In Conversation: Loophole Music

In Conversation: Loophole Music

Fay, an occupational therapist, and Kieran, a Loophole Music facilitator, talk about one of our secure hospital projects and the impact it has had on one particular service user.

Fay: Dean has been in hospital for over ten years. He’s got better, and then relapsed, over and over again. He was at a point where he felt hopeless and frustrated and like he had no reason to try and get better anymore. Music was really dear to him so we decided to give him leave so he could attend a Loophole session.

Kieran: During our first session together, I quickly realised that Dean has no control over anything in his life. So, I let him go through the process that he insisted on to make tracks, even though it made no sense musically. When he listened to what he’d made, he didn’t like it and asked if we could do what I had originally suggested. Although it slowed the process, it is vital that I let him try and do it his way. The respect needs to go both ways.

Fay: That’s what made the sessions work; Kieran completely respects Dean’s artistic integrity. Kieran at no point showed any judgement over the quality of the work, which was crucial to Dean coming back week after week. Dean does this interesting thing where he throws things out that are important to him. Each week he would come in and listen to the previous week’s work and shout at Kieran, insisting that he deletes it. Kieran was so accommodating while still putting boundaries in place, explaining to Dean that he needed to respect that Kieran had also spent time working on that track. It became a very true representation of a healthy relationship in the real world.

Kieran: Throughout our sessions, I’ve definitely noticed changes in this patient, all positive ones. Like Fay says, a friendship has formed between us. Now when he comes into the room for his session he is smiling and happy to be there. He still arrives in an explosion, knowing that he’s only got a 50-minute session and there’s so much he wants to get done, but now he’s jovial, whereas the first sessions were a little more confrontational.

Fay: During his time with us, Dean has never been able to commit to regularly attending activities before. The fact that he has felt able to attend these weekly sessions – and has even looked forward to them – has been instrumental to him in other ways. There is a piece of work that he has been avoiding for years and he has now agreed to talk about it. It’s a significant piece of psychological work that he needs to complete to allow him to progress in his recovery. This is due in part to the recent positive experience with Loophole of trying, succeeding, failing and coming back to it. Dean also has a very difficult relationship with his father. Through his music, he wants to reach out to his dad to show him that he’s doing well – the first positive contact with his dad in years. Loophole has paved the way for other work to happen and for Dean to build more positive relationships going forward.

We’re looking for new trustees!

We’re looking for new trustees!

Closing date for applications: 16th May
Location: home based with the possibility of travelling to London 4 times a year
Unpaid position, expenses covered

Good Vibrations is a national arts organisation that changes lives through music. We work with some of the most vulnerable and hard to reach people in the UK, including in prisons, secure hospitals, and in the community. We are best known for using the Indonesian gamelan, a magnificent set of bronze gongs, xylophones and drums. We use communal music-making to support vulnerable people in challenging circumstances to develop transferable life and work skills and to forge fulfilling, constructive lives.

We have an outstanding track record, with the impact of our work evidenced through nine independent pieces of academic research, including by Cambridge University and the University of London.

Bill Bailey and Lord Ramsbotham support our work as patrons. We are a Registered UK Learning Provider and OCNL Qualification Centre and hold National High Secure Prison Effective Intervention Status.

We are looking for new people to join our Board of Trustees as two members are reaching the end of their tenure. This is a very rewarding voluntary position with an ambitious charity.

We are looking for people with experience of one (or more) of the following areas:

  • Lived experience of challenging circumstances / complex needs
  • The arts / music in particular
  • Fundraising
  • Law
  • The Criminal Justice System
  • Business development
  • Financial management
  • Strategy

We would especially welcome applications from people with lived experience of the issues pertaining to our participants.

This is a voluntary governance role for which your travel expenses would be covered. Trustees are asked to commit to attending 4 meetings (in the evenings) and 1 strategic development day a year. They are also asked for help by sharing their skills on developmental projects. We are particularly interested in people who have experienced the issues participants of our courses have experienced.

To see who is already on our Board, click here.

We are looking for enthusiastic individuals to expand our existing Trustee Board, to bring their experience and fresh, innovative and realistic ideas to the charity.

To find out more about the role and our charity, please contact our Executive Director, Hekate Papadaki at hekate@good-vibrations.org.uk. To apply now, please visit the post listing on Charity Job here.

