Our Track Record
Since being founded in November 1995, we have run projects with over 4,400 participants, to an audience of nearly 21,000 people. Over the course of these projects thousands of pieces of original music have been recorded.
In 2013 the value of our work was recognised by the Royal Society for Public Health via an Arts and Health Award marking our “long-standing, wide-ranging and innovative contributions to the field of arts and health.”
Our Artistic Director Sara Lee was awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travel Scholarship in 2015 to travel to explore different approaches to arts education in prisons in the US and Norway. You can read postcards from Sara’s travels here.
In 2015, we were selected by Promenaders’ Musical Charities for the BBC Proms collection and shortlisted for the Guardian Charity Awards for the second time, having previously featured on their list in 2011.
Since 2013, we have been invited to collaborate annually with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, facilitating projects at Cook County Juvenile Detention Centre and in the community with young people at Chicago Childcare Society as part of Carnegie Hall Weill Institute’s Lullaby Project.
The Trust was also chosen to be included in the PRS for Music Foundation’s New Music 20×12 programme, as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. The piece Beyond This, created with British contemporary composer Mark-Anthony Turnage, was featured on BBC One o’clock news and BBC online,The Times, Gramophone Magazine and at The Space.
In 2012, Sara was awarded a Fellowship by her former college, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, in recognition of all that she had achieved since her work in prisons began during her time as a student at the college.
In 2008, we became a steering group member of the National Alliance for Arts in Criminal Justice and a lead partner in Movable Barres, a two-year European project sharing effective practice techniques in Music and Dance.
In 2003, our Beyond the Secret Door songbook, created in collaboration with writer Pater Spafford and artist Lizzie Coombes, won an award at the British Composer Awards. Another songbook, A Picture of Me, was shortlisted for the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Education Award in 2007.
Over the years we have formed partnerships and joined forces for collaborative projects with some of the most brilliant and inspiring organisations in the UK.
In July 2016 we collaborated with Synergy Theatre to produce a live score for a theatre production of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun at HMP Thameside, working together again after collaborating on a full-scale production of the Roy Williams play Fallout at HMP Brixton in 2009.
In 2016, our 21st anniversary year, we collaborated with Clean Break to create a new piece of musical theatre, ‘Inside a Cloud’, with the women at HMP Styal. The year also saw us collaborate with musicians from the Human Revolution Orchestra at HMP Grendon.
In September 2011 we partnered with Rideout (Creative Arts for Rehabilitation) on ‘A Bigger Sound’ – an exciting and ambitious cross-arts collaboration with adult men at HMP The Mount. Members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra were also brought on board to help deliver the project.
We have also worked with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Resound throughout the summer of 2017 on the Lullaby Project to create lullabies with fathers in prison and refugee and migrant mothers in the community.
In 2015 we worked with the women at HMP Low Newton in collaboration with Helix Arts to create Tuned In, a resource that uses creative approaches within criminal justice settings to support women prisoners to address their offending behaviours.
We have collaborated with with our patron Mark-Anthony Turnage on several projects including Beyond This and Bridges, both of which featured photography by artist Lizzy Coombes. Lizzy has also worked with us on the exhibition Inside Out, and collaborated with the writer Peter Spafford on Two Sides, A Picture of Me, and award-winning songbook Beyond the Secret Door.
Over the years we have also developed a number of partnerships, including with the Royal Academy of Music Open Academy, the Barbican & Guildhall (working with undergraduate music students from their Performance and Creative Enterprise course), Praxis Community Projects & The Prince’s Trust.
We were a founding member and continue to be actively involved as a steering group member of the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance.
Aside from our regular end of project performances at prisons and youth centres around the UK, we have also been lucky enough to perform at a number of fantastic venues.
For our 21st Anniversary Event in November 2016, participants from our Making Tracks and Sounding Out programmes took to the Union Chapel stage to perform alongside Speech Debelle, Chaps Choir and musicians from the Royal Academy of Music.
In 2005, Mark Knopfler and and participants celebrated our 10th anniversary with a performance at the Living Room, City Hall. The following year, we facilitated a through-care pilot project taking ex-prisoners back inside as trainees, which culminated in a special live show at the Spitz.
Our first Sounding Out ex-prisoners band, Platform 7, have also performed at St Marylebone Parish Church (where they performed on a bill with The Neil Cowley Trio) , the Southbank Centre, and Bush Hall (in collaboration with Police Dog Hogan).
Members of Platform 7 have made appearances at a number of conferences too. Notable recent appearances include the Fundación Nacional Batuta and British Council’s international conference on ‘Music and Social Transformation’ in Colombia and Beyond Bars: Stories from Former Prisoners.
A number of acclaimed classical musicians have performed on our behalf. Our patron Steven Hough has performed a number of fundraising concerts on our behalf, in 2016, 2014 and with Steven Isserlis at the Temple Church in 2011. Maxim Vengerov also performed a recital for the Trust at the Temple Church in 2016.
The violinist Tasmin Little performed a fundraising recital at the Sage Gateshead in 2013. In 1998, Lucy Parham performed a piano recital on our behalf, as did Murray Perahia in 1996.
