Good Vibrations Annual Report and Accounts 2020/21

Good Vibrations Annual Report and Accounts 2020/21

October 2021

Jonathan Hollow writes:

We are delighted to share our 2020-21 annual report and accounts with you.

I’ve been very proud to be Chair of Good Vibrations, so it’s with some regret that I pen my last overview of our annual progress, as always on behalf of myself and all my fellow trustees. But I had always thought that about four years was the right duration for a chair’s leadership, and I’m delighted that I will be able to continue as a trustee under our excellent new chair, Nick Jolliffe.

The year this annual report covers has been bittersweet too. Like everything everywhere, it has been dominated by the pandemic. For perfectly sound health reasons prisons have been forced to limit prisoners’ contact with outside organisations in order to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

This meant that one of our most important delivery settings has been almost completely closed over the time this report covers. Quite apart from the frustration for us as an organisation, we have been heartbroken to think of so many prisoners locked in their cells for almost all the time, deprived of human contact, stimulus, and encouragement to find new interests and skills on their journey back to the outside world.

When we met as trustees at the beginning of the pandemic, the unknowns were so many that we wondered whether we would need to shutter the charity, furlough staff, and wait until the world righted itself. In fact, our worst fears were not realised. Although there has been a gaping hole in delivery, we have in fact managed to make good use of the time and space the pandemic forced upon us.

First of all, we were blessed by the fantastic generosity and pragmatism of our funders. We contacted them to see what stance they would take now that almost all our traditional delivery locations were closed to us. I want to thank them for the flexibility they offered. Some allowed us to defer funding into the following financial year, when there was an expectation that delivery could resume. Some allowed us to change what we used their funding for. This enabled us to use digital channels to deliver joy, creativity and even collaboration through the use of the gamelan and Indonesian shadow puppetry. Some even offered us additional funds to help us navigate these uncertain times.

This prompted an explosion of creativity and talent from our staff and associates, in media we had not previously asked them to explore. Their mastery of the technology, and the vibrant uses they put it to, underlines just how creative an organisation Good Vibrations is at its core. You will find many examples of those brilliant creative works in the rest of this report. I strongly encourage you to find and watch at least one or two of them.

As for face-to-face-delivery, we were fortunate that in some settings, for at least some of the time, we were able to safely continue to deliver the power of the communal music-making. We did weekly face-to-face work in Nottingham, Wormwood Scrubs Prison, and Bethlem Royal Hospital.

Before the year began, we had been in conversations with the BBC about our Radio 4 appeal. We weren’t sure what the implications of the pandemic were for this, but they turned out to be almost zero. Not only were we able to work with the extraordinary Benjamin Zephaniah, the ideal spokesman for the power of art to transform prison lives. But more than that, when we broadcast in August, we found that Radio 4 listeners were as generous as they have ever been, and took us to their hearts.

The resulting total of £26,536 raised was a memorable milestone for our charity, and has led to other boosts to individual giving

I am also extremely grateful to the anonymous donor who gave a substantial sum to be used as a hardship fund, in case our associates were unable to access the help they needed from other, public sources during the pandemic.

As trustees, we have been able to work with the leadership to continue to develop and strengthen the charity during the pandemic. The main fruit of this work was a revised and updated strategy document to take us to the end of our strategy period in 2023.

This reaffirmed our view that although there are many settings where our work can have an impact, our work in prisons is and always will be central to our mission. We renewed our ambition to increase the number of people we help in this setting, and to increase the depth and significance of the sessions we deliver to them.

But we have simultaneously begun a major digital project: to create an open-access digital gamelan, which could be used online and offline, in a variety of settings that includes prisons. This is an exciting development with many new possibilities for our work.

Two other new themes in this strategic review were: deepening and sharpening our approach to diversity and inclusion; and responding appropriately to the challenges of sustainability and the climate emergency. They are impulses we are taking into this strategy period, and still working on. As trustees, we certainly don’t have all the answers, but one thing I’m delighted about is the way that the use of Zoom democratised our strategy awaydays. It brought a much wider range of passionate and informed voices into our debates. I’m sure that approach will continue.

If you are reading this report, you are generously supporting Good Vibrations through your interest and engagement. I want to offer my thanks to everyone who has continued to “will us on” during this very challenging year.