My experience of leaving prison during the pandemic

My experience of leaving prison during the pandemic

 

January 2022

Author and artist Ruinbow writes for Good Vibrations about their experience of leaving prison during the pandemic.

 

People imagine that being released from prison would be a euphoric moment, but it is actually really stressful. Counterintuitively, one thing that actually helped me when I was released was that it was lockdown.

Because I have autism, I can find social situations really difficult. If I got out to see the whole world was doing its thing as normal I would have hit a brick wall. So the fact that everyone was under lockdown restrictions made the transition a bit easier. Getting the train was more comfortable, for example, as I was the only person in the carriage.

There is also a distinct novelty about the whole freedom malarkey, too! Using metal cutlery, the tinkling and clinking against the crockery. Feeling that shiver down your arm as the knife scrapes the plate is quite weird – somehow new and different. Walking down the street is strange too. There are no more gates, no more stopping and waiting for an officer to let you past. You can see far into the distance, and the horizon is so far away. Seeing yourself properly for the first time – that’s new. In prison you only have access to small square mirrors.

While I enjoyed the novelties and freedom, I was stressed about where I was going to live. I was released into a probation hostel. Some people hate being placed in hostels because of the restrictions imposed, but I was relieved to have somewhere to stay, even though it was temporary.

 

Finding work was much harder than I thought it would be

When I was there I started engaging with the Job Centre and Clean Sheet, a charity that supports people with convictions find employment. They helped me keep motivated in my job search. I had a vision whilst in prison that on release I would get a job in a factory or a warehouse, but it seems that a lot of these jobs are advertised and recruited by agencies. It’s not as easy as I thought it would be to get a job in a place like that.

Even if I had managed to get that sort of job, the strict curfew in the hostel wouldn’t have allowed it. In fact, the curfew meant that I had to turn down two other jobs that I was offered. As I had to turn them down due to external factors, I felt motivated to pursue my art, which I discovered in prison. I basically thought, okay, if I can’t work then I’m gonna do some art and work out what my next steps are.

 

And finding somewhere to live seemed impossible

I always knew that my stay in the hostel would be temporary and that I had three months to find myself appropriate accommodation. I managed to get in touch with various charities, organisations, and the council. However, as I was living somewhere they couldn’t help me, even though the hostel was temporary. Some of the other lads in the hostel were in the same situation. This was visibly affecting them. One person turned to gambling and when he lost all his benefits he got really drunk and was recalled into prison.

The help offered at the time of my release in February 2021 was really slim and the excuse was coronavirus. I didn’t get the support and guidance I required. I was told on the seventh week of my hostel stay that I was going to be leaving the following week. I was confused as my stay at the hostel was supposed to be 12 weeks long. The manager wasn’t there at the time, so I couldn’t raise the issue for a few days. Over the weekend, I was really stressed and found it hard to cope.

The manager decided to keep me there for the full 12 weeks. However, it’s not simple to find somewhere to move to as probation has to approve the address of all properties before you can move in. Housing benefit would cover between £250 and £300 per month of the rent, but it was impossible to find anything within that price range. There were some properties for around £500 a month, but when I contacted the estate agents they told me that because I’m unemployed and do not have a guarantor, they couldn’t rent to me.

I think this is a real problem. Somebody’s living space should not be viewed as a business opportunity. And if you do choose to make money that way, why would you turn away those people that want help? This is indicative of discrimination between the classes. The poor people have to live in a particular part of town, away from the rich people. And this means that everyone loses out – how can true community form when this is the case?

As I was unable to find an alternative, I was placed into a hotel after my 12 weeks in the hostel. A hotel is not a home. It is a roof over your head and nothing more. Other than a kettle, I had no means of cooking or preparing food, so inevitably I was living off Pot Noodles and takeaways. Once a month I would treat myself to an All You Can Eat Buffet and I would go straight for the fruit and vegetables to get some sort of nutrition.

 

I felt like my life was in someone else’s hands

While I was in the hotel, the council had to decide if I was “intentionally homeless”. If they decide you are intentionally homeless you have to fend for yourself, which basically means be on the streets. If they decide you are unintentionally homeless they have a duty of care to ensure you have somewhere to live.

They took some time to make the decision, which again placed me under stress. Eventually it was decided that I was unintentionally homeless and I moved from the hotel into supported accommodation. The flat I was placed in was classed as shared. There wasn’t nearly enough space for us there, which made things really difficult for me. The other occupant kept opening my bedroom door as well, sometimes as late as one in the morning. This made me feel really anxious and unsafe. Because I have autism it is important I develop routines that work for me, which I was unable to do with this living arrangement. I spoke to my doctor who recommended I live independently to allow me to find routines and to prevent me getting anxious about having to socially communicate with someone.

