‘Letter from a Family Visit’ – Henry

Inside Stories, Episode 1 [HMP Birmingham, June 2018]

This letter was put together and sent to our CEO, Heather, by a tenor from our HMP Birmingham choir, whom we shall call Henry. His writing has been put in context, but otherwise has been minimally edited.

Dear Heather,

The first performance by the Choir on the family visit, was, I feel, a roaring success. It will need a little fine tuning, no pun intended. We need songs that appeal to the children and inspire them to get involved and overcome any fears they may have in expressing themselves.

My youngest two children loved it and did their very best to join in. They are both still quite young but I want them to know that they don’t need to be shy about singing in public. It is a wonderful thing to do. I want them to be able to engage with music from as early an age as possible: even though I am in this situation, it’s still a reality, thanks entirely to Choir. The confidence that comes from performing can only lead to greater general confidence.

We all suffer from being self-conscious at times, but tackling those issues can free us to explore so many other experiences in life. Joining Choir inspired me to learn to play the guitar. It’s been a life long ambition of mine, and I’ve now been playing for 4 months. I have a 2-3 hours window for practise each day and I’m making great progress. The feeling of being able to play and sing some of my favourite songs is a dream. Magically, music can conjure moments when, even though I’m in prison, I could not be happier.

Performing whilst holding my 19 month old daughter, Rosie, to prevent her from screaming the house down, added extra pressure to the performance, but we got through. The look on Rosie’s face, as I sang said “Dad what are you shouting about?” She’s such a little angel…

But I want to say, thank you choir, for the inspiration and support, but most of all for the confidence and friendship.