By Davina Hyde
A charity is promoting the rehabilitation of prisoners by providing singing sessions to them while they are in prison, and then helping them when they leave.
Liberty Choir is supporting a number of Liberty Choir Graduates (prisoners who have worked with and been released) in the South London area, and recently attended the Lambeth Country Show to showcase their work.
The charity started a Liberty Choir in HMP Brixton in May.
The Liberty Choir music team is lead by co-founder MJ Paranzino. Men who attend the sessions at HMP Brixton have described Liberty Choir as “a glimmer of hope and joy when things are tough”.
Liberty Choirs have been singing in prisons since 2014. Operations and partnership manager, Emma Gray said “Liberty Choir is extremely grateful for the welcome received at HMP Brixton. The men have been so enthusiastic about choir, even spending time in their cells rehearsing and learning the lyrics ready for Tuesday afternoons choir practice.
“Our volunteers are committed to singing week in, week out at the prison, taking time to chat with the men, help them with the more difficult pieces of music and just help them forget about prison for a couple of hours.
“They really are the life-blood of what we do. The impact on mental health and well-being for everyone who attends is palpable.
“We’ve had massive support from the prison leadership team, prison officers and education staff, some of who have popped into the session to see what it’s all about, often bringing curious or music-loving prisoners with them. We are always looking to increase our volunteer base, so if you’d like to come and sing with us, what are you waiting for?”
The charity promotes social inclusion among socially excluded people by providing a programme of high-quality singing to help develop skills and self-confidence to assist them with social integration.
Soni Brooks, Governor of HMP Brixton, said: “I have attended a session delivered by liberty choir. It was such an up-lifting experience joining in with the choir service, which was different to anything I have experienced before. It was inclusive and you could see the impact it had on the well-being of prisoners. It is important to help prisoners have a sense of community in their rehabilitation and this is helping in achieving that.”
To volunteer with Liberty Choir, contact [email protected]
Pictured top. MJ Paranzino, fourth left, Ginny Dougary, far right, Colm, second from the right, Laura with LC volunteers Picture: Liberty Choir