Our mission was ignited in 1987, when our Founder Richard Pendlebury MBE started running music sessions at HMP Bristol and soon noticed the positive difference this was making to prisoners there. Richard’s personal commitment for social justice is enshrined in our work today.

Changing Tunes now runs music and mentoring programmes in 18 prisons in the Southwest and South of England, the Midlands and South Wales. Our partners include

HMP Bristol: Hosting our music rehabilitation work since 1987

HMP Ashfield - hosting our work since 2018

HMP Leyhill - hosting our work since 2002

HMP Eastwood Park - hosting our work since 2003

HMP Channings Wood - hosting our work since 2013

HMP Exeter - hosting our work since 2008

HMP Erlestoke - hosting our work since 2000

HMP Guys Marsh - hosting our work since 2000

HMP Swansea - hosting our work since 2017

HMP Winchester - hosting our work since 2008

HMP Ford - hosting our work since 2013

HMP Isle-of-Wight - hosting our work since 2009

HMP Brinsford - hosting our work since 2016

HMP Featherstone -  hosting our work since April 2019

HMP Hewell - hosting our work since 2015

HMP Stafford - hosting our work since 2015

HMP Drake Hall - hosting our work since November 2019

A window into our prison projects

Our Musician-in-Residence at HMP Eastwood Park reflects on her collaboration with women there over the course of a year…

“Last year at HMP Eastwood Park was a full and rich time. We began the year with recording sessions, which produced strong entries for the Koestler awards. Two of our longest standing participants received Koestler Awards, one Silver in the Solo Performance category and one Highly Commended for an original song. It was very striking how much of their life experience they put into the music. For some of the women in the group, it was their first time recording and listening back to their own voices. This proved a particular challenge for one woman who found herself face-to-face with a very harsh ‘inner critic’. With the support of the group and ongoing opportunities to practice and reflect, this woman has become increasingly confident and able to express herself. She was the lead vocalist in our concert, leading the group in a courageous and powerful set of performances. Her progress has enabled the whole group to reflect on the creative process. It has taught everyone about the importance of being patient with our first attempts and being careful not to allow the ‘inner critic’ to sabotage the process of improving and reaching for excellence. 

There are several women who have been attending one-to-one sessions alongside the group, and for whom music is playing a big part in their journey through their prison sentence. This is the case for a woman with complex needs and who was treated by NEXUS, the Personality Disorder Service, for most of her three-year sentence. During her time with us she would constantly practice her keyboard skills in between sessions. Over time, she learned to write her own songs and accompany herself. She was released recently, and on her last day in prison she reflected on how far she has come musically. She felt she had a huge amount to take away with her. She summed it up by saying: ‘Thanks for believing in me’.

Another woman with complex trauma, who has been struggling with prolific self-harm, has attended every Changing Tunes session during her eight months in the prison. She has taken a similar journey. She has shown rich and dedicated musical and emotional development, choosing songs that help her process grief. This woman describes her learning in Changing Tunes as knowing that she is able to cope.

Many of the regular members of the group tell me that they feel a sense of belonging at Changing Tunes. They talk about feeling relief when they play and sing. They explain how they can ‘be themselves’ and express what is going on for them. Their responses bring home to me the importance of the non-judgmental space that Changing Tunes provides and the rich potential for healing that this offers to women, as part of what is increasingly being identified as ‘trauma-informed’ practice”

Supporting prisons in the pandemic

On 20th March 2020 we had to pause our in-person sessions. We immediately focused on adapting our services, so we could support our beneficiaries through the crisis. Letters have gone out to prisoners, to check in with how they are. We have produced an in-cell beginners’ guitar learning resource, to give prisoners a creative outlet during months of cell lock-up. With support from HMPPS, this has been adopted in seven prisons so far. The Deputy Director of HMPPS has praised the innovation of our in-cell packs and Clinks have named us as one their ‘criminal justice champions’.

Playing our part in the recovery phase

Our beneficiaries need us now more than ever. Since the end of March, prisoners have been locked in their cells for up to 23 and a half hours a day. This has severely damaged mental health. Self-harm has increased in prisons from the already high levels seen prior to restrictions.

To tackle this, our partners tell us that they need to provide residents with purposeful activity that can support mental health and learning, within the confines of a restricted regime. We’ve developed a blended model to address this need. Our musicians will provide beneficiaries with one-to-one sessions, alongside new in-cell learning resources. We’ll also run small group sessions where it’s safe to do so. One-to-ones will provide prisoners with a safe space to engage in therapeutic music-making and offer a support network. Our in-cell resources will help beneficiaries to build their morale through creative learning.

Our beneficiaries and partners are keen to have us back…

"Changing Tunes will be an important element of our COVID recovery phase and we are looking forward to them bringing their new methods of delivery and working with us in the long-term"

Governor at HMP Eastwood Park

“Changing Tunes will make an important contribution to the mental health of prisoners in the recovery phase at HMP Isle-of-Wight. We're keen to have them back as soon as possible"  

Learning and Skills Manager at HMP Isle-of-Wight