 

Finally things are heading in the right direction

After making a series of complaints, I was moved into a bedsit which I am fairly happy with regarding my own space and being able to develop routines. There have been some minor issues like the hob and fridge/freezer don’t work. It means whenever I buy ice cream, I have to eat it all in one go. I suppose the other option would be not to buy ice cream, but I wouldn’t want to hurt Ben and Jerry’s feelings.

The difficulty I have experienced in finding somewhere to live has really got me thinking about attitudes to housing more generally. Recently, I was talking to a woman who privately rents a flat in a block where some properties are owned by social housing. This means that some residents are only paying half of what she is for a similar property. I do understand her frustration, but it shows that the system is built so that people who require help are resented by those who don’t.

 

And I’m able to focus on what’s important to me

Now my life is moving forward. I always hoped that I could make art my career when I was released, but I imagined it would be a case of getting a job and slowly transitioning to self-employment. Still going to my appointments at the Job Centre while selling some pieces of art has helped me keep the safety net of benefits whilst testing out the self-employment stuff.

My work is now for sale on Prodigal Arts, along with artwork by other prisoners and ex-prisoners, and if you live in or near Chester, you can buy my art from Woodstock Vinyl Record Shop on Brook Street.

 

 

 

“At least under lockdown I had a roof over my head.”

This image shows a homeless guy who is longing for coronavirus and wants it to come back.

The homeless guy is represented by Charlie Chaplin’s “The Tramp” character. I think society just needs to pause and acknowledge that while coronavirus was undoubtedly a negative thing and devastated many lives, to some people it was actually a lifeline. The help that vulnerable people received during the pandemic is now being removed from them. The “wind” in this image that is taking it away is the government.

A goodbye message from Katy Haigh, Good Vibrations Executive Director

A goodbye message from Katy Haigh, Good Vibrations Executive Director

December 2021

This month I leave Good Vibrations after almost eight years as Executive Director. The experience has changed me. From never having set foot in a prison before, I am now passionate about social justice and criminal justice reform. I am determined to do more – through work, volunteering and how I live my life – to contribute to our society becoming one where people’s life chances are equal, whatever their start in life, and where we focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment or stigma.

What makes change happen? This is something I think about a lot. Some of our participants had been in prison multiple times, before they met us. Others had attempted suicide and had given up hope. Others had severe social anxieties and wouldn’t leave the house. Yet now they are living much more fulfilling lives, contributing positively to society, and have more self-belief and hope. What occurred in their lives to flick this switch? They say that being part of Good Vibrations was part of it – the fact we didn’t judge them, that we listened, that we were there for them long-term, that they felt valued by us.

But I’m interested in the wider combination of factors – the small steps they took at the time, the people that came into their lives, or even just the time being right – that worked together to generate a virtuous, rather than vicious, circle. And for stubborn parts of my own life and of the lives of people I care about – places where we are “stuck” – how can we recreate those perfect conditions for positive change? And to get humanity to work together to defeat the climate emergency – how can we make this happen before it’s too late? I don’t know the answers. But I’m fascinated by this problem, which is complex and nuanced.

This job has taught me that people pulling together and working towards a shared goal can affect great, lasting change, though. We mustn’t give up. Even though it’s sometimes exhausting, people persevering with caring and working for positive change, really does transform individuals’ lives for the better. We mustn’t give up. We are making a difference. Thank you to all our participants, to everyone in the team, and all our partners and supporters. You are the reason this can happen.

The experiences of some of our participants are harrowing. Working with them collaboratively and creatively on projects is a joy and a honour. It requires huge skill,  sensitivity and compassion from our facilitators. Juxtaposed against this is a need for fast-paced, practical, business-like approaches behind the scenes to resource and sustain the charity, and to enable more people to benefit from our work. Bridging this divide – and these two very different worlds – can be, tough. It can be hard to get it right all the time for everyone.

