What Gareth Malone has done for schoolchildren and army wives, two women are now doing for prisoners. Heather Phillips, a former corporate lawyer, and former corporate finance director Jane Evans, are using group singing as a means of helping offenders rebuild their lives.
In 2014 they co-founded the charity, Choirs Beating Time, to use the experience of singing together to help prisoners fight mental illness, feel socially included and develop vital employability skills.
The charity currently runs choirs at HMP/ YOI ISIS, HMP Birmingham and HMP Maidstone. The concerts provide a platform for building confidence and developing the ability to form relationships, as well giving families a chance to see the person they love giving to others and receiving applause.
As Heather says, "Good relationships in prison aren't just about better team work, they are key to people's safety and mental health is a huge issue in prison Fundamentally, we all get the same out of singing: We all feel like we belong because we're part of a group of people that achieves things we can't achieve alone. We know that as human beings we share common emotions and the language that we share them in is music."
But Choirs Beating Time is also about creating second chances and Heather and Jane work hard to cultivate relationships with employers, motivating them to provide the jobs, funds and mentors needed to reverse the reoffending epidemic in the UK.
As Jane explains, "I want to build links between our choirs and community choirs and employers, so the people who sing with us and work together on the inside can keep singing and working with others on the outside."With the average, annual cost of a prisoner being £36,000, which is more than the average wage, it would have been crazy not to have done something to try to get prisoners to contribute to the economy rather than being a drain on it whilst also providing them with the support, skills and opportunity to avoid re-offending."