None of us can wait to be back in the full flow of delivery, in all the different settings we found commonplace before the pandemic. We hope to be able to deliver far more face to face activity again in 2021-22. People in institutional settings, particularly prisons, need the stimulus and creative warmth of art and music more than ever before.


We welcome Nick Jolliffe, incoming Chair of Good Vibrations

We welcome Nick Jolliffe, incoming Chair of Good Vibrations

October 2021

Nick Jolliffe talks to Fundraising and Communications Manager, Rachel Levay, about his new role:


Firstly, congratulations! This is the start of an exciting new chapter for us. Would you like to say a few words to introduce yourself?

Yes, I’ve been a trustee with Good Vibrations for just over three years and I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s a great organisation. I remember going to see my first gamelan project at HMP Thorn Cross – it was extraordinary. Being a trustee has helped me understand how organisations work, and how they can be supported to develop. During that time, my career has been developing too, from working for KPMG in London, to becoming a chartered accountant, and now working for Morrisons supermarket in finance.

How have you found the experience of being a trustee at Good Vibrations?

It’s a tale of two stories. In the first half I saw Good Vibrations gain more stability, deliver to more people, and expand the team. Then covid-19 hit, with all the challenges and risks that it brought. But it caused so many creative offshoots and insights too, and has helped us focus on what really matters for the people we work with. It’s been really excellent to be a part of both of those stories.

We work with some very marginalised people across the UK, what would you like to say to them about what you can bring to the role as chair?

Good Vibrations is a collaborative organisation, and it’s never going to be just one person at the top. I know that what we do matters, so as Chair, I’ll be ensuring we deliver what we do well, in as many places and to as many people as possible. I see it as my role to make sure we have the right people at all levels – trustees, staff and facilitators – and that all the things around that – fundraising, governance etc. – are effective, and support a strong and healthy organisation.

But overriding all of that, I want to focus on who our participants are and understand their needs, what the research says our projects can do for them, and how that informs what we do at a higher level. That will always be something I try to keep at the heart of any decision making.

What are your priorities for the next six months?

I have four key areas that I will prioritise:

  • To secure a new CEO when Katy Haigh, our current executive director, leaves at the end of the year. I’m looking forward to working with them to push us forward against our strategy, and to finding out what other opportunities they see for the future.
  • Getting back to delivery is going to be fantastic. All the digital work we did over lockdown was brilliant and showed the depth of capability in the organisation. But at heart we’ve always been people who go into prisons, secure hospitals and the community to physically deliver projects. Returning to what we know, as safely as possible, is really welcome.
  • The digital gamelan is very exciting. I saw the most recent trial version and had a play on it. Over the years I’ve seen many versions of digital instruments, but I’ve never seen anything as well designed and intuitive as this digital gamelan. It’s still in its first stage of development, and has the scope to go anywhere.
  • Making sure that conversations and planned strategy relating to diversity and inclusion are implemented. Tangible actions will not only make us a better organisation, but will have a positive impact on our present and past participants, and on people from sections of society we have not typically engaged with or have struggled to reach.

Is there anything that you are particularly looking forward to achieving?

A new trustee who has been in prison and has that lived experience. We have a professor of criminology and a former prison governor on the board, who both bring valuable expertise, but that view of somebody who has been in prison, and potentially on one of our courses in prison, is invaluable. One person can’t speak for everyone who has been in prison – the current population is just over 80,000 – but nevertheless it’s a view that we need.

I also plan to buddy up trustees with people who may not come forward as trustees through normal advertising, including past participants, so we can bring in views from marginalised sections of society. My hope is that one of those people will become a trustee in future.

That would be a great thing for Good Vibrations, but often charities struggle to make it happen in practice.

Yes, there are some restrictions about who can become a trustee, especially if they have a criminal record. But the rules can exclude people who would be excellent serving as a board member. There are ways around that and I am really looking forward to leaning into that challenge, and hopefully more organisations will start to take those steps too.

What do you think makes Good Vibrations such an effective charity?

Since knowing that I would become chair, I’ve been trying to get to speak to everyone in the organisation. I don’t think I’d fully comprehended how incredible Good Vibrations is. People have used phrases like ‘It’s what makes Good Vibrations unique and special’. And each time I hear that I say, ‘What does that mean to you?’ The answer always focuses on core values around community acting together, working with people who are in really, really tough circumstances and actually delivering positive outcomes for them. It’s about helping people, and it’s been really affirming to hear that.

