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Arts in Prisons

In the event ‘Arts In Prisons’, Dr Jacqui Norton was in conversation with Chris Heighton, and it was riveting from the start. The speakers’ experience and witty charm captivated my attention throughout.

Chris Heighton’s curiosity in the influence of music inspired his research. He has been involved with UK prisons since 2006, where he strived to bring the visual arts, music, and drama to prisons.

Classical music performances in prisons put inmates together, who might usually not get along. However, Heighton wanted more in-depth participation between prisoners, prison staff, and amateur musicians. His intention in doing that was to bring down barriers and send the message “we are all humans.”

Dr Norton then shared her experience with her project, ‘Talent unlocked’, which she started in Leicester prison in 2017. One ex-felon told her how the programme had helped him cope.

Two hauntingly beautiful music tracks were played for the audience, near the end of the discussion. In the first track, deep guitar music took centre stage amidst the chaos in the background. The rich music tugged at my heartstrings and made me feel nostalgic for some reason. The second track had a song performed by musicians, which was written by a prisoner and a male prison staff.

Although many people do not approve of cultural events in prisons as they believe prison should be about punishment, rehabilitation is immensely important. After all, “Today’s prisoner, tomorrow’s neighbour.”

Overall, this event was worth attending and served as an enriching experience.

-Anondi Dutta.