Sounding Out blog archive

When the Sounding Out programme began in 2012 we started a blog for it on its own microsite. This has now been archived, with relevant posts (those not duplicated at the time on this website) replicated below: 


COUNTING DOWN TO SOUNDING OUT 

June 12, 2012 

After months in the planning, it’s now only a few days until the start of our Sounding Out programme!

On Monday morning the entire band will meet for the first time and begin an intensive period of composition and rehearsals. As with our prison projects, the band will have just 5 days to generate an entirely original set of music, which will air publicly for the first time on Thursday 5th July.

The band members are all very excited, as are the project delivery team. They will also be joined by two students from the Royal Academy of Music, who will gain some valuable experience and provide the added bonus of a mini strings-section – making the possibilities for the song arrangements truly epic.

We’ll be dropping in on the project daily next week, so watch this space for personal posts from band members, photos and interviews.

Many thanks to St Marylebone Parish Chruch for kindly providing the project venue and hosting our first performance.


SOUNDING OUT, DAY ONE: “LOOK AT ME NOW!” 

June 19, 2012 

Monday was the first day of the Sounding Out programme, with the whole band meeting for the first time. As with regular prison projects, they have just 5 days to generate the material for the live performances and gel as a band, so I was naturally excited to see how they were getting on.

I arrived at St Marylebone shortly before 4pm to find the room buzzing and very full: as well as all the instruments and equipment, the band and MiP’s team of Nick, Sara and Charles, two students from the Royal Academy of Music are supporting with a mini-strings section, and Jim Cartwight is monitoring the project for an exciting piece of evaluation work. There’s a lot going on!

The group spent the majority of the day working on one track – provisionally titled ‘Out Of My System’ – giving them the chance to really hone it.

“It’s about a pain of loss, not being able to get someone or something out of your system,” participant Fudge explained. “Once we’d got the chorus, it gave everyone the concept of what the song was about to write their individual vocal parts. It’s been a very productive day.”

I was treated to several run-throughs, with it getting tighter on each go. Selwyn set the band a steady rhythm on drums, adding some awesome fills, with Lee adding a fluid accompanying bass line. My eyes were drawn (rather jealously, as an amateur bass-player myself) to his nifty finger-work, dancing over the strings; this is a song which makes you want to move.

To the other side of the room, Royal Academy of Music student Hermione was contributing some beautiful cello accents, whilst project leader Nick had brought out his clarinet to highlight the sound with some jazzy twiddles.

Special mention must be made of Gary’s guitar-solo; it was different every time, and each version was epic. I can’t wait to see how it develops and hear what he does at the live performances.

And then there are the vocalists; gosh! Sharleen, Eileen, Fudge and Valter are already sounding incredibly slick; on the chorus they join together, perfectly in synch with some crisp harmonies – on the verses they take it in turns to shine individually.

“It’s very positive; we have some really strong characters, it’s a phenomenally talented bunch,” Eileen told me. “One of the things that I loved about working with MiP inside is how we got the opportunity to express ourselves –  now we get to reflect on the positive side of the aftermath of being outside, and reflect in the public performances that we’re not prisoners anymore. It’s going to be more professional and get away from the prison mind-set. Look at me now!”

Eileen is of course looking fabulous. She asked me to video a run-through to allow the participants to critique their own performances; they’re certainly taking it very seriously – gig audiences are in for a treat.

Project leader Charles was up late the previous night on stage with Grace Jones at Lovebox in Victoria Park, playing to thousands of people… but Charles is no less excited about spending the week in a small room with MiP:

“It’s been fun, very creative, lots of ideas in the room, a really good flow – everyone’s bringing ideas. We’re working with people we’ve met before, so are starting where we ended last time; in a really positive place. And obviously there’s the freedom of being able to go outside – and everyone’s got their phones out!”

Charles also revealed to me that he has a serious passion for cameras and now owns 40! He has brought in 4 of his favourites to visually document the week and has promised to share his photographs with us after the project. Thanks Charles! Another stark reminder of the differences of working outside; in prison this freedom with photography is almost unthinkable.

More tomorrow!

LB


SOUNDING OUT, DAY TWO: “IT’S LIKE A JIGSAW…” 

June 20, 2012 

The band was in full flow when I arrived, on song number 3 – good going for only the second afternoon. The track was sounding very smooth, with Fudge providing a silky lead vocal, but the arrangement for the end part was still being tweaked. Project leader Nick suggested trying a ‘drop-down’ section, stripping back the band to just the rhythm section and vocalists; after a few practice tries everyone was on the same page and it was working well.

Next the band recapped the song they’d written earlier in the day – ‘Strange Town’. It had a very different feel to the other two songs, with a slower pace and sparser arrangement; melodic, melancholy and sweeping, with beautiful background vocals from Fudge, Eileen and Sharleen complementing Gary’s smoky lead, making excellent use of the musical skills in the room.

“I wanted to make the most of what we have at our disposal,” Gary explained. “You’ve got Nick and Sara on clarinet, and there’s Hermione from the Royal Academy on cello, and Joe on double bass. I love the cello; it’s one of my favourite instruments, so I wanted to see what Hermione could do with it. I mean, she’s from the Royal Academy!”

