Music project at HMP Gartree

PET Learner Voice Panel member Mark writes:

Last summer, I met with a group of residents at Gartree who were concerned by the lack of opportunities and support for young people in the prison community (21-26 year olds). Gartree is a category ‘B’ lifer prison and young people arriving from Young Offender Institutions can often find the transition difficult. We set ourselves the challenge of creating a safe environment within prisons to foster their aspirations. With the inception of a Youth Project we hope to inspire these young men and to help them mature into responsible individuals – primarily through peer mentoring. Our aim is to encourage young people to be proactive about their futures, give them a source of focus through their sentence, motivate them to make a success of themselves, and help them to set short and long term targets of achievement.

Plugging the gaps

The main idea is to plug the gaps in prison where suitable role models and the right guidance are missing. We want to catch people before they fall. Our peer mentors would support new arrivals by visiting them at least once a week to monitor and foster their progress. Young people who have demonstrated progress could then be recruited as mentors themselves.

Inspiring young minds

Education is fundamental to the development and maintenance of any young mind, but often the provision of academic and vocational courses in prison is marginalised rather than prioritised. We would like to combat this by regularly inviting employers, higher education representatives and visiting speakers to showcase opportunities available to young people whilst they are in prison and to give motivational talks. We believe that providing young people with inspirational role models early on in their sentence will pay dividends in the long term.

Sustainable music opportunity

One of the key things I noticed when I arrived at Gartree was the lack of formal provision for music. With all its therapeutic and rehabilitative benefits, this feels like a missed opportunity. As a group, we agreed that establishing a music studio here at Gartree would be ideal for engaging young people in purposeful activity and that it would enhance community life as a whole. Performing arts are all about fostering an awareness of self and others, whilst nurturing self-discipline and confidence. These qualities are fundamental to their rehabilitation and future reintegration with society.

With the right equipment and resources, we would be able to teach practical musicianship, music theory, music history and music technology to other prisoners – without the need for teaching staff. The key is making the most of the existing skill sets within the prison population in combination with distance learning tools, to reduce dependence upon paid staff to keep the project going. We are keen to make this project both financially viable and self-sustainable.

Charity support for the project

In this vein, I began writing to local charities to see if they would be willing to support our initiative. I was overwhelmed by the response and level of interest. To date, I have received more than £1300 in pledges from a number of generous sponsors. There is no doubt that their contributions will leave a lasting legacy upon the establishment and I would like to thank everyone who has seen the value of our proposal. We believe that this will make a real difference to the quality of life of prisoners here who face long terms with little to motivate them.

We still need to raise further sponsorship in order to purchase and install all the equipment and software necessary but everyone is thrilled that we are well on our way to making this vision a reality. If you would be interested in getting involved with our work or making a contribution then please contact Prisoners' Education Trust by email or Dave Summerton, Education Manager at HMP Gartree, Gallow Field Road, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, LE16 7RP.