Chief Inspector of Prisons speech focusing on central role of education in prisons, using Good Vibrations as good example

Nick Hardwick, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons (and former trustee of Good Vibrations) gave the Prison Education Trust Annual Speech on 18 October.  His wide-ranging speech included looking at his experiences in the role, describing what has most shocked and surprised him in his first year as Chief Inspector.  

His overall message was the absolutely crucial role that education plays in the rehabilitation of offenders.  He believes that prisons’ and policy makers’ aspirations are far too low at present.  Education needs to be at the centre of a prison’s task rather than seen as a luxury add-on.  

Nick listed 10 things that he wants to see to bring education into the heart of prison life, including “arts projects that encourage prisoners to work collaboratively, to apply themselves to a task and increase their insight”.  He talked about Good VIbrations as a great example of what arts projects can achieve – including mentioning that he was initially a sceptic of our work, as “sitting on the floor drumming – not my thing at all” but that we confounded his expectations!

Big Lottery Fund, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and Musicians’ Company all supporting our work

Brilliant news from the Big Lottery Fund, the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and the Worshipful Company of Musicians, all of whom have decided to support our work.  The Big Lottery Fund has agreed a five-year grant of up to £40,000 a year.  The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation has pledged £20,000 a year for three years towards our projects and our advocacy work promoting arts in criminal justice.  The Musicians’ Company (established in 1500, it’s one of the oldest City Livery Companies and the world’s oldest musicians’ union) has decided to support us once again with a £1,500 towards our work with young offenders.  The Company is a longstanding supporter of Good Vibrations and we are really proud that they have chosen to give a substantial proportion of their charitable fund to us.  

Some typical feedback from a Good Vibrations group…

Some great feedback from the Good Vibrations group at Dovegate Prison last week, a good summary of what Good Vibrations is all about….

‎”I’ve learnt not to give up at the first hurdle.” 
“[I’ve learnt that] life is what you make it – you can choose to enjoy things or not. That helps you on the out – I know I’m going to have the crappest job going, with a criminal record… Got to start somewhere and it’s what you make of it” 

“Learnt about being part of a team.  There are very few things you can do in prison that give you the chance to work in a team, and now we can”

“It’s been about developing social skills – interacting, accommodating people and their strengths and weaknesses”

“Made me more tolerant, able to see other’s point of view” 

“It’ll help me when talking with my kids and to give them support. Before, if they’d had problems at school I might have blamed the teacher or not bothered. Now I can talk to them about keeping going and finding your own inner peace” 

“I feel really proud of what I’ve done. I was so nervous [about performing today]. I’ve never performed or played an instrument before. {I’ve learnt] I can do anything if I put my mind to it” 

“Good stress reliever – you can bang on these things rather than someone’s jaw”

Arts Council England award grant to Good Vibrations

Great news! we’ve been awarded a grant of up to £70,000 from Arts Council England towards our work programme over the next two years.  In an environment of severe funding cutbacks this is fabulous news and reflects the Arts Council’s belief in the value of our work.  We look forward to using the grant to bring Good Vibrations to even more prisoners, secure hospital patients, ex-prisoners and others.  Thank you, Arts Council England!!! – Cathy, 6 April 2011

Our response to the Ministry of Justice’s Green Paper “Breaking the Cycle”

Last week we submitted our response to the MoJ’s Green Paper on the future of prison rehabilitation.  Good Vibrations welcomes the Green Paper and its clear intention to focus on effective ways of rehabiltating prisoners and therefore bring down the huge costs to society of repeat offending.  However, we are concerned that current budget cuts, and the resulting prison staffing cuts and lack of resources to book and host projects like ours, may threaten the existence of many small, niche providers of effective projects – the very projects that will be needed to realise the MoJ’s vision.  We are also concerned that as the MoJ develops its plans and processes it does not exclude small providers like Good Vibrations, but on the contrary facilitates them and ensures their inclusion.  Read our full response here.  – Cathy, 8 March 2011

