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Irene Taylor TrustMusic in Prisons

The Irene Taylor Trust (ITT) delivers creative music projects working with NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) young people, former prisoners and people of all ages in prison to develop confidence, transferable skills and raised aspirations for the future, supporting people to change their lives for the better.

The aim of each project is to support individuals who rarely get the chance to engage in the arts, to form a band and generate their own original and innovative music.

Irene Taylor Trust

Irene Taylor Trust © Lizzie Coombes

Irene Taylor Trust

Irene Taylor Trust © Lizzie Coombes

Target Beneficiaries

The target beneficiaries for Music in Prisons projects are men, women and young people in prisons. They are identified and selected by prison staff.

The project aims to improve:

  • well-being: including autonomy, humanity, self-confidence, self-efficacy and competency
  • relationships: with other prisoners, prison staff, and with friends and family outside of prison
  • learning: including literacy and communication; workplace, management skills and behaviour; and to become more actively involved in other learning and skills projects in prison
  • behaviour: within the prison, particularly disciplinary issues


A typical Music in Prisons intensive project lasts for 5 days, with two three-hour sessions each day, culminating at the end of the week in a performance to an audience of prisoners, staff and outside guests. The songs created are professionally recorded and CDs are given to the participants to share with friends and family. The structure of projects is responsive to different group’s experiences, abilities and needs. Projects are delivered by the Trust’s core project team who are skilled professional musicians from a variety of backgrounds.

The intensive projects are complemented and sustained by on-going musician in residence placements in key prisons. Currently ITT has eight musicians in residence delivering weekly sessions.

Highlights and successes:

  • Songbook ‘Beyond the Secret Door’ won the BPI Composers Award in 2003
  • Commissioned for the PRS New Music 20×12 programme as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad
  • Won a 2013 Royal Society of Public Health Arts & Health Award
  • Founding steering group member of the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance


Participant Feedback (2007/8)

A research paper by the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, evaluating several Music in Prisons projects from 2007 to 2008 found the following impact on participants:





  • statistically significant increase in participants’ feelings of hope for the future
  • of the 11% who had adjudications in the three months prior to the project starting, none received any adjudications during the project or the following 3 months
  • helped individuals to build and maintain positive relationships with their families and other individuals both inside and outside of prison
  • impacted positively on individuals’ thinking and emotions
  • facilitated the development of participants’ individual competencies and self-esteem with implications for behaviour in prisons in the short term but also improved outcomes once released from prison

In 2018-19, Music in Prisons projects reached 460 participants and 1489 audience members.

Feedback from prison staff (2018/19)





Project evaluations


Projects like this fill the chasm that is in the prison system and give you back a little bit of your dignity and humanity

Project participant

Of all the men who took part, the most significant change was in ‘x’. Before, I used to spend most of my time fighting him on the wings, but he really turned a corner after the project. He did have lots of adjudications in the past, but none after the project. I was also wing governor for ‘y’ and ‘z’. Both of them were quite notorious gang members, but they both changed after the project. All three of them really turned a corner. I was so impressed. I put a comment on their wing records.

Prison Officer


Arts Council England, PRS Foundation, Henry Smith Charity and individual donors.