This last month has been a whirlwind of doing my best to try and leave everything organised for my wonderful colleagues, and my successor, Hekate Papadaki. People ask how I feel about leaving, but I’ve not had the time and space to answer that properly yet. I think in the New Year, when I’ve stopped working, it will sink in – eight years’ of happy memories, achievements, mistakes, realisations, and sheer hard work will come rushing back! I hope I will take some of what I’ve learnt and apply that elsewhere. I’m looking forward to new experiences and learning more. And I’m looking forward to more time and space to appreciate, and make the most of, good health and loved ones. Then I’m sure I’ll be ready for new adventures.

Good Vibrations shapes and alters so many peoples’ courses in life for the better – including mine. I am grateful and proud to have been a part of such a human, authentic, hard-working, compassionate organisation. Long may the magic last. Thank you to every one of you who believes in what we do, who makes our projects happen, and who gives time, energy, and money to keep the good vibrations alive.

 

 

 

My Good Vibrations experience and why it works

My Good Vibrations experience and why it works

November 2021

Author: Benjamin Yacoub, Talent Manager at Twisted Passion Ent

Entering prison with a lengthy sentence to some is the end of the world. Although many give up and get involved with the drug culture to escape the realities of prison, others use the prison like the streets, with the aim of becoming infamous. Although society is changing, people generally still focus on personal goals like securing the perfect career and a family. But being in prison makes achieving these goals impossible.

This is why a lot of mature prisoners focus solely on settling down post-release. They often use their time productively focusing on faith, reading, studying, or finding a business or a trade through vocational courses. They will also often use the facilities within the creative space to focus on music, arts, clothing or whatever it is that interests them.

For me, I used education to rewire my mind while in prison. Rigourous studying and academia kept my mind grounded. I also focussed on music. I managed to work in the prison studio: making beats, teaching others, mixing tracks, and recording music for other potential artists in the system.

Still, being in prison wasn’t easy. My state of mind had to be strong to withstand the mental levels of one who is struggling with the pain of imprisonment and has yet to accept what they have done. And being released, too, comes with multiple tests of faith, trust and temptations. The anticipation of release can seriously affect one’s mental health. Without a strong support network, ex-prisoners tend to fall back on their old ways and look to criminality for support.

Now, parts of the voluntary sector are very astute to the struggles prisoners endure and make it a priority to support those needs. Through my experience with the Irene Taylor Trust I have got insight into the voluntary and charitable sector. As well as working with the Irene Taylor Trust, I have worked on scores of projects including the Philharmonic Orchestra, Lewisham YOI, The Prince’s Trust and with other organisations including Good Vibrations since my release.

Taking part in a Good Vibrations community project was interesting as I had referenced their projects in my postgraduate dissertation, without ever experiencing one myself. In my dissertation I spoke positively about its outcomes as my research question focussed on whether character building through prison music interventions has an impact on recidivism.

I quote from my dissertation…

“The Good Vibrations Gamelan in Prisons Project aims to inspire and empower people through creative involvement in music making and open communication. Similar to the Irene Taylor Trust, the project enthused effective-practice methods in twenty-four secure institutions in the UK, including young offenders’ institutions and secure hospitals (Wilson, 2009). Although the interventions have had a profound impact towards developing positive attitudes on inmates (Wilson, 2009), researchers needed to define whether there was any long-term financial impact of such projects. Therefore, a study was used to measure the long-term psychological, behavioural, motivational and pro-social effects on participants during the remainder of their sentence and post-release. Focusing on these cognitive functions helped the practitioners to assess whether inmates were engaging with the project, the practitioners and prison staff, and whether the intervention was successful in supporting inmates coping with life in prison and post-release. The findings not only found a positive impact on psychological, emotional and behavioural traits during the prison setting. But also suggest that months after the project, prisoners experienced more positive outcomes in dealing with decision making, rational behaviour and personal problems during the remainder of their sentence and six months post-release from incarceration (Wilson, 2008).”

For my own interest, I wanted to understand whether music interventions are only appealing to people in a less fortunate position or who have little resources, such as those in prison. Therefore, I brought someone to the Good Vibrations community project who had never been in prison before, to examine their interaction and engagement with the project and what impact it had for them. The person I invited is a friend of mine, Pav, who has never been in prison nor had any contact with the criminal justice system.

His feedback was interesting…

“On this project I felt open minded. When it comes to the music part, I am not usually good with instruments. However I felt motivated to give it a go. This also helped me realise that music can help me release a lot of stress.

“I would love to take part in this project again if I get another opportunity as it also helped me control my awkwardness around people. This felt really therapeutic as it made me realise how little things in life can make a lot of difference. In the intervention you are surrounded by strangers at the beginning, but the way everyone had different music sense and different backgrounds, everyone had their unique experiences, and we ended up leaving there like we’d been friends for a while.

