‘Let’s Get Free’ from HMP Chelmsford

In January 2020, we embarked on our second project at HMP Chelmsford in Essex. Ran by three of our accomplished musicians Joe Newman, Jihad Darwish and Kenny Baraka, the project resulted in a fantastic 10 track album entitled ‘Let’s Get Free’ and enabled 7 men to achieve a BTEC in employability. Below project leader Joe Newman tells us a little more about working on the project.

“This was my first time working in HMP Chelmsford, and my first time working with both Kenny Baraka and Jihad Darwish. From the first session, it was clear that some of the learners had really strong ideas for how they wanted the music to sound, and so there was an aspect of negotiation to the development of the first few songs; what were the limitations that we were all working within? For me, this aspect of leading a project is one of the most exciting, as you can get straight into developing the learners’ ideas as well as ensuring that they can take an active role in the recording process. The learners brought so much energy and enthusiasm to the workshop sessions, and it was great to see those without any prior musical experience working with Kenny to try their hand at lyric-writing for the first time, or feeding into the production process with Jihad.”

“For me, the highlight of this project was seeing learners, most of whom did not know each other beforehand, spontaneously collaborating. It was incredible to see these creative relationships develop organically within the workshops, and the songs that resulted from these collaborations (‘I Wish‘ and ‘Sophie‘) came together almost instantaneously. ‘Sophie’ was recorded as one take, completely live, with both learners sat either side of the microphone, facing each other. All Kenny, Jihad and I had to do was press record.”

Listen to or purchase ‘Let’s Get Free’

“Basically its been the best, I’m going to be extremely sad when I go back to my cell because I haven’t felt that I’ve been in prison whilst I’ve done this, I felt like I escaped, this is what freedom is, being allowed to express yourself and express your talent and its been beautiful seeing everybody else’s expression and everybody else’s talent. We’ve all come out of ourselves and out of our shells and we’ve all allowed each other to do so…….the prison system should allow this to be and fund this more and make this more of a main stay in all prisons. Its absolutely amazing, thank you. Thanks for the opportunity”


“I wanted to express how much I enjoyed the course. The energy, confidence, support and sociability that making the album gave and so obviously drew from the Lads was wonderful to see. Joe, J and Kenny were Masters of encouragement and great to work with, please pass on my greetings to them. I’ve been asked to help run the May and October courses by Vicki and am very much looking forward to doing this”

Lizzie, HMP Chelmsford Staff