It’s vital that we listen to participants; this should always come first and everything must lead from them. Thinking ‘let’s make sure Good Vibrations thrives’ loses sight of the end goal, which is to reform criminal justice and make a more empathetic society for people to live in. Now, that would make a real difference to the lives of the people of we work with.

Exciting times ahead!

Extremely! I’m very much looking forward to it.



Jonathan Hollow steps down after four successful years as Chair of Good Vibrations

Jonathan Hollow steps down after four successful years as Chair of Good Vibrations

October 2021

Jonathan Hollow, reflects on his time as Chair of Good Vibrations and the developments he has seen during his tenure:

“It’s been a great honour to chair such a vibrant national charity, with so many fascinating dimensions to its work.

“I’ve thrilled to the creative connection and confidence that I see flowering at our prison playthroughs. I’ve been moved to see the growth of our work in communities, especially in Glasgow, and the caring continuity we offer to patients in mental health settings. And I’ve been heartened by our ongoing commitment to research and evaluation, which makes our footprint so much larger on the national and international stage.

“Although at the beginning of the pandemic I was very worried, like many charity chairs, about what the future held, it has actually brought out further strengths for Good Vibrations. The pandemic showed the strength of our relationship with our funders, who offered us tremendous support and flexibility. And it brought out the extraordinary creative skills of our associates, who looked at how they could capture the power of the gamelan and the spirit of what we try to achieve through digital and online media. This is a direction we are now pursuing further with our vision of a free, digital gamelan that can be used for individual learning and group collaboration in a wide variety of settings.

“The passion behind Good Vibrations has needed no assistance or urging on from me. Over the four years I’ve been Chair I’ve felt the proper focus of my work was making sure we had an ambitious and grounded strategy, and ensuring that our financial and management systems were supporting it as strongly as possible. We’ve managed to improve many aspects of these. As examples, since I started as Chair we’ve managed to set aside the maximum unrestricted reserves we think we would need to call on in lean times, and seen a 60% increase in individual giving.

“Our new two-year strategy pushes further and deeper in the same direction, so I’m very excited to help new Chair Nick Jolliffe deliver it, by continuing as a trustee.”

Rob’s story

Rob’s story

Many people including myself didn’t think I would see my 30th birthday.

I grew up in a pub with alcoholic parents who had regular drunken fights. Me and my brother had no restrictions. I was 5 when I had my first run in with the police, shoplifting from the local newsagents.

By the age of seven I had my first permanent exclusion and by eleven I was smoking cannabis and drinking alcohol. The alcohol was easy to get hold of but the money for cannabis was a little harder, so I turned to crime. My drug habit escalated and I got into trouble with the police regularly. By 14 I was in specialist provision, where I met other boys like me, with the same disrespect for education. I was out of control, angry and violent – that youth everyone’s scared of – and it was inevitable I’d end up in prison.

I was determined to make it my first and last time. On release, I looked for work and volunteered with community projects. Then my dad died suddenly. I was 22. Everything went into free-fall. I used drink and drugs as my answer and the anger built within me and I became involved in a fight which resulted in a 4 year sentence.

I moved into far more violent circles. Within months I had a serious cocaine addiction, fuelled through crime. I had to hide in my flat because I now had drug debts myself. Finally, I committed a serious violent offence and I was given an IPP – imprisoned for public protection, which means I was a danger to society and unsafe to be around. The only way I was going to overcome this was to change everything in my life.

I knew I needed structure and support to stop me re-offending. I started by learning how to read properly. I accepted counselling and help from agencies I shied away from in the past. Trying to change the habits of a lifetime is hard and at times I have stumbled. However, I have done my best to use my time in custody effectively. I’ve got a partner and a baby now, so I’ve got to make it work.

Good Vibrations came to my prison in early 2020. I’d never seen a gamelan before, so it was totally new to me and to the other men who took part. We were on the same level – all out of our comfort zones. We had to leave our egos at the door and collaborate to master this unfamiliar set of instruments. We had to encourage each other, or else the whole thing wouldn’t work, and this built confidence and self-belief. We took something we knew nothing about and in 5 days we were skilled and confident enough to showcase it to others, not just staff, not just family but fellow prisoners – that’s massive. 

