What is the outline of the day for a typical visit?
Sing Inside visits tend to involve an early start! We meet at a central point at around 6.30am to get a minibus; all of our prisons are about an hour away. Once we arrive, we have to go through security before having some time to set up, usually in the Chapel area. Once the residents start to arrive, we spend a while chatting to them over tea and coffee. The actual singing workshop typically begins with a warm-up led by one of the Sing Inside team which always entails lots of physical exercises to get everyone moving. During the morning, we aim to learn three or four songs all together before breaking for lunch. The residents have their lunch separately, and we ask the Sing Inside volunteers to bring a picnic lunch; this time is a good opportunity for a snooze, as well as for rehearsing the pieces we will sing together. After lunch, the residents come back to do a final rehearsal before a short, informal performance. Other residents, prison staff and occasionally members of the public are invited to watch, and it is a lovely opportunity for the residents to display their hard work and gain a real sense of satisfaction. The Sing Inside volunteers also perform a piece of two, and sometimes there are individual performances, readings or short talks from the residents, depending on the prison and the occasion. We usually stay for a cup of tea (sometimes we are even treated to mince pies around Christmas!) and hand out certificates to all of the participating residents. Depending on traffic, we aim to be back to our initial meeting place by about 5pm.
Visiting a Prison
Is it safe/scary to be inside a prison?
We are never left alone in the prison and there is always at least one member of staff present when we are leading the workshops. Every resident taking part in the workshop is cleared by prison security to be of minimal risk; residents with a history of violence/assault while in prison are not permitted to take part in our workshops, and the officers always keep a close eye during the day. Rest assured, you are very safe and needn’t be concerned. So far all of our volunteers have had an overwhelmingly positive experience and have not reported feeling frightened! It is perfectly normal to feel apprehensive or intimidated the first time you go into a prison, but these initial feelings usually disappear quickly on realising that there is a warm, welcoming atmosphere.
Why should I volunteer with Sing Inside?
Sing Inside volunteers invariably come out of visits saying that they have been some of the most uplifting and fulfilling experiences they have ever undergone. Each visit demonstrates the amazing power of music to break down barriers and facilitate communication, and the positive changes we see within the residents over the course of the day is tantamount to this.
In a time of increasing austerity cuts to the prison sector, rehabilitation and creativity do not receive the attention or budget that they need; the opportunity Sing Inside provides for a creative and expressive outlet, as well as a simple break from the monotony of prison life, is of huge value to the rehabilitative process, building confidence and showing residents the positive things they are capable of achieving. The visits are also very beneficial to us as volunteers: it can be so easy to dehumanise people who have committed crimes, but Sing Inside demonstrates that we all have more in common than we think, and that unity and togetherness are the most powerful way to help people. We meet fascinating people, both residents and other volunteers, and we have great fun singing and chatting together. And if this hasn’t persuaded you, have a look at our testimonials.