So the song and arrangement came from seeing yesterday what was available musically? “That’s right,” Gary confirms. “I wanted to do something acoustic-y, with lots of space to show off the musical talent.  The lyric’s a sort of punning take on my own experiences with prison, but with a positive slant of ‘the sun will rise again tomorrow’.”

Gary’s known the team longer than anyone else in the band. What’s it like working with the team again on the outside?

“It’s brilliant, and with the band – there’s so much talent there. You’ve got people like Fudge; he’s not just a great singer but he’s got this natural ability for song arrangement.”

Outside, Selwyn asked me about the background of the Irene Taylor Trust; “who was Irene Taylor?”

Luckily Eileen was on hand to help me fill in the gaps. “She was the wife of a Lord Chief Justice, Peter Taylor, and she really cared about people in prison and how they were treated, what chances they had for rehabilitation,” Eileen explained. “After she died her family set the Trust up in her name, and they got Sara to do it.”

“They’re amazing people,” Eileen said. “The Sara you see today is the same Sara who walked through the door that first time we met. The more you get to know them, the more respect you have for them. The team is excellent. It’s been put together so carefully – it’s like a jigsaw, it all fits together perfectly.”

What’s on the cards for tomorrow? “I’m hoping to bring in some lyrics for a song. It’s under construction!” Sharleen tells me. “It’s great to have the opportunity to use my voice again.”

LB


SOUNDING OUT, DAY 3: “OF COURSE WE CAN MAKE IT WORK!” 

June 21, 2012 

 Artistic Director Sara gives us the inside view on day 3 of Sounding Out.

The band has found its routine now; people are arriving in the same order, bikes stored under the church stairs, kettle on. At 10am, Eileen walked up to the mic to give us the first hint of the song she had started to write with a reggae vibe, which was immediately taken up by Fudge and Valter. Within very little time the structure was in place and the other verses had been written. Eileen had conceived a drum n bass section at the end of the tune – a massive shift in style and tempo, but the band was keen to take it on; “it’s ITT, of course we can make it work!” Eileen said. Make it work we did, and a rather quirky genre mash-up was born. It’ll definitely catch on.

All the instruments are vying for space, with cellos next to singers and vocoders next to clarinets. I’ve spent most of the week on a keyboard facing all the vocalists and have been staggered to see the difference in the body language and confidence of the four vocalists. On the first day the nerves were showing, but now there are four confident, creative musicians, each geeing each other on with encouragement and reassurance. They make a really strong team.

Sharleen was next to unveil a song to the band, something she introduced as “it’s not finished and I haven’t structured the lyrics yet”; cue a stunning rendition of a verse and a chorus which left the whole of the band open mouthed. It took very little time to hone it; other members of the band threw in ideas for orchestration and suggestions for harmonies in the chorus. Unbelievably, the band had created 2 new songs in the space of 3 hours, so was ahead of schedule – leaving time in the afternoon to work on the final song of the set, inspired by the band’s drummer Selwyn.

Selwyn’s up-tempo riff was jumped upon by the vocalists; Fudge suggested the concept for the song lyric and within half an hour he and Valter had written verses and Eileen and Sharleen had written the chorus. Lee decided that he would leave the bass part to Joe for this track and that he would move on to the congas – at which point the band was treated to another of Lee’s talents as he grooved away in the background. We rehearsed it a few times, re-orchestrated the start and the finish, then sat down.

“So how many is that then?” asked Valter, “is it six? SIX?! We’ve done sic songs in only three days?!”

As it dawned on the band that we had got much further than we predicted in the time available, the excitement peaked and there was a massive cheer and high fives for everyone’s efforts.  The conversation quickly changed to ‘famous people we have seen normal places’, as it so often does.

Lunchtime was spent on tables out of the front of the church, with members of the band striking up conversations about football, famous bass guitarists and what it was like to go to music college. It’s great to see the new friendships that have been forged and how quickly the band has gelled both in and out of the rehearsal room.

The project team discussed how wonderful it is to see people we first met in vastly different surroundings outside now, working in the same creative way as we did inside, but without the constraints of prison. Somehow it has enhanced the creativity, the barriers are down and the music has benefitted massively. One of the best things is that we have a mixed band, something we have obviously not worked with inside: having both male and female voices is such a plus, as exciting harmonies become possible and songs can be ‘acted out’ and become totally believable.

Thursday is going to be very exciting as we recap and refine each song ready to record on Friday. Having a whole day to do this will be great; there are a couple of visitors coming in tomorrow to listen to what we have written, so that could be a mini dress rehearsal for our show on July 5th…

SL


SOUNDING OUT, DAY 4: IMPRESSING THE TOURISTS 

June 22, 2012 

The room was once again packed out – the band must feel like celebrities with the number of admiring visitors they’ve had this week. Julian and Cate from the Royal Academy of Music had dropped by to see how Hermione and Joe were getting on (fantastically well), Jim was continuing his observations for his evaluation work, ITT Chair of Trustees Sarah Price was listening intently, and journalist Tim Dowling was crammed into a corner.