Good Vibrations gave me a safe context to try out being more confident, creative, collaborating with others – and that helped me believe in the better version of myself.

I don’t know when I’m going to be released, but I’m determined to do something positive with my life when I am. I’m part of the Rejuvenate Project which supports the rehabilitation of ex-offenders. It has given me structure and the ability to become a positive role model. I’ve even started writing blogs about my experience, something I never would have dreamed of doing a year ago. I no longer want to be a problem in the community, but part of the solution, and I’m focused on remaining that way.

Errol’s story

Errol’s story

I spent most of my childhood in care. That’s where I learnt to be a criminal – it was my training ground. The other boys and the staff all said I’d end up in prison.

I had no prospects and smashing shop windows and cars was the only way I had of expressing my anger. I was in and out of prison for years. In between I’d work, but I’d always end up back inside.

In 2016 I took part in a Good Vibrations course for the first time at HMP Thameside. I’m rhythmic, but not very musical. It wasn’t what I expected. We had to carry all these ancient delicate instruments into the hall to start with – I was interested straight away. With gamelan, there’s a lot of space for people who haven’t got a clue about how to play music.

I remember there were people there from some of the other prison wings, including a couple of guys I wasn’t getting on with. There was real tension, even though it all started over a packet of biscuits. I remember threatening this geezer one minute, then the next suddenly we’re sharing a xylophone! You can’t play music, trying to find melody and rhythm, and still have beef. It’s impossible. Either the tension takes over, or the music, shared cooperation and collaboration does.

After I was released I bumped into Kieran, a Good Vibrations facilitator, at an event one day. He helped get me on a course at the Southbank, but it was too stressful to fit in so I dropped out. I was diagnosed with ADHD around that time and I think that had something to do with it. But later I tried again. I performed with other musicians at a conference using gamelan instruments and music tech, and did a gamelan and poetry course called Beyond Performance at the University of York. I even spoke and performed at a Good Vibrations board meeting.

Playing gamelan helped me learn to co-operate, communicate and experience harmony with other people. You can’t play music with someone and stay angry. I now realise I’m at my most impactful when I choose not to kick off and show compassion instead. Good Vibrations helps me on the right track.

Now I’m an actor and a spoken word artist. I’ve been in two feature films and I run workshops for charities and in prisons. You can see some of my work here When I perform, I realise I have the power to influence people. It can be very easy to lead people in the right or the wrong direction, so it has to come with responsibility. I can see the rhythm of my childhood so clearly – people around me should have been able to see where I was heading. There, I did it again – when you grow up in care it’s easy to put responsibility onto others. We can’t hang about waiting for someone to save us, we need to save ourselves. The ultimate responsibility is with me. I always try to be better today than I was yesterday.

Remembering our patron Rahayu Supanggah

Remembering our patron Rahayu Supanggah

We are very saddened that our wonderful patron, Rahayu Supanggah, has passed away. He supported Good Vibrations for many years and was an incredibly talented composer and musician. He lived a long and full life, with over fifty years performing, composing and teaching gamelan in Indonesia and around the world. He was well known for writing music for theatre and films, won many awards for his compositions and was passionate about showcasing gamelan on an international stage. We were very privileged to have him as our patron.

Rahayu Supanggah had a close working relationship with many UK gamelan musicians, including several of the Good Vibrations team, dating back to the 1990s. He spent an afternoon in HMP Peterborough with one of our facilitators in 2008, and subsequently wrote of his experience in Indonesian newspapers. Our current Executive Director, Katy Haigh, had the good fortune to meet Rahayu Supanggah in 2017 at Cadogan Hall, London where his music for the film “Setan Jawa” was performed live on stage alongside the film. The music was haunting and beautiful, and incredibly exciting and innovative. Good Vibrations’ team members supported the production and the accompanying workshops and seminars as part of a 5-day London International Gamelan Festival.

As a person Rahayu Supanggah was always warm, friendly and welcoming to everyone, no matter how much experience or confidence they brought to his sessions. Talent and charisma shone through him and he inspired a new generation of gamelan players around the world. He will be missed very much and remembered with much affection.

Author: Good Vibrations