his twenties he was convicted of a horrific home invasion and was given an IPP sentence. This could have meant he was locked up forever, so he went to a highly unusual therapeutic prison called HMP Grendon that houses the very worst offenders in the system. Marc underwent a remarkable transformation, and ended up being one of the posse of heroes who tackled terrorist Usman Khan during the London Bridge terror attacks in 2019. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
22/09/23·33m 6s

I Met My Brother's Killer

Simon Dawson was brutally murdered by two car thieves in 1998. It shattered the life of his twin brother Nick, who's likeness enabled the police to catch the killers. Nearly twenty Years later Nick was given the chance to meet one of the men responsible as part of a programme of restorative justice. Nick finally confronted the perpetrator but he did get the answers he needed? And what's it like coming face to face to face with the person that destroyed your family? Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
12/09/23·32m 45s

Prison Break

Meet Simon Maclellan, who escaped from a high security jail pretending to be his twin brother in 2009. For the very first time Simon explains how he managed to fool dozens of prison officers, several court staff and even a judge, and why his daring escape completely humiliated the authorities. Since then Simon has cycled through the prison system over and over again, having been convicted of over 70 offences. These are mostly low level crimes, like shoplifting and drugs, which he believes are caused by never having anywhere to live when he's released from jail. The episode looks at the link between homelessness and crime, and how this is one of the major drivers of reoffending.You can read more about Simon and the other characters in this podcast in my new book, Time After Time, which is published on the 7th September Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
31/08/23·19m 59s

Total Recall

Ed Cooley was convicted of drugs and firearms offences in 2014 and given ten years and eight months. Like most prisoners he was released on license halfway through, but he's since been recalled back to jail four times despite not being convicted of any new crimes. Chris and Ed's girlfriend Jess drove up to meet Ed when he was released from one of these recalls, and drive down to London to hit the recording studio where Ed laid down some of the songs he wrote in his cell. Despite wanting to go straight it's not long before Ed is recalled back to prison on spurious grounds. To hear more of Ed's music you can follow him on instagram @sgm_eviljwet.You can read more about Ed and the other characters in this podcast in my new book, Time After Time, which is published on the 7th September Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
24/08/23·20m 29s

The Fake Duke

In 2015 Alexander Wood made the national news for being convicted of fraud, after staying in over thirty elite hotels masquerading as the Duke of Marlborough. Chris Atkins met Alex in HMP Wandsworth, and they recently met up outside Claridge's in Mayfair where Alex revealed how he managed to con so many hotels. Alex is very long way from the stereotypical criminal, as he grew up in extreme as he was privilege as a child prodigy on the violin. In his teens he was performing for Royalty, touring the world with the very best orchestras and even played on a Harry Potter soundtrack. So how did a genius violist turn into an arch conman? And why did Alex's offending spiral after his conviction, so that he ended up perpetrating a £50 million banking fraud and ruining dozens of lives?You can read more about Alex and the other characters in this podcast in my new book, Time After Time, which is published on the 7th September Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
24/08/23·19m 51s

Loose Ends

All the great material that didn't fit into previous episodes. Includes George Gilbey, star of Gogglebox and Celebrity Big Brother, who got 3 months for drink driving. And "Simon" reveals how D Cat prisoners smuggle in cheese for xmas parties. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
29/12/20·23m 54s

Pandemic in Prisons

The pandemic took a hammer blow to an already collapsing prison system. Chris was in touch with several inmates still serving their sentences, and they allowed us to record their calls to reveal the shocking state of prisons during the crisis. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
01/12/20·23m 53s

Turning the Screw

Prisons are pretty miserable for the inmates, but what about the officers? Chris talks to two ex-prison officers about riots, accidental spice attacks and bad pay. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
12/11/20·22m 1s

Rehabilitate This

Prisons are supposed to rehabilitate offenders, but nearly half of inmates reoffend within a year. How do some prisoners buck the trend and change who they are? Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
02/11/20·25m 34s

Are You Listening?

There is a mental health crisis in prisons, and it's sometimes impossible to access psychiatric support. Often the only help comes from the Listeners, prisoners specially trained by the Samaritans to counsel suicidal inmates. Chris interviews Tony, who suffered severe anxiety and depression inside, and three former Listeners. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
20/10/20·27m 31s

Children of Prisoners

There are over 200,000 children in the UK with a parent in prison. To find out the impact on these forgotten victims, Chris talks to his ex partner, Lottie, about how his imprisonment effected his own son Kit. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
13/10/20·22m 23s

Prison: A Love Story

How do couples maintain a romantic relationship when one of them is behind bars? This episode features Gary, whose girlfriend had to wait two and a half years while he was inside, and Lucy, whose boyfriend was still behind bars when she was interviewed for the podcast Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
05/10/20·24m 27s

The Daily Grind

What do prisoners eat? How do we get showers? What's the food like? When he was in prison Chris got dozens of letters asking about the details of life inside. This episode will delve into the nitty gritty of wing life, from getting out the cell, sourcing enough to eat, and trying to stay clean. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
28/09/20·27m 8s

Arrival and Survival

Prison is always toughest at the very start. How do people cope when thrust into a modern jail for the very first time? Farook was given seven years for GBH, his imprisonment was harder to deal with as he was estranged from his mother. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
20/09/20·25m 11s

A Bit of a Stretch Podcast - Trailer

Have you ever wondered what life's really like behind bars? Well fortunately for you Chris Atkins went to prison so you don't have to. This podcast features interviews of over 20 former inmates to reveal the true madness of Britain's prison crisis. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
17/09/20·2m 28s
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