Karen and I stood in the doorway enjoying the positive vibe of Eileen’s new song (written from her own experiences) with its message about moving on after spending time inside:

Don’t worry about the past
Look to the future
I did (I did, I did)

It was Karen’s first visit to the project and she was blown away. She was given a rapturous welcome from the band, who thanked her for raising the money to make the project possible with an enthusiastic round of applause. Eileen dubbed her ‘Good-News-Karen’.

Chair Sarah Price was greatly impressed, expressing to the band the joy that the inspirational music gave to a rainy Thursday afternoon. We weren’t the only ones enjoying the music; as the band moved on to practicing Fudge’s song, two tourists wandered in and were transfixed. They told me at the end of the song that they were visiting from Israel for only a week, so sadly will miss the big show – but they loved the tune. “The singer has an amazing voice.”

Eileen explained to me why she felt the band had such a great energy; “Even though we shouldn’t feel that we have something to prove as ex-prisoners, we can’t help feeling it – but as a result this negative feeling comes through as a positive for the performance; we’re all putting so much into it and the result is a positive performance.”

Tomorrow, the final day, will be dedicated to recording all six songs. As well as making a wonderful CD, this will be useful for the band in the time between the end of the project week and the performances; “once we’ve got the recordings we can practice at home!” Selwyn said.

The other big news for tomorrow is that the band will finally decide upon a name… all will soon be revealed!

LB


SOUNDING OUT, DAY 5: IN WHICH THE BAND VETO SARA’S SUGGESTED NAME ‘SPICY LLAMA’… 

June 23, 2012

I arrived in time to watch the recording of ‘System’ – the first song I heard the band perform at the start of the week. In that short time it’s come a long way; it was sounding slick on Monday, but by now it was positively shining.

Likewise with the band – they were a collection of talented individuals; now they’d come together as a unit – and the big news for the day was that they’d finally agreed on a name! Wait for it…

Introducing… Platform 7!

The band considered a number of options for name (“I really liked Spicy Llama… others didn’t feel the same,” Sara told me sadly), veering towards using Gary’s song-title ‘Strangetown’, before settling on Platform 7:

“The idea is that Sounding Out is a platform and there are 7 in the band. I also happened to be driving past Euston at the time. Valter said it should be Platform 12 as there are 12 musicians in total, but Charles thought 7 sounded better.”

I wasn’t the only one to be impressed by the professionalism and quality of the band; two visitors from Trinidad watched opened mouthed as I explained how short a time Platform 7 had had to fuse together as a band and generate a set for their forthcoming performances. The visitors were from a rehabilitative project in Trinidad which is considering adding a musical component to its programme for improving prisoners’ life skills. They took copious notes.

Platform 7 had spent the whole day recording the six songs they’ve collaborated on. As well as providing all the material for project leader Nick to mix off-site to create what promises to be a brilliant CD, it also gave the band the chance to review and galvanise their songs, and to see just how far they’d come during their time together:

“It’s been fantastic… there’s no other word for it… sometimes it’s been hard, but I can see the light shining through,” said Valter.

“We’ve had to put in some work though,” Selwyn agreed. “Can’t have it handed to you on a plate.”

And it wasn’t only the participants who came away from the project smiling; “It’s been one of the best weeks of my life,” Sara stated.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it’s been fantastic,” Joe from the Royal Academy of Music Open Academy told me. “An amazing week,” fellow RAMOA musician Hermione agreed. They both kindly agreed to speak to me in detail about their experiences on the project, so you can expect to hear much more from them soon.

After a serious hugging session, some had to leave to catch trains; some lingered to help the project team pack away the equipment; Jim produced a hot chocolate fudge cake to Charles’ visible approval; in a group exodus the van was loaded, and with that, the week was over.

But that’s not the end of Sounding Out! In many ways, the creative week is just the beginning, and there’s only a short wait until the band’s first two performances in July – which will give Platform 7 the public platform to demonstrate what a thoroughly talented bunch they really are.

LB


INTERVIEW: JOE BENTLEY TELLS US WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO BE PART OF THE SOUNDING OUT PROJECT… 

July 2, 2012

During our Sounding Out project week at the end of June we were very fortunate to have present two wonderful musicians from the Royal Academy of Music Open Academy, Joe Bentley and Hermione Jones. Both contributed a huge amount to the success of the project and greatly enhanced what was possible for the band to achieve musically.

Joe kindly agreed to fill us in on his experience of being involved in the project:

Starting with your day job, can you tell us a little about your own musical background? 

