Target Group: Offenders

Geographical Reach: South West England

Project Duration: 2009 – 2010

Project Funder: Department for Business, Innovation & Skills in partnership with Age UK and the University of the West of England

Project Manager: Patsy Lang

Project Aim

The Music in Time project ran from November 2009 to May 2010 and aimed to provide an informal, interactive and creative programme of workshops which would encourage older prisoners to remain engaged with learning and social activity. We wanted to inspire participants to discover ways to keep their minds active through creativity. The project’s goal was to leave prisoners with the feeling that they could carry on making and listening to music after the workshops had finished, working together with other prisoners.


There has definitely been a sense of achievement felt by some participants, and thoughts about how to move forward with music.

“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.” Participants’ Comments

The participants were generally picked by the prisons from two groups, over 50’s and foreign nationals. Joining these together had mixed results. Generally the older prisoners thought the mix was a good idea, but practically the younger prisoners tended to jump in quickly to activities that sidelined the older prisoners somewhat. Mixing it up had a very positive effect on social interaction in the sessions and more significantly, between sessions.

“Yeah, the mix is very good. With the music, it is easy to know people, easy to trust them, there’s more communication with people – old people and young people together. Without music, we haven’t got a topic – normally, we don’t talk to each other.

There was a great appreciation of the way the programme was run. The sessions were very interactive and the participants were the creative contributors, their ideas and input guiding the creative process with support from the musicians. This is very different from the standard classes taught in a prison.

There was a huge recognition of how the experience fostered new friendships, and built communities of people who will continue to share experiences after the project’s completion. Our partners were RECOOP, who deal with older prisoners providing activity for them. The RECOOP Rep is still in the prison settings and can provide some continuity with the original music sessions, encouraging further exploration of musical ideas.

Finding ways to make this a continuing programme is the next task. Though it is always dependent on financial support, it also needs support from within the system. Motivating both officers and prisoners to create their own workshops with the occasional visiting groups would keep the momentum going and make the project their own.

“It was very life-affirming – us being treated as adults and being treated with dignity. They made you feel as though you were a part of something.”

Downloads: Music in time evaluation report