Beyond the Secret Door




front-coverWhat began as an idea born from a conversation with a group of women at HMP Askham Grange reached a fantastic conclusion in the spring of 2003. During a project in 2000 a number of women were discussing their children’s response to music and how songs and nursery rhymes can play a big a part in our early years. We decided to develop a project to help women on the inside to connect with their children on the outside by creating a series of songs with them in mind.

“The project started off by asking us what we wanted to do and several ideas were tossed up in the air until we all agreed on a theme. It’s funny how the Music in Prisons team orchestrated this without letting anyone feel like their ideas didn’t matter.  Everyone who participated in this project has at least one line of a song that they can say ‘that was the line that I created’.” Participant

Alongside writer Peter Spafford and artist and photographer Lizzie Coombes, we worked in HMPs Askham Grange, Low Newton and Durham, spending a period of time with the women generating ideas for the songs, putting the lyrics down on paper, and later, setting them to music. The quality of each song reflects the amount of work each individual put into the project, resulting in a wonderfully original and subsequently award-winning (British Composer Awards 2003) songbook.


“Working with women on the song book for children was a very powerful experience. To create something that had such a strong connection to their lives, that is, their children or grandchildren, was very moving.” Nick Hayes, project leader.

Following the success of Beyond the Secret Door, we undertook a similar project with male prisoners in 2005 to help create positive links to their children too, resulting in a songbook titled I See You, I See Me

Listen to The Zookeeper and Sleepy eyes on the SoundCloud links below:




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