Inside Out

Inside Out


Inside Out exhibition by Lizzie Coombes


Inside Out was a special project designed to bring our work in prisons outside to a very public platform with an exhibition at the Southbank Centre.

“I believe truly that this project and the tutors in it are inspirational. They achieved things (musically) that I never knew I had. I also learned a wee bit of photography thanks Lizzie, you inspire also.” Inside Out Project Participant

Inside Out exhibition 1The project

Photographer Lizzie Coombes accompanied the project team to document the creative process over four projects in HMP’s Holloway and Wandsworth. Working closely with the participants, Lizzie was able to use a visual medium to chart the successes and challenges of the week.

The final performances in both prisons were illuminated by a series of projections, enabling the audience of other prisoners, prison staff and outside guests to understand the process that led to the musical performance they were witnessing.

“Projects such as this latest one by Music in Prisons allow those working with offenders to see a more positive side of them which enables greater understanding between prisoner and prison worker.  With this more positive relationship, which establishes better communication between the two parties, the prison worker can have a greater influence on the offender’s behaviour; and this opens the way for the process of rehabilitation and the reduction of recidivism.” Prison Staff member

Bringing the inside to the outside

For the public exhibition, Lizzie created a series of photographs including close-up portraits of the participants and project team (with no distinction made about who was which).  Listening benches provided those passing through the Royal Festival Hall with an opportunity to rest their feet and enjoy the music resulting from the projects, with Lizzie’s portraits creating a connection between the visitors and the composers of the music.

Inside Out exhibition 3“This project has really inspired and touched me. I love the comments on the floor. It made me feel more open-minded about prisoners and made me understand them more. They’re human beings with needs, passion, creativity. Music; it’s a fantastic way to channel people’s emotions and energy – well done!” Inside Out exhibition visitor


An ex-prisoner took part in the project delivery as a Trainee Project Leader. Inside Out also marked an important collaboration with the Southbank Centre, which hosted the exhibition and its launch event; in return, we were able to offer four of their Emerging Artists in Residence traineeships to develop their own music-making and leadership skills whilst sharing their creativity and talent with the prisoners.

“I enjoyed working with the Music in Prisons team who were great at directing the workshops. Working with and getting to know the prisoners during the course of the week and seeing what they got from the experience was really rewarding. Southbank Centre Emerging Artist in Residence

Inside Out exhibition 4

The exhibition

The participants were very excited to be able to get their work out to a wider audience and the exhibition generated good media coverage, including a short-piece on Radio 4’s Today Programme, a longer feature on Radio 3’s Music Matters and a mention in an article on BBC News Online. The successful generation of this media coverage was in part due to the carefully timed release of a new evaluation on Music in Prisons’ work by the Institute of Criminology.

Following its month-long run at the Royal Festival Hall, the exhibition went on tour with stints at Doughty Street Solicitors in London and Jordans Solicitors in Dewsbury. Photos from the exhibition have also been displayed at ITT events, including our 15th Anniversary celebrations at Temple Church.

“Everyone by the end of the project was very proud of themselves and all enjoyed the project.” Inside Out Project Participant

The public response

The exhibition allowed us to present our work in London in a way we had not attempted before and feedback from the ‘roving audience’ was exceptional.

“It’s very encouraging to see how music performance and composition is being used to give hope and a greater sense of purpose to those who find themselves in prison…may this project continue to help those taking part and bless those who are given the opportunity to listen to the music. THANK YOU!” Inside Out exhibition visitor

Click to see images from Inside Out


“Your collective efforts reflect in me the question which concerns how it is we come to lock away something in ourselves – that can have the disastrous consequence of imprisonment either physically, mentally or emotionally. For me the (project and) music, hearing your voices, immediately viscerally took me to the raw place. So I burst into tears! Thank you, you have all done and achieved a truly remarkable thing and I hope your lives grow into the beauty and strength you all deserve so much.” Inside Out exhibition visitor

“Thought provoking. Pictures seem to come alive as you listen. A great project.”Inside Out exhibition visitor

Below is a time-lapse video of the project team setting up for one of the Inside Out prison projects, created by Lizzie. You can also hear snippets of the music created on the four projects:


“Wonderful find. Sat down to view photos and put on the headphones, beautiful words, heartfelt and with passion for life. Hope project is not just a one-off and the participants continue their music when they have served their time to society.” Inside Out exhibition visitor

“Great stuff. Good to see music bring out the humanity in people.” Inside Out exhibition visitor

Click to see images from Inside Out


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