Office staff and project team
Sara Lee, Artistic Director
I have an amazing and inspiring job, combining the two things I love most in life: music and people. On a regular basis I witness how writing and performing music can change individuals, offer them new choices and help them think differently about their future.
It all started in my living room after I was asked to set up the organisation in Irene Taylor’s memory. It took about six months of building contacts and fundraising before we delivered our first project in 1996. Feedback from prisoners and staff was fantastic, word got out as to what we were doing and we’ve never looked back. Today I am responsible for the long-term strategy of the Trust, developing projects and planning our programme of work. I also continue to work on the music projects themselves.
I get as much enjoyment seeing how music can change lives today as I did when I first started. I have met, worked with and learned from some extraordinary and inspiring people, none of whom I was ever likely to have come into contact with yet all of whom have played their own part in making the organisation what it is today.
Luke Bowyer, Funding & Communications Director
When I joined the Trust back in 2008 I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for. I had no idea how much being part of this work would come to mean to me. Music has always been an important part of my life, but for many of our participants it’s a real life-line, a source of positivity, pride and hope against a background of struggle. Every project performance is a major achievement, and as we see from the letters that follow – sometimes many years later – the experience really stays with participants. I feel immensely proud every time I sit as part of an audience watching people share the original music they’ve created.
Being part of a bijou team means that every day brings new things, excitement and challenges. There’s a great deal of pressure on small organisations in the current climate, but seeing the impact of our work makes it all feel worthwhile.
Rupert Tate, Business Development
After a thirty year career in finance, I was keen to broaden my horizons and take on new challenges. I have been involved in a number of start-ups and charities as a non-executive director, consultant and trustee, but what I was really looking for was an opportunity which would allow me to use the skills I have developed over my career, but also focused on my main interests. I have ten years experience as a charity trustee and in my spare time, I am an amateur musician.
I first came across the Trust in my role as consultant grant assessor at the Fore, a collective organisation that makes grants to smaller charities. I was hugely impressed by the team and the impact achieved by the Trust’s activities. The chance to join the Trust in 2019 offered a fantastic opportunity: I have joined a small and dynamic team that uses music programmes as a way of helping those who for a variety of reasons are disadvantaged and have not reached their potential. I share the team’s conviction that music, particularly playing with others and performing, can be a tremendously powerful way of building self-confidence and self-worth, as well as communicating with others and building relationships. My role involves managing the relationships with our funders, and developing relationships which will lead to new funding opportunities and income generation.
Jake Tily, Creative Programmes Director
Since graduating from Central School of Speech and Drama I’ve been fortunate enough to deliver and manage a range of different arts based projects with young people and adult community groups. Two projects that have always stuck out for me were arts based programmes in prisons. Firstly a two week residency with young fathers, where they wrote and performed a piece of theatre to their children, and secondly a healthy relationships drama workshop with a group of women on International Women’s Day. I found both experiences really rewarding, and I was able to see how powerful and integral the arts are within criminal justice settings.
Nick Hayes, Project Leader
It’s a great pleasure to say that I have been working for the Irene Taylor Trust since the beginning. It’s an amazing experience to be able to work intensively and collectively for short periods of time to create sets of amazing songs. The work is invigorating, inspiring and challenging both personally and creatively. I have had some profound experiences in this work, such as helping fledgling musicians move forward an inch, where for them it would seem to be miles, having arrived there through sheer graft and determination.
Rex Horan, Project Leader
I am yet to meet someone for whom music means nothing – who doesn’t have a favourite song, band or style of music. Because of this commonality, it is an ideal starting point and conduit for work which has the potential to be truly transformative.
Over the past eleven years I have conducted more than 150 projects for the Irene Taylor Trust. I have been affected in the most profound ways by every single one of them. They have been at once wondrous, baffling, hilarious and touching. I have been privileged to witness the very best from the people I have toiled, created and performed with; people who are commonly coming to the projects bereft of hope and self-belief. I consider myself extremely lucky to play a part in this process month after month. I’m always learning and growing as a musician and, I hope, as a person through this work.
I also play bass in the Neil Cowley Trio, and have recorded with artists such as Laura Marling, The Staves, Emeli Sande and Ed Sheeran.
Charles Stuart, Project Leader
A singer-songwriter and musician, who enjoys working with both analog and newer digital technologies. As a freelance music tutor I have also been involved with Epic Arts and Lewisham College. More recently I have been performing in ‘The Fish Police’ a band made up of both disabled and non-disabled musicians from the Heart n Soul creative arts company, in addition to playing in Grace Jones’ band.
There are so many inspiring people and things that can happen in an ITT project across a very short 4-and-a-half-day week. Some inspirations are huge and some are very small but I am constantly inspired by meeting people who at the beginning of a project week may only have a non-musician’s appreciation of music. These people very openly trust us, the project team, to gently guide them through the madness that is creating pop music whilst learning how to play an instrument in what amounts to only a few hours! We ask a lot of the participants and they pretty much always deliver.
Emma Williams, Project Leader
I love the diverse range of people that we get to work with on projects. Walking into a room and meeting a group for the first time knowing that we are about to create, record and perform new music that is a true mix of everyone’s personalities and tastes is such an exciting feeling. It comes with its own challenges but this is all part of the process; it can be an emotional roller coaster!