“I would recommend this to anyone that deals with a lot of stress or can’t keep a clear head. I felt as if I developed a different perspective in life which will help me moving forwards.”

I can confidently agree with Pav on how the project worked well with people from different backgrounds. You could feel the excitement from others just from the atmosphere in the room. As soon as we chose our instruments everyone got into the vibe instantly.

I felt in synchronisation with others in the group, especially towards the sound and tempo, and demonstrating leadership by having the opportunity to stand up and conduct the group. It felt like creating a mini orchestra with a crew taking commands solely by following my hand signals.

As it’s all happening live, you have the ability to freestyle and change how you want sounds to fall in synchronisation. In addition, the facilitator explained the key points in the easiest way for everyone to replicate. One participant got right into the zone as he was conducting which brought a lot of fun and laughter.

As Pav said, the energy and the whole session was high spirited and positive. It felt life changing in that moment and it took my mind away from any negative thoughts outside of the music. I would certainly recommend it for rehabilitation of the mind. Also, reflecting on it months after taking part, I can feel how much an intervention like this is needed towards replenishing moods and vibrations. The energy outside of projects like these can be overwhelming.

I also would like to thank all the participants and staff involved in the project. It was a tough time and the invitation allowed me to participate with an open-minded, diverse crowd of people who appreciate music and peace. It was also great to finally participate in a Good Vibrations gamelan project after writing about it in my thesis. I look forward to projects in the future.

 

Benjamin Yacoub
Twisted Passion Enterprise

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Consultant wanted to help us deliver our Diversity and Inclusion Plan

Consultant wanted to help us deliver our Diversity and Inclusion Plan

November 2021

Good Vibrations charity wants to become a more diverse and inclusive organisation. Together with our participants and partners, we have created a Diversity and Inclusion Plan to work towards this. We are looking for a consultant to support us with this work, e.g. by advising us on how we:

  • Create supported progression opportunities for participants through traineeships
  • Ensure lived experience further shapes our work through a Board Buddy Scheme
  • Reach and attract more diverse job applicants
  • Deliver a Creatively Minded Ethnically Diverse Baring Foundation project

If you are interested in being considered for this work, visit good-vibrations.org.uk to find out more about what we do. Then email katy@good-vibrations.org.uk by 3 December briefly setting out your relevant experience and indicating the day rate you would charge. We envisage this work lasting 3-6 days between December and February. You can be located anywhere in the UK. We are looking for someone with significant experience in diversity generally, but specifically with expertise in relation to disability, mental health and race.

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.”

From prison art to lockdown art to…

From prison art to lockdown art to…

Author and artist Ruinbow writes for Good Vibrations about how he got into art while in prison, his experience of being an art mentor, and his drive to make art accessible for all.

 

I did not take to art easily, I found it really boring and a bit pretentious. I thought most of it was just crap. I did not like the tutor in prison. She just wanted me to do colour wheels and draw pictures of apples, none of which interested me.

I was sitting in my cell one evening and my cellmate was watching something on TV. I was flicking through a magazine and I thought, “I could draw that,” I picked up a pencil and started drawing on some scrap paper. I was really happy with the results at the time.

On reflection, the artwork is not that good but it is the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that drove me forward.
I kept questioning my ability at every stage with the desire to become better. I focused mainly on portraits and people approached me on the wing to draw for them in return for chocolate and shower gels (prison currency).

I became an art mentor in prison, working under the tutor that I didn’t take to, after being a maths and English mentor for education. I had already established myself as a trusted prisoner (not an oxymoron) within this role. The art tutor liked my work and knew that I could guide other people in the right direction. My favourite type of person was those who said they could not draw or do art. I just had to help them become confident with drawing. I never did any demonstrations for them but I gave them advice. I told them, you are just worried that what you draw does not look good or right, but when you were a kid, you probably didn’t even think about ability. You just drew!

