What we do – Prison
The overall aim of Liberty Choirs is to provide for excluded and isolated people (for example, those in secure psychiatric settings or people who are serving custodial sentences) a ‘through the gate’ programme of high-quality singing and social development.
It is designed to help develop skills and self-confidence, open up the world of arts through singing and provide access to new social networks as the participants re-enter the wider community.
We are in touch with more than 70 ex-offenders (Liberty Choir graduates) some of whom sing with MJ’s Choirs, others perform with us at festivals, and others just phone or message us to let us know they are OK.
Prison choir sessions
Liberty Choir graduates
The crux of the programme is that volunteers from MJ’s four community choirs come into HMP Wandsworth, HMP High Down and HMP Downview and commit to singing weekly, or regularly, alongside the prison inmates – and this combination of singers is what is called the Liberty Choir. The intention is that the singing is a continuous programme throughout the year, as this yields the most beneficial results. When the prisoners come out, they are called Liberty Choir graduates. They can then join MJ’s Choirs in the community or just stay in touch as we offer friendship and support to them.
the choir I couldn’t believe it was him.”
Award winning brochure
Mark Harrison, who took the photographs for Liberty Choir’s brochure, has won two international awards for his work and the brochure itself from CreativePool’s 2019 Awards, as well as an Honorable Mention for his portrait of Richie in the Black and White Spider awards.
Please take a minute to look at our award-winning brochure on Liberty Choir.
The first three eight-week Liberty Choir programmes, starting on April 1st 2014 at Wandsworth Prison, were the subject of an independent evaluation report by Laura Thorne of Confluence Partnerships Ltd.
She attended choir practices in the Trinity Wing and concerts, and interviewed: MJ’s community choir volunteers, the singing prisoners, prison staff and family members and friends of the prisoners.
The Liberty Choir programmes will continue to have on-going independent evaluation. Below are some powerful quotations from her report.
Read full report
Liberty Choir has been the subject of a number of different academic papers and evaluations
In 2016, a third-year Cambridge music undergraduate, Jasmine Bourne, approached us to ask us if she could study the choir charity for her dissertation.
“After deciding that I would like to do a dissertation on music in prisons, I came across The Liberty Choir online and was keen to include them in my research. I was drawn to them not only because of the unique nature of their project, but the potential that it held to positively influence the lives of people in prison.
After I began research with them in January 2016 I soon realised this potential was fulfilled through the work of MJ, Ginny, and all the singers in The Liberty Choir. I was impressed by what I found in this new initiative, and because of the new ideas that I developed in my dissertation surrounding the positive output of The Liberty Choir I received a First Class for my dissertation in June 2016.
I am currently working towards the publication of this dissertation in an academic journal, to enable the academic community to learn from and develop the unique work that The Liberty Choir has started.”
Liberty Choir is also the subject of a report by Dr Gillian Mezey, MBBS FRCPsych, Consultant and Reader in Forensic Psychiatry who commissioned Liberty Choir to work in Springfield Hospital, Forensic Unit – our work was highly commended in the mental health awards of the NHS.
Extracts from the report
‘…improved happiness and wellbeing; reduced stigma; increased confidence and self esteem; greater emotional connectedness and communication.’
‘The physicality of the singing appeared to help patients to regain a sense of control over their voice and bodies’
‘there were many patients who carried on attending the choir, even when they had disengaged with every other activity, or following a difficult week on the ward…..’
In reference to the Friends and Family concerts
“I have attended the Liberty Choir’s annual Friends and Family Concert in HMP Wandsworth and it is heart-warming to see the pride with which the prisoners perform for their family members. If they are then able to remain connected with such a supportive group when they move back into the community, their chances of turning their lives around are much enhanced.”
See full letter