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A true celebration of creative collaboration between HMP Whitemoor, prison charity Sing Inside and Cambridge University founded initiative ‘Learning Together’ took place at the prison last week.
The event showcased the artistic talents and achievements of the men at Whitemoor who found a way to express themselves through music, photography and film with encouragement from Learning Together and Sing Inside course teachers.
The event also marked the day of the opening of a new Learning Together study centre at the heart of the prison which will be used for future workshops.
The Learning Together partnership between the University of Cambridge and HMP Whitemoor is now at the end of its third year. In 2019, 148 residents from Whitemoor have taken part in 11 workshops and courses, including the ones on display at last week’s event.
During the photography course, called ‘No Admission’ and led by PhD student Ellie Brown, 25 men explored the importance of photography in contemporary society along with themes of identity and what it means to be an artist in prison.
For Ellie, art allows us all to convey visceral ideas – to communicate our hopes, our dreams, our pain, vulnerability and the frailty of humanity. The beauty of art is that it is accessible to everyone, in a way that few things truly are. It didn’t matter whether the men had ever held a camera before, or whether they had picked up a pen and attempted creative writing before.
Sing Inside also ran a three-day singing course, bringing 11 volunteers into Whitemoor to work with a group of eight residents to learn the basics of music theory and perform a range of songs at the event.
‘The whole day was an uplifting experience for me, like a breath of fresh air.’
‘The group dynamic helped me to feel that I was part of a team and was contributing to it. I don’t think that I could have enjoyed it anymore.’
A day to remember
The exciting agenda featured the ‘No Admission’ photography exhibition, various choir performances and the showing of a self-made short film. The men played a big part in the day, performing poetry, conducting the choir and showing their achievements of the past weeks.
For many of them it was the first time doing creative work so it gave them a whole new way of expressing their emotions and hopes for the future. Prison staff and guests were very inspired by the event and the residents’ energy and passion.
This article is based on an article that was published on the HMPPS intranet on 1st August 2019.
If you’d like to work with Learning Together or Sing Inside at your prison, please find more information here:
Learning Together: https://www.learningtogethernetwork.co.uk/
Sing Inside: https://www.singinside.org/