Well, for starters, my musical background is about as varied as all the day jobs I’ve had!  I’ve worked as a sandwich artist, scrap-metal disassembler, barista, set carpenter, welder, and assistant church music director, in addition to freelancing in the Boston and Providence areas in the United States.  As far as my background goes, I was a self-taught rock & roll bass guitarist from the age of 13 to about 19, when I began seriously playing the double bass at the Community College of Rhode Island.  From there I transferred to Rhode Island College where I earned my B.M., and after a gap year I began my studies at the Royal Academy of Music here in London.  I’ve never really wanted to be anything other than a bass player, and I’m just as happy to sit in with a small jazz combo or bluegrass band as I am to sit in a section, or play Indian classical music. Currently I am focusing on my studies at the RAM and am taking part in as many of the wonderful opportunities there as I possibly can; Sounding Out being one of them!

What were your expectations for the project? Did you have any anxieties beforehand?

To be totally honest, I didn’t quite know what to expect, from the project or the participants.  With this type of work it’s hard to predict the level of talent or skill in the participants before meeting them, so I was preparing myself for anything.  I had guessed that the music we would be composing would be modern rock/pop/r&b/hip-hop style based on the short video documentary Sara presented to Hermione and I, so I was prepared to be a rhythm section player, but I tried to approach the project with as open a mind as possible.  I’d say my main anxieties were about finding the place in the group where I’d be of the best use, and coordinating my schedule between Sounding Out and the very busy musical theatre project I had at the RAM that week!

Was the reality different?

Yes.  I ended up doing very little rhythm section work, only playing the bass-line on one of six songs, and doing more background string-section work.

Did anything surprise you during the project?

I was very happy to be surprised by the level of creativity and soulfulness of all the participants!  I expected a certain level of timidity and reticence from the people we’d be working with, but everyone was so full of ideas that they all jumped right in and began performing and writing straightaway!  Every one of the participants surprised me at one point or another; there was one point where Sharleen brought a song to the group that she premised with a very shy “…I dunno, it’s not finished quite yet…” but when she began to sing everyone in the room dropped what they were doing and just listened.  Everyone had a moment like that throughout the week, and it was surprising to be in a room that was so brimming with good energy and talent.

What was it like working with the participants?

Great.  Really, great.  I feel as though I’ve learned much, much more from them than they from us over the course of the week.  There were a few moments where we had to rein it in and draw the focus back to the project, especially on recording day where we were under a strict schedule, but generally the group dynamic was very good.  Everyone was eager to do justice to what we were creating, so when it got down to it I found everyone was able to focus.  Also, I was impressed with the skill set in the group; the rhythm section managed to come up with some serious grooves, and ideas they all had for songs were just plain cool.  Selwyn was telling me that he took the changes for his tune from a portion of Swan Lake!  How cool is that?!

What was it like working with the MiP project team?

Inspiring. The level of open-mindedness and the nurturing artistic environment that Sara, Charles, and Nick brought to the project set a precedent for me, and it certainly showed me how important it to approach art with a clear head.  They were all very professional but very relaxed, and were quite good at coaxing the best bits out of what we were all trying to do; a skill that is invaluable in a workshop leader, and pretty amazing when three of them are doing it.

Is there a particular highlight/standout memory from the week?

I think it was the big laugh we all had on Wednesday.  From the beginning of the day, progress just seemed gruelling; I even remember Sara saying that with every project there is one of “these days,” where the whole process just slows to a crawl.  We were unfocused, we had no energy, the singers seemed to have writers’ block, and we were all having a hard time locking into the groove, when in one of the breaks, someone started goofing on an old hymn tune, and then the whole band started joining in!  Before long Valter, Fudge, Sharleen, and Eileen joined in on choruses, the rhythm section put a great gospel setup for it, and I think everyone in the room was shouting an “Amen!” or “Hallelujah!” Fudge may have even come out with a bit of old-fashioned southern-style preaching if I remember correctly, haha.  After a few minutes the song collapsed into a heap of laughter and smiles, and instantly the energy was back. Definitely one of the best laughs I’ve had in a long time.

What do you think you’ll take away from the project?

Oh boy, there’s quite a bit.  I think the biggest thing that I will take with me is how important it is to approach the artistic process with an open mind.  One of the things that impressed me about this project was that there was relatively little arguing about the songs themselves; we were all willing to give just about everything a try.  Most of the time we ended up taking the first suggestion and running with it – that certainly wouldn’t have happened if we were all set in our opinions.

Also, this project reinforced for me the idea that music can bring out that which is intrinsically good in a person.  It’s no secret that the participants are people who’ve been through quite a lot in their lives, but for this one week we were all just musicians; the past was not a concern, and together we simply wanted to create something beautiful.  I don’t know… to me, that’s an experience powerful enough to want the whole world to be in on it.

Do you have a favourite song from the project? 

Haha, well, I honestly can’t say that I think any one song is better than the others as I’m very proud of all of them, but I have to say Future probably has my favourite groove.  Gotta love some Reggae!

Anything else you’d like to say about the project?

One of the things that I was confronted with while doing this project was my own preconceptions about what type of person constitutes a convict, or ex-con.  I feel like many people have this idea that once a person enters the prison system that they are no longer useful to society; a good example being that many are denied employment because of criminal history.  The people I worked with during this project were anything but useless; they were creative, motivated, energetic, self-aware, conscientious, and diligent.  Everyone in the group has potential, and it would be a shame to waste that.  The purpose of a project like Sounding Out is not just to help give the participants skills to successfully re-integrate into society, but to also show the world that it’s possible for people to make big change, and be part of something stronger than the mistakes of the past.  If you’re reading this interview, please come along and spread the word!


