Liberty Choir board and staff
David Gilmour CBE, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter with Pink Floyd, and a renowned solo artist, has been a Patron of the Liberty Choir since July 2016; he was introduced to the Choir, by his son Charlie. David’s single, Rattle That Lock, featured the Liberty Choir. David and his wife Polly Samson, continue their support through the DG Charitable Trust. “I have been into prison and seen the joy the Choir brings to the prisoners and I have also met the guys singing in MJ’s community choirs when they come out of prison. Now it is exciting to see it enter more prisons – which will mean more hope for prisoners and more hope for society when they come out.”
Cherie Blair CBE, QC, is a leading international lawyer, campaigner for women’s rights and the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Cherie is the Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Founder and Chair of Omnia Strategy LLP, a pioneering international law firm. Cherie has joined founding Patron, David Gilmour, to become a Patron of the Liberty Choir. “I am delighted to be a Patron of Liberty Choir. I have visited many prisons and believe in giving prisoners the opportunity for meaningful rehabilitation. Choirs offer a great sense of community and support. Liberty Choir is a wonderful combination of the two.”
Co-founder of the Liberty Choir
MJ Paranzino is the director of four community choirs – Brighton City Singers, South London Choir, West London Choir, and Hastings Town Singers. She is also an entertainer, composer and arranger who runs vocal workshops for groups and corporations. She is passionate about singing and how it is a force for all that is positive in life. MJ’s Choirs are non-auditioning choirs, with over 200 members. The choirs sing all styles of music.. She music directs Liberty Choir, creates the music programme, and is responsible for auditioning and training new musical directors and accompanists as we extend into an increasing number of prisons.
Co-founder of the Liberty Choir
Ginny Dougary is an award-winning journalist best known for her interviews with the great and the good. She worked for The Times for several decades and her work has appeared all over the world. She now writes freelance for a variety of newspapers and magazines in the UK and Australia. Her role is to develop and extend the Liberty Choir programme, lobby, publicise, create opportunities both in and outside prisons, including events and fundraising, and be an advocate for the prisoners and the Liberty Choirs.
Richie, as we know him, is a Liberty Choir graduate who continues to be one of our biggest champions. We met in HMP Wandsworth in our first year of the charity in 2014 and Richie kept in touch with us when he came out later that year and has been singing and performing with MJ’s Choirs in the community ever since. There were some challenging times early on in his rehabilitation, as a former revolving door prisoner – served with a life sentence at the age of 22 – who had never been out for two consecutive Christmases in his adult life. 2020 will mark his seventh one in a row in the community. The progress he has made is phenomenal and we could not be prouder to have him as a friend and one of our three new Ambassadors.
Jenny Agutter OBE
Discovered by Walt Disney at the age of 11, Jenny embarked on a career that has spanned five decades. She has starred in films that have become classics, such as Walkabout, The Railway Children, The Snow Goose and Equus. As well as acting on the West End stage and with the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company, she is a familiar face on television, having starred in many dramas and series and has been Sister Julienne in Call the Midwife for a decade.” I am delighted to be an Ambassador for Liberty Choir. I have seen first-hand how their work can turn a prisoner’s life around; music is transformative and connecting with the choir gives back a sense of belonging that is lost in prison. It gives hope for the future.”
Michael is the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He first became interested in prison reform when he was Education Secretary under David Cameron. As Justice Secretary he was convinced that the criminal justice system should be about helping people to lead better lives in the future rather than judging them forever on what they might have done in the past. “As Justice Secretary, what inspired me about the Liberty Choir as a charity was bringing hope and a real sense of purpose into the lives of prisoners, as well as bringing people from the community into prisons – forging friendships, creating new relationships. One thing I will never give up is my admiration for all of those who are involved in Liberty Choir and their fantastic work.”
Caroline is the London Senior Partner at EY London, responsible for the delivery of EY services to clients inside the M25, and with a particular focus on supporting entrepreneurship.
Caroline was first a trustee of the Liberty Choir and was inspired to get involved following a visit to a prison and seeing the team in action. Caroline strongly believes that everyone deserves a second chance and that reoffending rates can only be reduced with positive actions and role models.
Paul Webster was appointed Editor of The Observer in April 2018. Prior to that he held the post of Deputy Editor since 1996. Previously he was Foreign Editor and Home Editor on The Guardian and Business News Chief Sub Editor at The Sunday Times.
Sheila Jones is a psychoanalytic and psychodynamic psychotherapist. She has over 20 years’ experience in the profession and is committed to working with people suffering from mental health problems. Sheila works in the NHS, a professional training organisation and also has a small private practice.
Ross is a graduate of the first Liberty Choir programme in 2014, in HMP Wandsworth. He was released from HMP Standford Hill in February 2018. Ross joined The King’s Regiment as an officer, after university in Cardiff and RMA Sandhurst. His last operation in Iraq was in 2003 and led to a long period of Adjustment Disorder upon leaving the Army in 2005. This in turn led to a series of disastrous decisions culminating in being part of a massive Missing Trader Fraud for which he was convicted to 8 years imprisonment. He is now dedicated to helping the Liberty Choir.