I taught them to draw a circle using just words. I gave them a piece of paper, pencil and rubber. I said, “draw a circle” and they started to draw, some took their time and had a shaky line and some created an egg shaped blob. I asked them, “is that a circle?” and they replied “no”, so I gave them the option to correct it and every time they would rub out what they had drawn and tried again. I told them not to do that, never ever to do that. I explained what they have on the paper is not far off from being a circle and if they keep rubbing it out and starting again, they will keep on making the same mistakes. I told them to use what they have done as a guide and to imagine a clock 12, 3, 6, and 9. So split the circle into quarters. Ask yourself questions. What is wrong with that part of the circle? How can I make it better? I instructed them to draw a correct line over the wrong line (or a better line) and only when the better line is down on the paper, then and only then can you rub out the wrong line. I sort of became like a driving instructor, I just told them what to do and they were really happy with their results

They kept asking to see my work and they wanted me to draw for them as well so this gave me a regular source of income (the chocolate and shower gels). Being the art mentor also gave me a status of being the guy to go to for drawings. At first, I was charging £3 for an A4 piece and £5 for an A3 piece but as I became more popular I started to charge £25 for anything. I read loads of books on technique and I learned about a lot of artists in prison.

 

One day I noticed Koestler Awards advertised in the prison and I decided to enter. The drawing below won a First Time Entrant Award, Bronze Award, Highly Commended and this year my artwork was selected for exhibition.

 

 

 

The money that I received from Koestler I have invested in art materials.

I have recently been diagnosed with autism and there are several traits that support my passion for art. I have good attention to detail and I became obsessed with art, just wanting to know everything about everything.

Recently, I have been working on an idea that came to me from the pandemic. I noticed rainbows everywhere and this became a symbol of gratitude and hope. I thought because this was plastered everywhere on TV, in people’s houses and in shops, people will just associate these colours and the rainbow with the pandemic in the future, therefore they will be ruined.

I watched a documentary a couple of months ago about Banksy and I have seen how he works and creates his images. I started to do the same but appropriated the images with rainbows. I call these ruinbows. Before watching the documentary, I had the idea but the style was more of a multicoloured line drawing, starting with the lightest colour, and working to a darker colour building it up to a more accurate representation.

As I have recently left prison I am homeless myself, but I do have a roof over my head so I am in a better position than those sleeping rough. That is why I have decided to give away signed prints of my work to homeless people, so they can display and sell the work if they want to. It annoys me when people just walk past the homeless like their lives are so much more important than the insignificant people in shop doorways.

Why don’t people stop and talk to them, say hello, perhaps give them a little bit of money, and so what if they were to buy fags and booze with the money? I’m on benefits and I try to give a pound a week away to the homeless. I don’t think anyone should be homeless.

What I’m working on now

This piece didn’t take me too long to complete but it is for all of those people out there who make the excuse, “I cannot draw, I can only draw stick men” that they can still create recognisable works of art and it is what they do with those stickmen to create artwork.

 

 

 

This piece is again trying to urge those people who say they can only draw stick men to just give art a try. The fact you can only draw stick men is not a reason not to draw with them. People care too much about what they think an image is supposed to look like and because they can’t replicate that, they give up.

 

 

 

 

 

This piece took me two days to complete and it was really therapeutic. I was definitely in the moment with it and I couldn’t focus on anything else. I did not worry about any of life’s problems when creating it. This piece is not yet finished as I need to place the rainbow on it but you can see the process on how these pieces work. It took me a while to draw and create the black and white image, but I have now created stencils to make it easier to reproduce the image over and over again. There are 2 stencils that make up the image, a silhouette of the whole thing, all sprayed white. Then a flimsy little stencil to cover up the white parts and this is overlaid then sprayed black. The stencils are made out of cereal boxes as they are cheap material to work with. I want people to understand that making art does not need to be expensive.

 

 

 

I did this sketch on the way to Liverpool on the bus. Outside the window is just a road but on the sketchpad is the Mersey tunnel. I had a lot more time drawing the inside of the bus and the sketchpad with hands but in the tunnel was time limited. I had to work really quickly and decide which part of the tunnel to draw because there is a lot of turns and ups and downs in the tunnel. I got down most of the information on the first time through but completed it on the way back.

 

My artwork has definitely developed since I was released from prison in February because I now have immediate access to materials and can look at other artwork in galleries and online. I’m looking forward to seeing where my art takes me in the future.
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Photography by Toby Madden/The Independent, Osman Deen/South London Press, Camilla Panufnik, Elspeth Van Der Hole, GDA Design, Gigi Chiying Lam, G. Bland, Alan Bryden, Mark Carlin, Rachel Cherry, Francois Boutemy, Andy Hollingworth, Rebaz Yassin, and Guy Smallman.

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