Article about Good Vibrations and women prisoners

October 2010: There’s an article by Laura Caulfield and Professor David Wilson from Birmingham City University in the current Journal of Social Criminology about the impact of Good VIbrations on women prisoners.  Having interviewed women prisoners and prison staff shortly after a Good Vibrations project, they conclude that:

“The project clearly had an impact on these women, providing short-term improvements in coping ability and emotional issues – issues that are particularly significant for women in prison, and statistically associated with risk of reoffending for women. Furthermore, the findings suggest the project may have a positive impact upon women’s levels of self-harming behaviour”  

Although this research was only short-term, the researchers’ view is that:

“Against a background of emerging evidence of the positive impact of arts based project with men in prison, the findings presented here suggest that this project has the potential to have a long-lasting positive effect on women offenders’ attitudes and behaviour and improve coping skills”

First Good Vibrations annual report and accounts

We’ve just signed off our first annual report & accounts since we set up as an independent charity in April 2009. As well as providing the information required by the Charity Commission, we have taken the opportunity to describe the rationale for our work and the outcomes we deliver, provide an account of our achievements over the year, and outline our future plans.

2009/10 was a successful and eventful year for Good Vibrations:

– we ran 26 Good Vibrations courses hosted by 19 institutions (16 prisons, 1 special hospital, 1 probation area and 1 other community setting), benefiting 438 people in all.

– we ran a successful pilot within London Probation’s hostels for high-risk male offenders.

– we worked for the first time with young people in the community, running gamelan courses for two groups of ‘NEET’ (not in education, employment and training) young people undertaking a 13 week employability skills course.

– our on-going efforts to gather evidence of the effectiveness of our work were rewarded in December 2009 when our one week gamelan courses were awarded “approved intervention” status by NOMS’s (National Offender Management Service) Directorate of High Security Prisons. This means that Good Vibrations is now officially recognised as an effective tool for high security prisons in their efforts to reduce reoffending.

2009/2010 was a challenging year for many organisations delivering arts projects in prisons, including Good Vibrations, owing to the Prison Service Instruction (PSI) on “acceptable interventions” issued by the then-Secretary of State for Justice in response to negative tabloid coverage. This PSI had the effect of discouraging some prisons from hosting arts projects and also dramatically increased the amount of bureaucracy faced by both host prisons and arts organisations. Good Vibrations submitted evidence to Ministry of Justice on the impact of the PSI on our work and on other arts organisations. A revised PSI, issued in Summer 2010, is much more positive.

We have deliberately gone for a no-frills, un-glossy report, to save money, focusing instead on providing useful and interesting content. To download the report and accounts, please click here.


16 June 2010: New research report concludes that Good Vibrations can help rehabilitate prisoners

A team of researchers from Birmingham City University’s Department for Applied Criminology are publishing a report tomorrow, called Continuing Positive Change, which looks at the long-term impact on Good Vibrations participants.  They have found long-term and positive impacts on prisoners social, emotional and mental wellbeing, and clear links to rehabilitation:

  • Good Vibrations gamelan projects significantly reduce anger levels and improve communication skills and levels of engagement with further education and training
  • The impact of projects has long-term positive effects, even post-release
  • The report highlights the potential for arts-based programmes and more traditional programmes in prisons to complement each other

The research investigated the long-term impact of Good Vibrations on individual prisoners who had completed a Good Vibrations project at least 12 months previously in a number of general prison settings for men and women, as well as at HMP Grendon – which operates as a therapeutic community.  The prisoners were assessed for any possible changes in their emotions and behaviour, based on an emotional scale developed by the research team.  Among various findings, there was clear evidence that the project had strongly helped to improve prison staff/inmate relationships as well as helping to reduce prisoners’ anger levels and increase their openness to wider scopes of learning through improved confidence, enhanced listening and communication skills, tolerance and levels of self-expression.  These results indicate that Good VIbrations courses act as a catalyst for change in the lives of offenders, whether in prison or in the community.

If you’d like to read the full report, please email