EARLIER this year, Changing Tunes started delivering music and mentoring sessions at the CFO Activity Hub in Bristol city centre. There are six Activity Hubs around the country, which are part-funded by the European Social Fund. They provide a safe space for those who have been released from prison on a licence or community order, supporting them to reintegrate back into their communities.
Changing Tunes has historically worked only with post-release participants who we’ve already met in prison. The Hub provides another way to access us and our regular presence there means that we can bring the benefits of music-making to more people with lived experience of prison. We are currently running weekly sessions for men and a monthly women’s session. So far, activities have included helping participants to master that song that they’ve always wanted to learn, music production, and basic keyboard and guitar skills.
We spoke to Isie, Changing Tunes musician, about her work at the Activity Hub so far:
“I’ve been going to the Activity Hub once a month for a dedicated women’s only session. Having a presence in the Hub is really important, the same as it is in prison – people see you walking around with a guitar or keyboard under your arm, lugging a rickety trolley jammed full of music and cables behind you, and they can’t help but wonder where you’re going, who with, what’s on the trolley, what exactly you’re going to do, and if the trolley will make it to its destination! That’s normally how we pick up Changing Tunes participants!
“So, whilst it’s been a gentle start, with people still getting to know about the Hub and what it offers, it feels like we are now getting to know people, seeing some familiar faces, building the intrigue, and picking up momentum. Experiences I’ve had recently have reminded me that generally we talk about leaving prison as a positive thing, but unfortunately for a lot of people, especially the women, it carries a lot of fear.
“The majority of the women we work with have a history of abuse and often come into prison from very traumatic living conditions. Women we work with have to battle homelessness, sex work, substance abuse, abusive relationships, and so much more. Self-development and personal growth is achieved in prison, which is amazing to witness, but at the end of the sentence, living conditions, family and friends haven’t necessarily changed. So, because of this, it feels really important to be in the Activity Hub, supporting women who have to face this challenging transitional period.
“There will never be enough time to cover everything but hopefully through the taster sessions that we offer, people can pick up some ideas or learn a few techniques that they can then develop and work on outside of the Hub. Music has the amazing ability to contain and hold difficult emotions, but one needs a safe space in which to feel able to release those emotions and this is provided for at the Hub.”
We are looking forward to working with more participants to support their creative potential and integration back into the community. Watch this space for outcomes from this exciting new partnership! To find out more about our post-release work, visit our website: https://www.changingtunes.org.uk/post-release.