SOUNDING OUT PROFILED BY THE GUARDIAN’S TIM DOWLING 

July 4, 2012

Tim Dowling of the Guardian paid two visits to the Sounding Out rehearsal room during the creative week in June; he has profiled the project on the Guardian website, discussing the creative process and the growth of the participants.

We’re very excited about the piece, which you can read in full here.


INTERVIEW: HERMIONE JONES SHARES HER EXPERIENCES 

July 12, 2012 

Anyone who attended the performance by Platform 7 on the 5th July can’t have failed to notice that the band was accompanied by two wonderful guest musicians, cellist Hermione Jones and Joe Bentley on double-bass. Both hail from the Royal Academy of Music Open Academy and joined us for the creative project week.

Starting with your day job, can you tell us a little about your own musical background?

Music was always around the house, although neither of my parents are musicians, and it was something that brought everyone together. Parties would be a big sing-song with everyone contributing something, whether it be guitar, piano or kitchen pan. When I was 8 I started playing the cello and realised pretty early on it was what I wanted to do professionally.  My brother played the violin and my early musical memories are lots of Irish jigs and reels and duets on the banjo and mandolin (which we dabbled with for a brief period). Later on I started playing in orchestras and quartets and before long started attending Junior Guildhall in London every Saturday.  After that I was awarded a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music and have recently graduated. I feel incredibly lucky to have been given these amazing opportunities which have really shaped my growth as a classical musician.

I stumbled across outreach work a few years ago, through the Open Academy at the Royal Academy of Music, at a time when I was feeling quite disconnected from music and it helped me to find a purpose and a different way to share my passion. Since then my focus has been to gain as much experience, working with as many different people from as many different backgrounds, as possible in order to share, explore and create music with anyone, anywhere. It is very easy to underestimate the impact this type of work can have on people and their lives.

What were your expectations for the project? Did you have any anxieties beforehand?

 When I originally signed up for the project I had no idea what it was about. I wanted to gain experience and push myself and this seemed like a fantastic opportunity. Sara came into the Academy beforehand and showed myself and Joe some video footage from a previous Music in Prisons project and after that I was just incredibly excited and eager to get started!

Was the reality different?

It was better than I could have imagined. The whole vibe was unlike anything I have ever experienced before.  The energy in the room was electric. There were so many strong and creative personalities. This could very easily have led to arguments but everyone was equal, valued, extremely driven and focussed from the very beginning.

Did anything surprise you during the project?

Yes, the sheer speed and effortlessness of the creative process.  By the end of the first day it was already clear that this was a project like none other and that anything was possible. In other projects you can sometimes find yourself desperately trying to drag ideas out of people but that was never an issue here. If anything, there were too many ideas! Sara originally proposed 5 songs but this soon became 6.  The speed at which the songs were conceived was staggering. Someone would start playing a riff or singing a melody fragment and within minutes there would be a drum beat, keyboard, guitar, clarinet and vocal harmonies being added. The singers would leave the room to work on lyrics while the band would keep repeating and tweaking the material and by the time the singers returned the song would already be in pretty good shape. Everything just seemed to slot into place.

What was it like working with the participants?

It was incredibly inspiring and refreshing. Everyone had a huge amount of respect for one another and it was a very special environment to work in. I say “work”; it didn’t feel like it at all…it was great fun!

What was it like working with the MiP project team?

Brilliant! Sara, Charles and Nick were so down to earth and welcoming and made me feel really included and involved (as they do with everyone!) They are so passionate and really generous with everything they do. Nothing is done half-heartedly or seems like a chore.

Is there a particular highlight/standout memory from the week?

The most emotional moment for me was hearing Sharleen’s song for the first time. It was so beautiful, heartfelt and honest. As with the lyrics to all of the songs, it connected with something on a deeper level.  It was emotionally raw, which was really touching and compelling to listen to. I found myself just sitting back in awe, not wanting to add anything…it was just so perfect on its own.

What do you think you’ll take away from the project?

Some amazing memories! It really was one of the best weeks.  I met some truly inspirational and ridiculously creative individuals. It definitely confirmed that this is the line of work I want to pursue and never to underestimate what can be achieved.

Would you be interested in working on similar projects in the future?

Without a shadow of a doubt, I would jump at the chance to be involved with projects like this again.

Do you have a favourite song from the project?

That’s a really tough one!  Each track is so different and they all have at least one moment that makes me think “Oh, this is my favourite.”  Then we’ll play the next track and I’m back to square one again. They are all awesome.

Are you looking forward to the performances?

Yes! I’ve been ranting and raving about the project since it started and cannot wait for people to see it’s been no exaggeration.  It is staggering what has been achieved in 5 days and very difficult to explain in words, there are only so many ways of saying “it’s amazing”. Without witnessing it first-hand it is impossible to convey!

Anything else you’d like to say?

