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HMP Long Lartin, September 2019

On Saturday 14 September, a group of five volunteers drawn from Oxford and London visited HMP Long Lartin for the first time. The half-day workshop was full of energy, laughter, and camaraderie.

A lot of work had gone into the organisation of this new relationship - we are especially grateful to the chaplaincy who enthusiastically promoted our cause during a change of prison governorship. After all this time, we were really excited to meet everyone for the first time and were all the more glad that entering the prison went smoothly!

After a briefing about some of the participants and prison security from a prison officer, accompanied by some delicious freshly-made mint tea by the Long Lartin Imam, a group of 12 residents arrived, all excited and raring to go. There was a joyful and engaged atmosphere from the word 'go' which really helped to facilitate building a group dynamic.

After an energetic warm up, we learnt Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, a song loved by all the residents. One of the residents had brought his guitar and helped to accompany us, which added more of a reggae and up-beat feel to the song. We then we had a coffee break with lots of chatting, in particular about shared musical interests. A fast game of Zip Zap Boing woke us all up before learning Somewhere Over the Rainbow, another song which was familiar to everyone and brought a warm sense of nostalgia to us all. It was touching to read in the post-visit feedback that singing together had lifted his spirits and prompted ‘thinking of one of my children who I spent many hours singing with in the house - in particular Somewhere Over the Rainbow’.

For this first visit to Long Lartin, we were only there for the morning with no afternoon performance. Nevertheless, to leave everyone with a sense of achievement, we sang through the two songs we’d learnt in full performance mode and had a certificate presentation ceremony. We all left for lunch uplifted, energised and with smiles on our faces. We can't wait to be back again later this year.

Kate Apley, Cambridge volunteer

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