Last night John and I went to see the Madness musical ‘Our House ‘ .
It’s upbeat, happy ,sad, funny , singy ,dancey ,loud and vibrant .
But I can honestly say it is one of the most moving shows I have ever seen as it was performed by some professionals, but mainly prisoners of HMP /YOI isis.
HMP isis prison opened in 2010 and houses 628 men aged between 18 and 30 , who have mainly received sentences for gang-related crime .Ninety three different gangs have members in the prison , so tensions can run very high .
The show was absolutely bloody amazing and the result of collaborative project with ‘Pimlico Opera’.
Before Christmas I was a guest of my cousin Robert ,at a Fishmonger’s Livery Company dinner .The guest speaker was the founder of Pimlico Opera, Wasfi Kani . She said exactly how I felt about the arts- they should not be associated with the privilege of class .Everyone can achieve , not just those with a specialised talent .And we all know achieving gives a sense of self-worth and of choice and of joy .Everyone deserves that.She talked about the projects she had done in prisons and afterwards I spoke to her , emailed her and subsequently bought tickets .
So after travelling east to Belmarsh , our security checks were confirmed, our photo ID checked , our bags and jackets locked away , we passed through metal detectors ,were sniffed by fierce looking big dogs , held in 3 holding bays ,walked across the high-fenced courtyard and into the gym , where the door was locked …and then the show began .It was wonderful .There was an orchestra, raked seating , an amazing set and lighting , 8 professional actors , 24 prisoners and Suggs played the Dad. It was the last night of a weeks run and so the atmosphere was electric. A mother of one of the performing prisoners had been to see the show every night .Another mother said that after seeing the show ,it was the first time she had slept through the night , since her son had been in prison .
They left us wanting more , but there was no more as at 8.30 ,they had to be counted in and go back to their cells . As we left the gym ,we walked back between the high fences and I was very aware of people watching us through the high windows .it made me feel very sad , and to be honest , a bit guilty.