Finding Rhythms at HMP Thameside – August 2019

Finding Rhythms at HMP Thameside

In August 2019, one of our artists – guitarist and musical director Joe Newman worked as a project leader over 6 days of workshops at HMP Thameside prison in South East London. Below he tells us about his experience leading the project..

“This was only my second project with the charity and I was immediately struck by the energy, enthusiasm and commitment of the learners. Some of the cohort had been in music studios before or had some prior experience, many had not, but all came prepared with lyrics or song ideas to share. With such a driven and focused group, managing the recording process was a challenge especially given that the learners had so much to say and express. Overall though, the tone of the workshops was overwhelmingly comradely and supportive, and within the 6 days we were able to record and finish 11 original tracks.

A particular highlight for me was when one of the learners came into a morning session having written a song overnight. With no instruments to hand at the time, the learner had finished the song in his head, and then sang or described to us each of the different instrumental parts and melodies. Within only an hour we had programmed and recorded the beat, the chorus melody and a rapped verse. Giving the cohort the time and space to lead the sessions for themselves was such an important part of facilitating a project in a nonformal learning environment such as this.”

Joe Newman

The project engaged 10 prisoners from HMP Thameside, 7 of whom were enrolled on the BTEC component of the course which supports employability and personal effectiveness upon release. 100% of them passed. Together, the group created an album of 11 original tracks entitled ‘Back To Real’

“I feel that the course went very well. What I felt was the best part, what I’ll take away with me, is the ability to work in a group and to take on other people’s ideas and to express my ideas without being too forceful or overbearing. I also feel that this course will help me get a job as I’ve been very isolated, suffering from various mental health afflictions for last few years so this was a good way to reintegrate with group settings and build my confidence so I will be able to apply for jobs in future”,

Thameside participant