At 6:15 last Thursday morning Dr. Jacs and I set off in her Romahome Van from Northamptonshire to do our first Music Business workshop at HMP Hewell. If you had been watching you might have thought we were packing to go off on holiday, after all we did have our passports with us. But no, in fact this was the first tour date on our program of workshops to compliment our current TV series of The Lyrics, The Music and The Money that was being aired on WayOut TV and PeoplePlus.
It took us a couple of hours to drive to Bromsgrove where HMP Hewell is nestled in the deep countryside. We almost missed the entrance to the estate since the signage wasn’t good but after a few minutes along a winding road a large brick wall with HMP Hewell clearly written, told us we were in the right place.
We were both pretty relieved to have made it on time. ‘Movement’ of the prisoners takes place at 8:30. So while they are moving through the corridors, we wait until they have arrived at their destinations and it gave us time to go through clearance, show our passports, give up our mobile phones, pick up the guitar and all our workshop material which had previously been cleared and take our packed lunches and head to ‘The Chapel’ where the prisoners were waiting for us.
I am learning that there is no certainty in prison life. Things change and …sometimes quickly. Arrangements you think you have made change as staff leave or are replaced or maybe there is a lock down on a wing and the prisoners you thought were coming don’t/can’t. The Prison schedule takes precedence over any classes, workshops or extra curricular activities. They either will or won’t happen, depending on what’s going on.
And then… Four men and a prison guard are waiting for us. There should have been six but two had been shipped out the day before. Still I’m hopeful. They are smiling, all aged between 25 and 30 years I’d say.
Jacqui and I work well together. Jacqui has worked in prisons more than me so she takes the lead and I get my guitar out and tune it. Soon we are all chatting about the music industry, what music they like, why did they came to the workshop.
I announce we are going to write a song… There are some general misgivings. I say it’s going to be a ‘co-write’. They are ready to play the game. One question gets the ball rolling
“How did you feel when you woke up this morning?”
Various answers start to make up the verse. I sing what they’ve written to a tune I make up on the spot .They laugh. The ice is broken and we are on our way. There is no doubt that they would have been more comfortable rapping, but since I come from a melodic background the tune is heading in that direction, and amazingly they go with me, we’ve got a verse and the possibility of a chorus too.
Time seems to fly and Dr. Jacs is now in her stride. They listen intently. But it’s time to break for a cup of tea and Jacs puts out the chocolate biscuits. Yes chocolate biscuits! The lady in charge of ‘Clean and Decent ‘ has paid for them out of her own money. How nice is that? We feel very appreciative, but not as appreciative as the men. Before I’ve poured some milk in my tea…there’s only one chocy biscuit left and Dr. Jacs misses out. Hey next time!
We are now on a roll and we are ready to launch into a talk about Copyright, and how the song earns money and how to collect the royalties. They are interested and we discuss the value of ‘The Song’ and who owns it and where the power lies.
After a full day of enthusiastic questions and answers, it’s time to wind up and handout the certificates for completion of the Workbook.
The security guard is smiling as the men are lined up for ‘Movement’ back to their cells. Everyone is in good spirits. We wait with him behind the bars that lead to the Chapel till the last prisoners have left the corridors. He tells us that he personally has had a brilliant day. He really enjoyed the workshop and he is amazed at how willing the men were to be creative and to join in. He couldn’t believe the personality changes he witnessed as the men relaxed and laughed and joked. They were so different from how they were in the prison wing.
He thought the workshop was a success. Happily so did we….Next week we are travelling to Swinfin Prison in Litchfield.
…So watch this space!