Sally is the Head of Corruption, Crime and Policing for HMPPS. Since 2005 she has worked for the Prison Service, and has held Governor roles in Holloway, Brixton and High Down as well as Senior Leadership roles in Wandsworth and Downview. She came across Liberty Choir in 2014 , and helped it get established, when she was the Head of Reducing Reoffending at Wandsworth. In her last Prison Governor role, Sally introduced Liberty Choir to HMP High Down. Sally has worked to ensure prisoners are treated with decency and respect and have the opportunity to use their time in custody to work towards a better future. “ Liberty Choir provides prisoners with hope and the possibility that their lives could be different.”
Liberty Choir Team
Alex has played, as a clarinettist, in the Philharmonia Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. He has also worked as accompanist and musical director throughout Australia and the UK. Alex has been involved with Liberty Choir from the start, and is now responsible for directing many sessions as well as training and embedding new team members in the programme.
Liberty Choir Team
Emma has been working in business development and design in the charity sector for over 20 years and uses this experience to inform Liberty Choir progress and expansion. She has completed a Foundation in Art and Design and combines her part-time role as Liberty Choir’s project managing consultant with working as a fine artist.
Liberty Choir Team
Karen has worked in the charity sector as a programme and partnerships manager for the last nine years and has been directly working within the justice arena for the last three years – building programmes that make a difference and change peoples lives. Karen is delighted to be joining the Liberty Choir team as its new Operations and Partnership Consultant.
Advisory team prison reform
Anna, Baroness Healy of Primrose Hill
A campaigns and communications expert she now devotes her parliamentary work to prison reform and is delighted to help Liberty Choir in their mission to bring hope and inspiration to prisoners and their families.
David has been a prison officer for 27 years at HMP Wandsworth. His current position is Custodial Manager and he is responsible for a wing and 26 staff.
Former trustee of Liberty Choir, when he was Editor of The Observer (2008-2018) , John is now US Editor of The Guardian – based in New York. He will be assisting Liberty Choir with introductions to American philanthropists and feeling out possibilities for a future US expansion of Liberty Choir.
David Kowitz and Sarah Gorman Kowitz
Gregory Nasmyth and Samantha Row-Beddoe
Major founding supporters
Polly Samson and David Gilmour, Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey
Ian Hislop, David Suchet CBE and Sheila Suchet, Baroness Kingsmill CBE, Gary Mulgrew, Ed Law, Vicky Bell, family and friends
Dr Christine Pickard, David Bowen, Sir Nicholas Underhill, Gino Chiappetta, Ravenstone Primary School
Continuing major supporters
David Gilmour and Polly Samson, Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Ian Hislop
Josephine Fairley and Craig Sams
MJ’s Community Choirs’ carol singers, John Brinklow and Sarah Skelton for Christmas cards, Singswell choir, Battersea Choral (St Thomas’) The Shirley Tappers and Hot Foot Tappers, Sally Gibbons’ colleagues.
Special thanks to former managing chaplain HMP Wandsworth Tim Bryan and Ed Vaizey, for believing in, and helping us realise, the vision of our Liberty Choir programme.
We are very grateful for the support from Rupert and Robin Hambro and David McDonough. Peter Millican, Kevin McGrath and Kate Ruby.
Photography Mark Harrison
We rely on the goodness of others in so many ways. We would not survive without the donations we receive in grants from the Arts Council and now the new trusts and foundations listed. Our major donors make our lives that little bit easier so that we need to spend less time raising money and more on advocacy and public speaking, helping prisoners, their families and ex-offenders find their way back into a purposeful life in society, where they are less likely to reoffend and be in a perpetual loop of offending and returning to prison.
But we appreciate as much all the effort our volunteers put into making this programme a success. They are intrinsic to the strength of our charity and give up their time every week to put a little joy and care into the lives of people who it is easier to ignore and reject. Meaningful bonds form in the rooms in which we rehearse every week with the women and men we have sung with for sometimes as long as a year or more. When the prisoners come out, they come to choir or events and recognize many of the faces they saw in unhappier circumstances.
We receive many letters from prisoners who have been transferred and appreciate the work of Liberty Choir.
Just wanted to let you know that I miss you and of course all the other fantastic members of Liberty Choir. To date it is still the best experience that I have had whilst a guest here! In fact you probably had a more profound impact on me than you might imagine. This is my first time in prison and it was an enormous and even at times a devastating shock to me in those early weeks/months. …..
I can still clearly see in my mind the first time I saw you and how you wouldn’t take no for an answer when I protested about my singing abilities. I was in. Then there was all those inspiring talks you gave us and last but definitely not least the sheer fun we all had. You helped me get through that period. Sadly we do not have a choir here but when I go to church and we sing hymns I really do go for it! That seems to have encouraged others and the other day the priest said he had been coming to this prison for many years but had never heard singing like ours – I am taking that as a compliment!”