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Music in Time Group receives a Koestler Highly Commended Award.

Monday, February 21st 2011 - Liz Ropschitz

Music in Time Group receives a Koestler Highly Commended Award

A truly participatory creative music event for the older prisoner in HMP Dartmoor receives a Koestler 2010 Highly Commended Award for Singer-songwriter with the CD ‘No Rhyme or Reason’.

Music in Time was developed as a research collaboration between Superact (a Community Interest Company based in South West England), the Age Concern Older Offenders Project (ACOOP, now renamed as RECOOP) and the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol.  Six prisons in the South West participated. 

Working together to make this programme happen, Superact CIC, South West region’s ACOOP (RECOOP), HMP Dartmoor social inclusion officer and UWE brought together talented and dedicated musicians and enthusiastic older prisoners, from HMP Dartmoor’s main wing, with a desire to participate in the Music in Time project.

A  brief performance from the Newcastle based folk band ‘Park Bench Social Club’ was followed by six afternoons of interactive music workshops where songs were written and sung, instruments learnt and played and musical talent unleashed.

Quote from a prisoner:-“I found it an uplifting experience.  It gives you confidence … it was like a community thing really, a bond with people I might not normally associate with on the wing.  I felt positive after the first time and so was quite happy to go along the second time.  I actually looked forward to it.”

This comment captures the feelings of many of the prisoners.  Most walked into their second session as seemingly different people.  As one observer noted:- “They came striding in, looking really keen and eager to get started.”

The outcome of this project was to awaken a desire and passion for learning and sharing, working together and collaborating to produce a piece of work to be proud of.  It was noticeable how, as the weeks progressed, groups working together were respecting each others time to demonstrate and display their creative work and with this constructive attitude they produced the finished CD No Rhyme or Reason, which was subsequently submitted to the annual national Prison Arts Awards scheme established in 1962 by Arthur Koestler.

The project evaluators, a research team from the University of the West of England, concluded in their report: “Creative music programmes like Music in Time can bring real differences to the lives and potential of people in prison … Fundamentally, they bring to prisoners an array of personal and social opportunities, including improved self-confidence, self-esteem, self-efficacy, interpersonal and communication skills, focus and discipline, enhanced well-being and improved mental health.

The prisoners involved in this project themselves recognised the tremendous impact the programmes brought to them personally, and the potential benefits they could bring to others in the criminal justice system.  As one prisoner told us:- ”… the team effort that develops is brilliant … In a place like this, anything that can bring people together who’ve gone astray – especially something as positive as music – has got to be highly advantageous.”

The opportunity to create, play and participate in music activities evidently started to make important inroads into the psychological, emotional and social well-being of participants.

For a full copy of the report go to

The Music in Time project was funded by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills Transformation Fund, which was established to support informal adult learning.


Liz Ropschitz

Devon Prison Cluster Volunteer & Healthy Living Coordinator


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