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  • James Burton

Brixton Prison – Musicians Behind Bars

The fourth ‘Musicians Behind Bars’ music project came to end on Tuesday, 30 April with a concert held in Brixton Prison drug rehabilitation wing – with prisoners and professional musicians taking part (left to right) – including Andrew Harwood, James Burton, Adam Beattie, Trevor Moss and Gabriel Moreno.

The project ran for 13 weeks – every Tuesday afternoon on the wing – teaching prisoners beginners guitar and song writing. Each participating prisoner learnt how to play and wrote at least three complete original songs which they performed at the concert – attended by fellow prisoners and staff.

It was one of the most successful projects we have run to date - the commitment of the prisoners, quality of musicianship and the finished songs were deeply inspiring. The whole show was recorded by National Prison Radio (Sony Award Winning) and broadcast prison wide to an audience of 70,000 +.

Over the coming weeks I will endeavour to share some of the lyrics and possibly composition of some of the songs – performed by the participating musicians– watch this space.

The aim of the project is to contribute to the long term rehabilitation of prisoners – helping them to live drug free - giving them additional life skills to help them cope with their time in prison and their rehabilitation into society – inside and out. To ensure the workshops remained relevant and effective we worked closely with the drug rehab team, RAPt, who run the programme in Brixton.

Addiction undermines prisoner rehabilitation. It makes prisoners less likely to engage constructively in activities that will contribute towards their rehabilitation

Writing, playing and performing music in prison provides a positive learning experience for prisoners. It can act as a catalyst in the process of rehabilitation, help to unravel complex and sometimes frightening emotions and express those feelings in a non-confrontational way.

A very big thank you to the Big Lottery and to Miracles for continuing to support the work, to Billy Brag, Steve Gamble and Ty Watling for donations of guitars from Jail Guitar Doors and to all the wonderful London musicians who donated a guitar – you know who you are – thank you.

The next music project is due to launch in Send prison mid to end June. If you would like to support or learn more about, please do contact James on 07545174243 or email

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