The Work Itself

We are currently working with:

  • HMP Bristol
  • HMP Bronzefield
  • HMP Cardiff
  • HMP Channings Wood
  • HMP Eastwood Park
  • HMP Erlestoke
  • HMP Exeter
  • HMP Ford
  • HMP/YOI Guys Marsh
  • HMP Leyhill
  • HMP Isle of Wight (Parkhurst & Albany)
  • HMP Winchester

Our sessions are largely “prisoner-led” in the sense that we encourage prisoners to choose the music and instruments they wish to play. Our musicians are there to develop good professional working relationships, nurturing a framework of trust and support between group members, and to provide prisoners with the resources, tuition and encouragement to develop their music as far as they want to take it.

A typical prison session involves two to two-and-half hours of guided musical activity for between 2 and 10 prisoners with wide-ranging skills and musical tastes. The whole group will be involved with selecting the material they want to play, discussing goals such as concerts and recordings, and how best to prepare. It is common for the bulk of the session to be given to group rehearsals. If some need tuition or help in certain areas, this will either be done in a quiet corner as the rest of the group continues to practice, or dedicated time in the session will be given to instrumental or vocal tuition. Often somebody will come up with some original music, or words, and the musician will encourage song writing and composition in a way that people can collaborate and hear each others’ unique contribution.

In some cases it is appropriate for more musically able group members to help those who are less advanced. Sometimes this happens naturally, other times our musicians will look out for potential mentoring relationships and enable this to happen. This benefits both parties with the mentor gaining appreciation for their own skills and experience as they spend time coaching someone else. In addition to the work done in the sessions, it is often possible for prisoners to have a guitar to practice in their cell, and setting “homework” can give extra focus for that individual.

Our prison concerts reflect the diverse tastes of the performers, with musical styles including reggae, rock, pop, blues, metal, punk, funk, folk, gospel, soul, hip hop and classical. They will usually be a mixture of solo and ensemble performances, mostly songs, but with some instrumental pieces as well. Specific themes have included “music from around the world” as part of ethnic diversity week, a concert/dance attended by disabled children, and “songs from the shows”. One of our groups collaborated with a drama group to write and perform incidental music for an original play.

Concerts inside prison are generally attended by other inmates and prison staff, with audiences of up to 150, depending on capacity. They are nerve-wracking events for those involved, but also hugely rewarding and we often notice a marked difference in the performers’ confidence the week before and after the concert, which spurs them on to keep progressing.

To employ a Changing Tunes musician to deliver three sessions per week costs just £9,000 per annum. In return, the prisoners (average 5 per session) receive a combined total of 1,485 purposeful hours’ activity (not including the practice they undertake in their cells). In addition we will hold an average of three concerts attended by an average of 25 offenders plus performers, which equates to another 216 purposeful hours activity.

Changing Tunes is growing; currently planning to begin work in the South East, our first franchise and the second of six regions planned across the whole of Britain. We normally seek funding for our work from education budgets and base our musicians in the Chaplaincy Team. This enables them to work without the support of an accompanying officer and to collect prisoners from the wings when necessary.

If you are interested in having Changing Tunes in your prison please call Tim on
0844 414 6083