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Mike’s story

I never imagined my mental health would lead me to be incarcerated, but that’s the hand I was dealt. It was there that I first encountered Good Vibrations. I saw the poster and signed up straight away not really knowing what I’d experience. At this point I saw it simply as an excuse to get out of my cell and do something different to break up the monotonous prison life.

Even though I’d been an avid music collector with an ear for world music, I knew nothing of gamelan. The array of different instruments was impressive and I felt spoilt for choice as to which one I’d like to try first. I didn’t play any musical instruments but had dabbled in digital music production so had an understanding of rhythm and structure, which helped.

I had very little experience of working together as a collective of musicians – this was a challenge but also a blessing. One thing prison does is knock your confidence and mine was at an all-time low. The gamelan sessions helped raise this again in a whole new experience from conducting and working as a team to (frighteningly) doing a solo piece. The music was very hypnotic and meditative and sat nicely with my new found faith in Buddhism. Completion of the course gave me a real sense of achievement. Just what you need when you feel like you are losing at life.

Prior to prison I was an arts workshop facilitator for 25 years and I remember thinking in those sessions ‘I’d love to do this job’. Fast forward a handful of years and here I am volunteering with Good Vibrations in the community with the hope to learn more and possibly become a facilitator myself, helping others like it helped me.

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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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