It has been a privilege and a joy to be a part of this project and I would like to urge anyone reading this to show their support by coming to one (or all!) of the performances by Platform 7.


A FRESH TAKE ON ‘MAKING TRACKS’ 

September 17, 2012 

Sadie Medhurst, an intern at ITT, visited our Making Tracks project in progress. She observed the group in action and spoke to the young participants and our Sounding Out musicians Fudge, Lee and Selwyn about their involvement in supporting the project.  

Here’s her take on Making Tracks: 

“I imagined it, but not actually doing it. It’s something I always wanted to do, working with charity to give something back.” Fudge, Sounding Out participant.

Walking up to a pretty church in Kennington, I find myself nervous as I try to picture what awaits me inside. As part of an initiative from The Irene Taylor Trust ‘Music in Prisons’ (MiP), the Making Tracks project is essentially a workshop for teaching practical, music and life skills to disadvantaged young people in the Lambeth area. It also offers a professional platform for previous Sounding Out participants to develop social, musical and teaching skills in a creative environment, free from the prejudices they may encounter within a mainstream setting.

Arriving at lunchtime and walking into what looks more like a family barbecue than an educational exercise, I find the young people with their tutors and mentors. Sitting together at a table full of food, they laugh and chat like old friends. I grab a plate and join in.

Talking to a boy named Mekka, I ask him what he would be doing if he wasn’t here. Without hesitation he replies; “I’d be on the streets.”

After everyone has eaten, we all head into the church. Where you would normally expect to find an Alter and some pews, the little space available is crammed full of instruments. Drums, guitars, keyboards and bongos make the space feel like a real studio and for a moment you forget where you are.

Fudge is a member of Platform 7, the band formed of a team of musicians who met whilst on the Sounding Out programme; the ‘lungs’ behind the band, he is a lively, confident character, who you would expect to find in some trendy club singing to adoring fans, not in a small church in Kennington.

I interview him in a room next to the main hall. “Working with [MiP] is a pleasure because I learn new stuff as well,” he says. “I imagined it, but not actually doing it. It’s something I always wanted to do, working with charity to give something back.”

Next up is Lee, the percussionist of Platform 7, who I can’t help but instantly like. We chat for a while and I find myself quite emotional as this very humble character openly shares with me his story and his feelings about being involved in the MiP projects.

“There was a big hole in my life and MiP has filled that gap,” says Lee; a telling statement of the appreciation felt. “[While on the project] You learn people techniques that you never thought you had, but that seem to be natural.”

Finally I speak with Selwyn, a shy character who has a very fatherly presence, which seems to shine when working with the young people; something I witnessed as he interacted with the group. “It’s rewarding to see them progress,” he told me.

Concluding the interviews, I start to comprehend the importance of a project like this and the opportunities they offer, not only for the ex-prisoners, but also for the young people; “I’ve got some good advice, ‘cause they’ve got the experience and they’re passing on their knowledge to us,” Asha, one of the young participants, explains.

Now it’s time to see the project in action and I head back into the main hall. As things get started there is an inevitable air of mischief, as expected with a room full of teens. One boy attacks the drums, another starts to rap boisterously – but as quick as it starts, it finishes; one of the tutors speaks, the room falls to silence, and the hard work begins.

Starting by rehearsing a song they had written only that morning, the band take their places. Not everyone has an instrument, but even those waiting their turn are tapping their feet and singing along.

With little or no previous experience within music, the melodic sounds that are being produced are surprisingly well put together and easily could be mistaken for a professional band. Along with the obvious creative talent, I am also struck by the teamwork and confidence that is being shown. The girl on the microphone stops as she feels the song isn’t working; within minutes the group is discussing how to resolve the problem and playing it again, much improved.

Throughout the rest of the afternoon I hear three songs, written by the group in only two days.

Music has always been a creative outlet for people to express themselves, regardless of background, gender, age, or creed. Possibly the most accessible avenue in the creative world; anyone can listen, whether it’s to the drum beats in the heart of Africa, the mellow vibes of the Jamaican reggae, or the downtown rhymes of the rappers of the US. It’s also incredibly influential, with some music promoting violence and the nastier things in life – but on the flipside, it can be used to learn, to soothe and to heal. Music is a tool which can really unite people from anywhere in the world, can change people’s views and can inspire.

What seems such a shame is that many people don’t get the chance to explore it in a practical way – not having the means to buy instruments or attend lessons, which can be costly; precisely why projects like this one are of such importance: “I’ve always wanted to learn how to play an instrument, now I get to within a week,” participant Shannon tells me excitedly. “I’ve been playing the bass guitar, drums and lead guitar.”

Over the two days I spent visiting the project, I got to witness not only a learning curve for all involved, but a place where creative talent could be nurtured and explored, free from any judgments or prejudice. Just a group of talented people, coming together, and creating something that will last long after this project ends.

Sadie Medhurst


PLATFORM 7 ON FILM 

December 20, 2012 

Our fantastic Sounding Out band Platform 7 were caught on camera at their performance on 19th September at the Southbank Centre for the launch of the Koestler Exhibition (and celebration of the Koestler Trust’s 50th Anniversary Celebration).

