A huge thanks to the Chairman John Isaac, to Maureen Greenhouse, Ian Bailey, Ken Geen, Kevin Ryland (pictured) and the friends of Torbay Music Society for their kind invitation to talk about music in Prisons at the Torbay Musical Weekend. I doubt my story read as well as a novel by Agatha Christie, or was as funny as Peter Cook, and I’m certainly not as pretty as the supermodel Lily Cole, nevertheless it was a pleasure to follow in the footsteps of these notable Torbay alumni.
I started by outlining why I believe singing to be exceptional in its ability to draw people and communities together, a common thread, a connectivity that binds and connects us all no matter our background, social status, career, or interests, and that connectivity - something that social media and the internet would have us believe is a tool that brings us all together - is at an all time low. I had the opportunity to play a number of sound clips of the lads singing in HMP Dartmoor alongside the King's Singers, and Rupert Bedford's video "Sounding Redemption"; also the video documenting our Carmen project back in 2017 - how lovely to once more listen to the response of the professional artists and inmates. "It's not going to cure my arthritis but it puts a poultice on the Soul" - who could forget the wonderful Nick and his craft. I miss all those boys who are now free and wish them well.
I'd like to thank the Friends of Torbay for their incredibly kind donation of CDs which I look forward to dropping off within prisons this side of Christmas. I filled the back of the car with well over 300 so there will be plenty to listen to. We are building libraries for inmates - if you've any CDs you're looking to offload do get in touch.
I ended the talk saying that for us it’s all about connectivity - a light at the end of the tunnel, a slither of hope in a bleak environment. Let us not forget:
From mid-March 2020 until around February 2021 almost all people in prison (80,000) in the UK spent 23 hours or more out of every day locked in a cell, typically around 3m by 2m in size. Two-thirds of them have been in conditions that amount to solitary confinement, the other third are sharing a cell. A joint inspectorate report released in May 2022 found that recovery in prisons has generally been slow and inconsistent, with little progress made to improve time out of cell, which is far below prepandemic levels.
If you invest in, encourage and believe in an individual the chances are he/she will repay you bucket loads. This is where we are getting it wrong in society and it’s not all about throwing money at a problem. It’s that investment, in the individuals that have been side-lined from society that we wish to make. An investment in HUMAN capital.
“It is said that 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.”