Rehearsals are in full swing at Dartmoor Prison with an impressive bunch of singers slowly but very surely getting to grips with the choruses from Bizet's Carmen. Our tenors have triumphed over the Toreador, we've subdued the Habanera and danced to the Chanson Boheme. It's gonna be an almighty performance when we bring it all together in the prison with professional soloists, orchestra and audience on 28th July.
It has been a busy few weeks for the Prison Choir Project - a recent launch at the China Exchange has raised over £16,000; I listened in awe to an inmate play and sing Stevie Wonder on the piano at HMP Pentonville and I'm heading to the all female HMP Drake Hall for a meeting this Thursday to discuss the possibility of putting on Britten's Ceremony of Carols. We remain committed to staging Bizet’s Carmen in Dartmoor Prison, likely to take place in July this year, and couple that with opening a merchandise store and meetings with the National Criminal Arts Association, BNP Paribas and GlaxoSmithKlein, it feels like we have a bit of momentum behind us.
So who are we? The Prison Choir Project is a charity that hopes to rehabilitate prisoners, ex‐offenders and those experiencing mental disorders through participation in and performance of music, in particular song. We run workshops in Prisons getting inmates singing alongside professionals, working towards concerts and performance opportunities.
Why? We face a crisis in Prison and barely a week goes by without another headline grabbing story - riots, drugs and drones, overcrowding and staff shortages. The stats are pretty frightening: half (51%) of people entering prison were assessed as having literacy skills expected of an 11 year old; there were 32,313 self-harm incidents in 2015—a nearly 40% rise in just two years; reoffending by all recent ex-prisoners costs the economy between £9.5 and £13 billion annually. A recent interview with an ex-prison officer on LBC radio revealed just how terrifying radicalisation in prison has become. Khalid Masood had spent three years in a jail before the recent atrocities in Westminster.
How are we going to make a difference? singing opera and choral music at inmates and half reoffending rates? I doubt it, but there are many benefits to singing - physical and mental well-being, a boost to self-confidence, a sense of achievement, collaboration, pulling together to create something unique - a shared experience - cooperation, negotiation, relating to others. Confidence in one’s own abilities, in one’s self. This is the human capital in which we wish to invest. And it is this that contributes to the development of social capital - opportunities, connections, new horizons - and from my experience working with people in Prison it is worth every penny. Let's not forget that with current staff shortages many prisoners face 23 hours a day locked in their cells. If nothing else we can give them something to do.
Our great ambition - to set up prison choirs in prisons across the UK, prisoners coming together with a common aim, competing in a national prison Choir of the Year competition; a Christmas number 1; centres for arts for those recently released from Prison; a mentoring system involving local business, giving those that have committed to and benefited from our projects the chance to start again.
We hope to provide a pathway towards establishing a reduction in reoffending, building self‐esteem, improving self‐confidence and employability skills for all those involved. Let's keep hold of that key for now.
Founder - the Prison Choir Project
How can you get involved?
Like us on Facebook
Join us on Twitter
Support our CAF online campaign
Buy a t-shirt http://stores.clothes2order.com/prison-choir-project/
Give us a call +44 07958 786 153
The Prison Choir Project now has it's very own merchandise store where you can buy t-shirts, bags, hoodies, sweatshirts, even tracky-b's in a variety of splendid designs and colours . Simply click on the link below:
We've raised an eye-watering £11,000 at the launch of the Prison Choir Project. A huge thanks to all those that believe in what we WILL achieve.
Here's a link to our CAF donate page if you feel you can help us:
A few words from our Patron read at the launch of the Prison Choir Project:
'I am really sorry that due to the fact that's I am in New Zealand I am not able to be with you tonight.
Music has always meant a great deal to me and I appreciated just how much in meant when for five years as a hostage I was totally deprived of music of any kind. There was one exception. One night I was awakened by the sound of singing in the street outside the building in which I was kept. It was a lovely melody and was the first music I had heard in years. It was repeated the second night and the mystery singer continued for several nights after that. Then it ceased as suddenly as it had started.
I puzzled about this and only much later did I discover that the singer was someone walking through the streets before dawn broke to waken faithful Muslims so that they could eat before starting the long day of fasting in Ramadan.
Music has the capacity to breath harmony into the soul and the music I heard brought me some peace during troubled days.
I am a great supporter of music in prisons as it can be a part of a process that enables individuals to find harmony in their own lives.
I hope you will give your full support to this worthwhile project.
Very much looking forward to our launch and fundraiser at the China Exchange, Soho, London on 26th January. Guest solo appearances from Royal Opera House stars Sophie and Mary Bevan, Alex Edwards and Stephen Aviss accompanied by Phillip Thomas (piano). Also with speeches from James Sanders and the Earl of Devon.
One or two tickets remaining so if you'd like to come do get in touch. It promises to be a fun evening with kind sponsorship from Sipsmith and Fever Tree.
Very excited to launch the website for the Prison Choir Project and to introduce you all to our team of Patrons and Trustees. Do have a read through and if you have any comments or suggestions do get in touch.