We’re proud to present a short film which gives you a flavour of their brilliant set. Keep an eye out for more performances from Platform 7 in 2013!


SHARING GOOD VIBRATIONS 

November 8, 2013 

In October we took part in the ‘Sharing Good Vibrations’ event at the Southbank Centre, celebrating both 10 years of our friends Good Vibrations and the positive impact of music in the criminal justice system. Platform 7 band members and participants from ‘Making Tracks’  joined Hermione and Sara to discuss, present and perform our work. Huge thanks to Gary, Fudge, Ally and Richard for their eloquence and openness.

Our sessions featured two original live tracks and an audience member kindly captured them on film (thanks Ashley!). Here you can see the stripped-back versions of Gary’s song ‘Strangetown’ and a new song from Fudge, ‘Mission’, with just guitar, vocals and cello.


SOUNDING OUT EVALUATION 

December 4, 2013 

When Sounding Out was still in the planning stages, we brought on board researcher Jim Cartwright to evaluate the first cohort as they formed the band Platform 7, took to the stage for some high-profile public performances, and developed their own facilitation skills on our Making Tracks projects with young people on the fringes of the criminal justice system.

The evaluation concludes that for every £1 invested in the programme, there was a social return on investment of £4.85. It found that the programme had an important impact on aiding the resettlement of participants:

“[He] completed 18 months on license from prison and there was no contact with police during this time or any intelligence linking him to criminal activity. This is a significant period for [him] and I honestly believe his involvement in Sounding Out was the principal reason.” Participant’s Probation Officer

The evaluation was made possible by kind support of The Monument Trust and is available to read in full here: Sounding Out Evaluation

We will be using the evaluation to inform the development of the next stage of the Sounding Out programme.

Key Findings

  • The research shows that Sounding Out was successful in offering a programme of multi-dimensional support to participants. This took the form of financial support, making new friends and contacts, on-going help to access other training and performing opportunities, a lift in motivation, hope and self-esteem, a clear sense of achievement and a positive use of time.  It was found that being paid appropriately for their time and commitment acted as an incentive not to re-offend and a support in the face of financial hardship. Additionally, being paid engendered a sense of professionalism and pride. Taking part also contributed to re-building positive family relationships and being seen in a more positive light by others.
  • Previous experience of the MiP prison programme appeared to be an important element for ensuring the success of Sounding Out. In particular, the previously positive MiP experience, and existing relationships with the tutor team, meant that participants positively anticipated the opportunity of undertaking the programme. This in turn led to changes in behaviour and well-being even before the Sounding Out programme commenced.
  • Sounding Out made significant impact on reducing participant re-offending levels. This is demonstrated by both the SROI calculation and qualitative data. Additionally the research documents how Sounding Out played a significant part in helping participants gain the motivation and confidence to successfully find employment.
  • Music was found to be a primary motivation, given that the participants were all passionate about playing and performing. More complexly, the research found that the process of creative music making and preparing for performances fostered participants’ team-working and negotiation skills, self-confidence, achievement and sense of pride at presenting oneself in a positive light.
  • The notion of trust was a prominent theme within the research and it was found that the Sounding Out participants felt a strong sense of responsibility towards MiP as an organisation, the staff team and the other band members. Participants reported that they felt a responsibility to be fully committed to the programme, support each other as a team, present themselves as positive role-models and perform to the best of their abilities. Additionally this sense of responsibility was a strong motivation not to re-offending at the risk of letting others down.

PLATFORM 7 JOIN POLICE DOG HOGAN IN THE STUDIO 

May 28, 2014 

Following their brilliant collaboration at Bush Hall in FebruaryPolice Dog Hogan invited our very own Platform 7 to join them at the recording sessions for their next album.

Earlier in May, Platform 7 decamped to a studio in Ladbroke Grove to add their special sparkle to two tracks, ‘Home’ and ‘Rivers of London’. They had a blast, contributing backing vocals, a rap, and even some cello and clarinet.


FIRST RELEASE FROM THE NEW SOUNDING OUT COHORT! 

July 13, 2017 

In May, the new Sounding Out cohort met at St Marylebone Parish Church to record their first tracks together as a group. You can listen to the whole album Out on License by Inside Out here:

 


A CUP OF TEA WITH… INSIDE OUT’S IAN 

December 7, 2017 

In the exciting run up to their gig at Bush Hall on 25/01/18, we wanted to get to know the members of new Sounding Out band Inside Out a bit better, so we sat down with each of them for a nice cup tea…

Ian plays guitar and occasionally sings in Inside Out. 

ITT: Hi Ian! How did you first get involved? 

Ian: I first met the ITT team through the Music in Prisons programme. I enjoyed the songwriting aspect and organising and performing at the prison concert.

ITT: Who are your musical heroes? What about them inspires you? 

Ian: Dave Mustaine – technical abilityand great composition. Paul Williams – beautiful melody and lyric writing.

ITT: How important is music in your life?