If you would like to attend any of our performance, whether in prison, the community or at a live music venue, sign up to one of our regional mailing lists here.
Our work has been featured in a number of articles, radio programmes and films.
In 2017, we were featured in a BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour programme about our Lullaby Project, run in collaboration with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Resound, with migrant and refugee mothers from Praxis Community Project’s WINGS group.
The previous year, our work in collaboration with composer Mark-Anthony Turnage, including the recent Bridges project for our 21st Year and Beyond This for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, was the subject of a BBC Radio 3 Music Matters feature.
You can find a comprehensive list of articles and features on our work here.
As part of our 21st Year Celebrations we wanted to create a lasting memorial to our work to date, which would draw together the three strands of our work, Music in Prisons, Sounding Out and Making Tracks. An exhibition of photographs by Lizzie Coombes taken during the creation of the resulting film, Bridges, was shown at the Free Word Centre, Farringdon, in January 2017.
We had often worked with Lizzie previously, most notably on two exhibitions in 2007 and 2008. In 2008, Lizzie accompanied the project team to document their creative process over four projects in HMPs Holloway and Wandsworth.
For the public exhibition at the Southbank Centre, Inside Out, Lizzie also created a series of photographs including close-up portraits of the participants and project team with listening benches playing the music from the projects. You can see a selection of photographs from the exhibition here.
In 2007, we also collaborated with Lizzie and HMPs Frankland and Low Newton on a combined music and photography project, Where I’m Coming From. The resulting exhibition at The Sage Gateshead created a meaningful dialogue between prisoners and local communities, helping visitors to better understand prisoners’ lives and aspirations.
Over the years, our work has been the subject of a number of external evaluations:
“Beats and Bars: Music in Prisons, An Evaluation” A. Cox and L. Gelsthorpe, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, 2008
Summary: An extensive evaluation of our work over 8 projects, with a sample size of 71 participants. Key findings included a reduction in adjudications both during and after the project, an increase in confidence to participate in other educational programmes as well as confirmation that Music in Prisons projects can play a role in fulfilling the NOMS ‘Seven Pathways to Reducing Re-offending’.
“An Evaluation of the Irene Taylor Trust’s Sounding Out Programme” J. Cartwight, 2013
Summary: An evaluation of the first phase of the Sounding Out ex-prisoner programme, tracking participants over a nine-month period. Key findings include a Social Return on Investment calculation of £4.85 for every £1 invested in the programme.
“The research shows that Sounding Out was successful in offering a programme of multi-dimensional support to participants. “
“Re-imagining futures: Exploring arts interventions and the process of desistance” C. Bilby, Northumbria University, L. Caulfield, Bath Spa University, L. Ridley, Northumbria University, 2013
Read the evaluation here.
Summary: A Music in Prisons project was one of four arts interventions explored by this Arts Alliance commissioned research into the impact of the arts on the process of desistance from offending. Key findings include that participation in arts activities enable individuals to begin to redefine themselves; that arts projects facilitate high levels of engagement and that engagement in arts projects has also been shown to lead to greater participation in education and work-related activities. Findings also suggest arts projects can have a positive impact on how people manage themselves during their sentence, particularly on their ability to cooperate with others – including other participants and staff. This correlates with increased self-control and better problem-solving skills. Engagement with arts projects facilitates increased compliance with criminal justice orders and regimes. Arts projects were also found to be responsive to participants’ individual needs. It was also found that the status of arts practitioners as professional artists was highly significant in the success of projects and their impact on participants.
Alongside these external evaluations, we also undertake our own research projects to support the learning and development of our organisation.
Hermione Jones, our former Personal Development Manager, conducted an action research project on the role of the support worker in music projects for young people in challenging circumstances. In her report, Hermione looked into the importance of the Personal Development Manager role in the work of the Trust, and shared her findings from her research with other support workers in music, non-music, and non-arts settings. This action research was commissioned by Sound Connections as part of the Taking Off research project on what meaningful musical progression looks like for young Londoners facing challenging circumstances.
Read the report here: The Role of the Support Worker
Our Creative Programmes Manager Jake Tily is a part of the Project Oracle Youth Justice Cohort which aims to support children and youth organisations and funders to produce, use and share high-quality evidence, in order to make better decisions to improve how interventions are funded and delivered.
As well as engaging in research as part of her Winston Churchill Memorial Trust travel scholarship, our Artistic Director Sara Lee is also a member of a member of the AHRC Music and Social Intervention Network. The Network was set up with the aim of identifying and critiquing different constructions of excellence and inclusion in community music, and develop a new set of concepts to drive better practice and research in the field.
In 2008, the Trust was invited to become a lead partner in Movable Barres – a two-year European project which enabled arts organisations from Bulgaria, Denmark, England, Greece, Italy, Northern Ireland and Norway to work together and share effective practice techniques in the areas of music and dance. Movable Barres allowed the Trust a valuable opportunity to meet, share ideas, and work with international practitioners, including delivering a its prototype five-day music project in Sonder Omme prison in Denmark in 2010.