Sunday, August 23, 2009

A treasure in the heart of every man

The ethos of the whole exercise is that every work of art is an individual achievement. Achievement develops self-esteem. Self-esteem is a vital ingredient of rehabilitation and the ability to lead a useful and law-abiding life. Therefore, because they are a means to that vital end, which amounts to protecting the public, the arts are, or should be, a compulsory ingredient in the programmes available in every prison. Armed with new skills and burgeoning self-esteem, offenders may go on to engage with the work, education or training that are essential for successful rehabilitation.

I was therefore delighted when, in 2002, I learned that Aldeburgh had embarked on a most imaginative venture, involving the boys of Carlford Unit at the nearby Her Majesty's Prison and Young Offenders Institute Warren Hill and the children of Debenham High School under the guidance of Phillipa Reive. Those who came to the Aldeburgh Festival that year may remember the remarkable video made by the two groups in which they declare their hopes, fears and apirations to a background of music they had written themselves. It marked the beginning of an ongoing relationship between Aldeburgh Music and the Unit, to the credit of both and the benefit of many.

Carlford Unit contains young people serving long sentences for very serious offences, many of whom have lived Dickensian lives in conditions that the press love to sensationalise. Winston Churchill once said that those involved in the criminal justice system must be aware that 'there is a treasure in the heart of every man, if only you can find it'. The media's curent vogue for demonising young people suggests otherwise, but the programmes that Aldeburgh has initiated and run are living proof to its validity. The enthusiasm of the staff of the unit for the benefit to those taking part in the Aldeburgh ventures is a testament to their value.
David Ramsbotham, former Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons writes in the recently published New Aldeburgh Anthology, edited by Ariane Bankes and Jonathan Reekie. A less enlightened approach is the prison for the end of time.

Image credit, Fidelio prisoner's chorus from 2008 production at Palais Garnier, Paris, director Johan Simons. A review copy of the New Aldeburgh Anthology was supplied at my request by Boydell & Brewer. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

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