I have had the absolute pleasure of working for the Irene Taylor Trust for over 5 years now and alongside these projects I teach the Electronic Music elective to undergraduate students at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama as well as running workshops for various organisations. I love to sing and write songs and am fortunate enough to have an active performing career as a keyboard player and backing vocalist. I’ve worked with a number of groups and artists, most recently with electro-pop singer Kyla La Grange. I am also a member of Urban Voices Collective, a fashion-led London based choir who have worked with artists such as Paloma Faith, Gary Barlow and Labrinth.
Rob Willson, Project Leader
I’ve been fortunate enough to work on music projects with people from a diverse cross section of the community in a variety of settings. Past projects have included those in SEN schools, pupil referral units, centres for homeless people, care homes and children’s hospices. In every case, I have witnessed first-hand music’s ability to connect people, to break down barriers, and to bring renewed focus, energy and confidence to people whose lives are in need of a boost. The projects that the Irene Taylor Trust has pioneered are unique in their ambition and quality, and I feel very privileged to be involved in such an inspiring organisation.
I trained as a classical trumpet player. As a freelance musician I work with a number of orchestras and chamber ensembles, and am a founding member of Meridian Brass. In the world of pop and rock, I work regularly with my function band, Brando, and have recently been performing and touring with Public Service Broadcasting and the Old Dirty Brasstards.
Lucy Drever, Project Leader
I absolutely love working with the Irene Taylor Trust – I love helping people create music, and lyrics, and the end product always amazes me – and the songs are stuck in my head for days… and months after the project has finished.
I am a workshop leader and presenter. I work with various arts organisations on their learning programmes; I lead vocal and creative composition workshops, I work with instrumentalists, and I love working with people of all ages, and all musical skills! I also present concerts. For education concerts, I really enjoy working with incredible artists to help communicate what they do, to audiences that have never experienced anything like it.
I think I have the best job in the world as it’s a real mixture, and every day something new happens. I feel very privileged to work with a huge range of people, using an artform that I have absolutely loved since I was small!
James Dey, Musician in Residence
I’m a freelance teacher/composer/performer from Leeds. I studied music at Salford University with my main focus on drumming and composition. I’ve been working in prisons around Yorkshire for the last 5 years facilitating all sorts of wonderful music making and I’m really excited to be Music in Prison’s Musician in Residence at HMP Wakefield. I love the creativity, energy and excitement the prisoners bring as they write their own songs, learn instruments, put bands together and put on performances. It’s a real privilege to be part of and inspiring for me as a musician too.
Find out more about James in this interview.
Craig Fortnam, Musician in Residence
I am a composer and performer, directing my own chamber music group North Sea Radio Orchestra. I have also been active in education throughout my career, teaching guitar, running creative workshops and now working for the Irene Taylor Trust. I find working with prisoners rewarding and challenging – it is fantastic to help facilitate personal development through music-making; the prisoners get a lot of pleasure from rehearsing, composing and performing….as do I!
Emily Jacques, Musician in Residence
I’ve been working in prisons on rehabilitation projects since I was 21, and I’ve been making music since I can remember. The Irene Taylor Trust has given me the opportunity to combine these two passions. In the time I have been working for the Trust I have gained a lot, developing greatly as both a musician and a person – and I feel the same can be said for them men who take part in the sessions I run. It is amazing to see people from all different ages, backgrounds, cultures come together to create something in the music sessions. Music gives people a voice, a positive activity to immerse themselves in, a way to develop confidence and self-belief, and helps to create a community in the unlikeliest of places. I have known all my life that music can make a difference to people; I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to witness it first-hand.
Mark Howe, Musician in Residence
I have greatly enjoyed working as a musician in residence for the Irene Taylor Trust since January 2014. It is inspiring to work with guys who, no matter what their music making background, ability or experience have an innate and sometimes profound sense of music, its power, worth and importance in their lives.
As a community music practitioner I am rooted in inclusion, often through the use of junk percussion, found sound, rescued instruments and, the use of accessible repertoire to develop fundamental music skills, the associated life skills, personal/social outcomes and to promote well-being.
I am an active musician, performer and song-maker working primarily with the Neutrinos and KlangHaus, an ensemble that enjoys playing with the conventions associated with live performance.
Lizzie Coombes, Photographer
I have been working as a photographer since 1990 and have a long track record of cross-art-form collaboration and innovative community projects. I’ve worked as a photo artist, documentary and publicity photographer and a designer with a wide variety of people and organizations. Work includes projects with Opera North, The National Media Museum, ArtForms/Education Leeds, Creative Partnerships, and of course Music in Prisons, who I have worked with on many projects from 2000 to the present day, including the commission in collaboration with Mark-Anthony Turnage as part of The Cultural Olympiad 2012.
The two key strands to my work are photographing people and spaces. I have developed a style of portrait photography over the years, which I’ve used to develop self-esteem and promote positive images of the people I’ve worked with. I’ve also worked extensively photographing spaces and what they say about the people who inhabit them, working in a way that makes the space speak with care and sensitivity.
I am an artist who enjoys both the process and the product of what I do and have been involved in creating exhibitions, resource packs, projections and DVDs that have been shown in a wide variety of places, for example in October 2012 I created the exhibition Submerged, in collaboration with I Love West Leeds Festival, a set of 32 photographs that were viewed underwater in the Bramley Baths pool. I also work under the name Betty Lawless, the name I use on Twitter and Instagram. Betty loves photographing the beauty in ordinary things, revels in colour and light and is partial to a little glitter, with a kitsch or vintage twist. See Lizzie’s work on Flickr and Facebook.