"no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” Nelson Mandela
A huge thank you to all those that attended the Prison Choir Project Fundraiser in Soho last week and helped make it such a success. In particular to Pete Lewis, former Governor of HMP Dartmoor, to Charles Courtenay, the professional singers and soloists Alex Edwards and Jenny Stafford, to Sam Galsworthy for providing Sipsmith gin for all, and especially to the men we've got to know through our work over the past few years.
“Nobody has a life that worked out the way they wanted it to work out. The role of a good song is to share that feeling so that “we feel less isolated and we feel part of the great human chain which is really involved with the recognition of defeat”. For Leonard Cohen, defeat was the truth of things; the source of all the best jokes; the reason to make art; the crack where the light gets in.
Very pleased to feature on St John’s College, Cambridge | Alumni blog and to have the opportunity to chat about the Prison Choir Project.
HUGE congratulations to ALL those involved in the Prison Choir Project's West Side Story in HMP Dartmoor. You are now recipients of the Koestler PLATINUM Award, their highest accolade. Awards Judges included leading names in the arts and creative industries including Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller, representatives from the Henry Moore Institute, the Roundhouse, Art on the Underground, radio drama The Archers and the British Film Institute, filmmaker-presenter Reggie Yates, comedian Cariad Lloyd, celebrity hairstylist Louise Galvin and musicians Hot Chip.
Each and every one of you deserve credit for this remarkable achievement.
Take back your mink! Tanya Shields makes her Dartmoor debut in the all American classic as the long-suffering Miss Adelaide. She is joined by Matthew Harvey as Sky Masterson and Lottie Clitherow as the straight-laced Salvation Army sergeant, Sarah Brown.
A sizzling New York tale of gamblers, gangsters and nightclub singers featuring some of Broadway’s greatest show stopping tunes, including Luck Be a Lady, Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat and My Time of Day. With tip-top choreography by Sara Hamilton, and direction from the Royal Opera House's Joe Austin, this is one feel good show you won’t want to miss. A superb professional cast will join 20 enthusiastic inmates in what promises to be a tremendous production for all involved.
Performances for the public take place on May 22nd/23rd at 2pm in the Prison Chapel.
TICKETS: for details on how to obtain a ticket please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Thrilled to announce the Prison Choir Project has won a Koestler Trust GOLD Award for Carmen in Dartmoor Prison. A huge thanks to the Governor and Staff, to the professional cast, director, musicians and crew and especially to the inmates, who made it all so worth while.
A bit about the Koestler Trust:
The Koestler Awards are the heart of what we do. Each year we award and give feedback to over 3,000 people submitting work across 50+ categories of Fine Art, Craft and Design,Performance and Audio, Film and Animation and Writing. Our Awards Judges include leading names in the arts and creative industries.
Every participant will receive a participation certificate, and around 90% will receive written feedback on their work from the category’s judge, the Koestler Arts Team or a volunteer.
Our entrants tell us that feedback is one of the most rewarding things about entering the Awards.
Feedback from experienced artists/writers is very valuable because it’s genuine, practical and focused. It’s not sugar-coated or a platitude. In many ways it’s the best thing about the scheme.
Koestler Awards EntrantWe give over £30,000 in cash prizes, ranging from £20 to £100. There are additional Koestler Awards for first-time entrants.
By entering the Koestler Awards entrants can gain recognition for their achievements, get feedback on how to develop their creative work and gain motivation to work to a deadline. Many entrants use Awards or sales money to buy further arts materials or pay for courses.
A heartfelt thanks to all involved in this summer's production of West Side Story in Dartmoor Prison, not least the 18 inmates who gave their all, singing, dancing and playing all the Jets and Sharks. It was truly humbling to watch the development of this project from handing out the parts to the final performance in the prison in early August to a packed house of more than 250 fellow inmates, friends and family of the performers, prison staff and supporters of the Prison Choir Project.
A particular thanks to Bill Hadfield (Officer Krupke no less) who combined this important role with his full-time commitment as a member of Prison Staff, to the Governor Bridie Oakes-Richards, to Martin Earl and the Chaplaincy for the use of the Chapel and to all those that came to watch a show. As one audience member (a professional musician) wrote:
Honestly, that experience today was one of my top two ever experiences in music drama in my entire life. Such an incredibly uplifting performance. The pros were absolutely ideal - what a difference it makes having performers at that level: the audience can relax into it and marvel at what's achieved around it. The inmates were stupendous - god alone knows how you got them there to that level in that time, but you bloody did! Heather and I wept from about five minutes in to the very end. I've never seen Heather cry like that! At one point near the end of the first act I didn't know what to do with myself - I thought my heart would burst. The sound and the energy and the positivity in that room were a tidal wave of emotion - it was beyond words.......
A big thank you too to all the professionals that brought such honesty, enthusiasm, talent and good nature to the process. You have made an enormous impact on the lives of so many.
Below a few comments made by the inmates involved. We all miss them and will be back soon to plan the next project:
'I am absolutely overawed at how happy I was for signing up. In the 15 years I've spent behind bars this is one project I would do again and again.'
It has taken me right out of my comfort zone and I have enjoyed every minute.'
'Please hire me when I get out.'
His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and Rory Stewart OBE MP, Minister for Prisons and Probation enjoyed a 25 minute programme of opera highlights from Carmen and 'Do you hear the people sing' a taster for this coming summer's production of Les Misérables in Dartmoor Prison. You can read more about the Royal visit in the Daily Mail article here, and in the Express here. Photos of the event can be seen here.
His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales will visit Dartmoor Prison on Friday 23rd March to hear the choir.
During the visit, His Royal Highness will meet privately with the Governor of HMP Dartmoor and Rory Stewart OBE MP, Minister for Prisons and Probation. The Duke will then view participants of the Prison Choir Project programme performing a 20 minute highlights programme from Bizet's Carmen as well as a song from Les Miserables, a taster for this coming summer’s production. The performance will take place in the Prison Chapel.
The Duke of Cornwall is a long-time supporter of the performing arts and regularly attends concerts, plays and operas in both private and public capacities. His Royal Highness is Patron of the Royal Opera House, Welsh National Opera and British Youth Opera. In 2004 The Duke founded Children and the Arts to help disadvantaged young people access creative and cultural experiences.