WRITER and broadcaster John McCarthy - who was held hostage for five years during the civil war in Lebanon - has visited a Somerset exhibition exploring the nature of incarceration.

Mr McCarthy visited B-Wing, an exhibition at Shepton Mallet Prison, which has been transformed to reflect its history, as well as confronting political and environmental issues, as part of Somerset Art Weeks Festival which runs until October 6.

During his own ordeal, Mr McCarthy was chained up, blindfolded and sometimes beaten, and experienced solitary confinement.

The exhibition includes film of him reflecting on captivity and the unjust imprisonment of people involved in political conflict.

"That really touches something that I remember," he said when looking at the exhibition.

“When I thought about the horrors of the solitary cells that prisoners were kept in over hundreds of years, it struck me as a brilliant idea to use the prison as a venue for art.

"It’s very hard for people who have not experienced it to get a sense of what loss of liberty feels like, and how that affects your mind.

"To have that interpreted through a variety of artforms is fascinating - it’s coming from artists’ imaginations.

"I’m curious to see how visitors to the exhibition will try to interpret what that captive experience might feel like.

"I think it will encourage people to open up their imaginations and to think about what captivity means today.”

Mr McCarthy is a patron of Freedom From Torture, a charity which campaigns for change and provides therapy and support for survivors of torture around the world.

Bridgwater Mercury:

LAUNCH: Mr McCarthy with artists featured in the exhibition

Artists are using the old prison environment to explore captivity through sculpture, installation, poetry and immersive images.

As well as hosting the exhibition, for National Poetry Day on Thursday (October 3), the building will be filled with voices reading poetry, with 18 performers on the prison’s different levels.

The event is organised by writer Rosie Jackson who questions what the prison says about our human being-ness.

She will be installing suspended printed poems on large tracing paper.

B-Wing is at Shepton Mallet Prison, which is open daily from 10am to 5pm during Somerset Art Weeks Festival.

Visit b-wing.weebly.com for more information.

Visitors locally and from further afield will have the opportunity to explore the prison and the B-Wing event at reduced rates.

Entrance costs £10 for adults, while children go free.