Ian: Vital. It’s all I’ve ever really been able to do.

ITT: What’s your favourite Inside Out song and why?

Ian: Life Story. It has great music that is enjoyable to play and great lyrics.

ITT: What are you looking forward to about the Bush Hall gig?

Ian: The chance to prove what we are capable of and to play in front of an audience.

ITT: What are your hopes for the future?

Ian: To continue to play music and to find permanent work.

ITT: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

It’s never too late to start again.

ITT: Any parting thoughts for the world?

Be good. Simple, I know, but it’s essential to achieve happiness.

Don’t miss Inside Out play at Bush Hall on 25/01/18! The evening will feature a special collaboration between the band and the Phaedra Ensemble, as well as support from the brilliant The Fish Police


A CUP OF TEA WITH… INSIDE OUT’S BARRY 

December 8, 2017 

In the exciting run up to their gig at Bush Hall on 25/01/18, we wanted to get to know the members of new Sounding Out band Inside Out a bit better, so we sat down with each of them for a nice cup tea…

Barry plays the drums, guitar and sings in Inside Out.

ITT: Hi Barry! How did you first meet the ITT? 

Barry: I first met the ITT in prison towards the end of my sentence, and carried on upon release. I loved it, they taught me singing, guitar, drums and piano. It has turned my life around and now I have music in my soul.

ITT: Who are your musical heroes? What about them inspires you? 

Barry: Elton John, John Legend & Ed Sheeran. All these guys have great voices, great musicians and amazing storytellers in their music. I love my lyrics to tell a story.

ITT: How important is music in your life?

Barry: Music is life. It feeds the soul and brings me so much joy and happiness.

ITT: What’s your favourite Inside Out song and why?

Barry: “Let the Music Play!”- Because I wrote it as a 17 year old boy and people can relate to it. It’s upbeat, happy and very catchy.

ITT: What are you looking forward to about the Bush Hall gig?

Barry: Meeting the band and the Irene Taylor Trust team and telling my life stories to more people.

ITT: What are your hopes for the future?

Barry: Playing as a band, enjoying what I do and entertaining as many people as possible.

ITT: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Barry: “Enjoy your schools days, they’re the best days of your life”, and “Youth is wasted on the young!”

ITT: Any parting thoughts for the world?

Barry: Love life, love music, love each other. Always follow your dreams and remember that anything is possible!


A CUP OF TEA WITH… INSIDE OUT’S JAY 

December 12, 2017 

In the exciting run up to their gig at Bush Hall on 25/01/18, we wanted to get to know the members of new Sounding Out band Inside Out a bit better, so we sat down with each of them for  a nice cup tea…

Jay plays guitar and sings in Inside Out. 

ITT: Hi Jay! How did you first get involved? 

Jay: I was in an open prison when I first met with representatives of ITT. After the meeting ITT sent a music teacher to the prison, where she helped us to form a band and put on gigs. The bit I enjoyed the most about working with ITT was being able to plat together with professional musicians.

ITT: Who are your musical heroes? What about them inspires you? 

Jay: A melodic rock band called Whitesnake. I was a teenager in the Eighties and they had a song in the chart called “Is This Love?” and since then my life has changed as I started listening to more melodic rock and learned guitar techniques accordingly.

ITT: How important is music in your life?

Jay: Music in everything to me. When I make music I forget about all the pressure of life and I am in a different world.

ITT: What’s your favourite Inside Out song and why?

Jay: ‘One Day’ as I wrote that song when I was still in prison. My band members when joined me and improved this song.

ITT: What are you looking forward to about the Bush Hall gig?

Jay: Being able to play in front of an audience of friends and family.

ITT: What are your hopes for the future?

Jay: Being able to play more gigs with Inside Out.

ITT: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Jay: Never give up making music.

ITT: Any parting thoughts for the world?

Jay: Music is the food of the soul. Music is unity. Music is love and passion.


A CUP OF TEA WITH… INSIDE OUT’S DANIEL 

December 18, 2017 

In the exciting run up to their gig at Bush Hall on 25/01/18, we wanted to get to know the members of new Sounding Out band Inside Out a bit better, so we sat down with each of them for a nice cup tea… Daniel plays the keyboard and occasionally bass guitar in Inside Out.

ITT: Hi Daniel! How did you first meet the ITT? 

Daniel: I met ITT in prison working on a production of ‘A Raisin in the Sun’. I enjoyed learning a new instrument, being part of  a band.

ITT: Who are your musical heroes? What about them inspires you? 

Daniel: Metallica – how long they’ve been together, the music they play. Tupac – lyrical genius and powerful messages. Dr.Dre – from the streets to inventing masterpieces.

ITT: How important is music in your life?

Daniel: I need it all the time.

ITT: What’s your favourite Inside Out song and why?

Daniel: One Day – I relate to it personally.

ITT: What are you looking forward to about the Bush Hall gig?

Daniel: Playing in front of family and friends. Playing in the band.

ITT: What are your hopes for the future?

Daniel: That I stay with the band and keep playing and recording music.

ITT: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Daniel: Think about it and take your time.