HMP Stafford, December 2018
I’ve done lots of prison visits before, but it was my first time visiting HMP Stafford, and the first time I’d led a workshop since October. It was really exciting to be back on the ground and away from the admin, and Stafford was a particularly special workshop for me for a few reasons.
The guys who came along gave it their absolute all. They were so committed and eager to learn, and also eager to tell us about the choir at Stafford, what they had learned, and to perform for us at the end of the afternoon. It was really special for me to work in a prison where residents had been given a space to reach music; the confidence of their singing was already really strong when we arrived, and this meant we could be flexible with what we’d planned, adding in harmonies and more complex features and making sure we spent lots of time on tricky corners. The group were focused and committed, asking lots of interesting questions, and seemed really excited by all we learnt alongside them.
The afternoon performance was a new format for me, too – instead of one performance, we went round the wings and performed 9 separate times, which was exhausting but so rewarding that guys who hadn’t been able to attend the workshop could hear what we’d done. It was lovely that members of the choir got to perform what they’d learnt to people they knew well on their wing, and encouraged lots of people to sign up next time. I can’t really explain the buzz of the day in words, but the infectious enthusiasm of the Stafford residents and the warm interactions, full of humour and honesty, between them and the Sing Inside volunteers was lovely to be a part of. The feedback below from a few Stafford-based participants sums it up better than I can – but I hope we’ll be back in Stafford really soon.
“Nearly one week on and I am still buzzing from the workshop, and I sing the songs we learnt while I am working painting the cells on the wings. The workshop was brilliant, taught various breathing exercises to warm up and then learn the songs. I was nervous singing the songs in the beginning but over the course of the day my confidence rose and really enjoyed singing the songs in a large group all around the prison. We sang on every wing, the gym and the entrance to the kitchens. It was a massive confidence boost for me and I’m sure several others. If the chance came again to sing with “Sing Inside” then I would jump at it. Many thanks to all the volunteers at Sing Inside and to everyone at HMP Stafford who organised it. Thank you J.”
“The day started brilliantly with an introduction of who they all were and some great warm up and teamwork building exercises and games. From there we went into learning some Christmas songs which was done in a really straight forward, supportive and logical manner which allowed each person to learn and understand at their own pace. They are an understanding team who I can’t recommend highly enough and can honestly say for any area of work they would be brilliant for motivational and team building work as well as making everything very enjoyable.”
“I thank you and the rest of your singing group for taking the time to come and sing with us here at Stafford, without doubt, the best day I’ve had while inside. Your openness and interaction toward us was most refreshing and rewarding.”