Koestler Highly Commended Award for Music in Time Project

Issue date: 17 March 2011

Music in Time, a creative music programme developed by Superact, in collaboration with the University of the West of England and the Age Concern Older Offenders Project (ACOOP), recently won a Koestler Highly Commended Award for their work with Dartmoor Prison. The music programme won a Singer-Songwriter category commendation for the production of a music CD with prisoners entitled 'No Rhyme or Reason'.

The goals of the Music in Time project were to nurture desire and passion for learning and sharing, and to work together collaboratively to produce something to be proud of. The UWE research team noted how, as sessions progressed, participants learned to respect one another more, developed pride in what they were achieving and a sense of accomplishment. The recorded CD was subsequently submitted to the annual national Prison Arts Awards scheme established in 1962 by Arthur Koestler.

Dr Nick de Viggiani from UWE, commented, “Creative music programmes like this one can bring a real difference to the lives and potential of people in prison. Fundamentally, they offer prisoners an alternative form of personal and social learning opportunity, which is empowering in that it builds self confidence, self esteem, self efficacy, and interpersonal and communication skills.

“It helps individuals in prison to find focus and discipline, to respect others whom they may ordinarily have little time for. Ultimately – although we need more evidence on this – participatory music programmes have the potential to improve mental health and wellbeing and reduce social exclusion.”

One participant commented, “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 participants. Most came to subsequent sessions as seemingly different people. As one observer noted, “They came striding in, looking really keen and eager to get started.”

Prisoners involved in the project themselves recognised the value involvement brought to them personally, and the potential benefit it could bring to others in prisons; one participant commented, “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.”

HMP Dartmoor is a category C adult male training prison where the Music in Time project team worked closely with the prison's Social Inclusion Officer to deliver two programmes to separate groups of prisoners, using talented professional musicians. The programme awarded the Koestler Award was led by the Newcastle based folk band 'Park Bench Social Club' who provided six half day interactive music workshops, where participants engaged in song writing, learning and playing musical instruments, composing and recording, and producing the final CD art work.

A full copy of the Music in Time report is available at http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/8255


Music in Time was a research collaboration between the University of the West of England, Superact – a Community Interest Company – and the Age Concern Older Offenders Project (ACOOP, now renamed as RECOOP). The project was funded by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills Transformation Fund, established to support informal adult learning. HMP Dartmoor was among six prisons in South West England that participated in the project during 2010.

The Koestler Trust has run its awards programme for offenders, secure patients and detainees for almost 50 years. The Awards offer the chance for entrants to have their creative work seen or heard, receive feedback, sell their work, and share in over £30,000 of prizes. The awards cover 59 diverse art forms including, beauty, fiction, oil or acrylic, singer-songwriter, magazine journalism and drama.

FFI: Jane Kelly or Mary Price, Press Officers


Tel: 0117 32 82208

E-mail: Jane.Kelly@uwe.ac.ukor Mary.Price@uwe.ac.uk

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