HMP Featherstone Men’s Prison, Wolverhampton (Dec 2017)

Photos by Maria Farrelly and Felix Cannadam

Deborah runs six day workshops for prisoners teaching the ’Spirit of Songwriting’. The classes examine the art of writing songs, how to channel creativity, finding your own unique voice, the inspiration of poetry, matching melody to words, collaboration and live recording with a sound engineer. With a strong emphasis on spiritual healing, the courses allow those taking part to explore their emotions through artistic expression in a safe, nurturing and stimulating environment. The aim is to help build self esteem and confidence, and with prisoners to express their own stories, and continue their rehabilitation and transformation process through song and creative writing. Working with both men and women there is a choice of live recording or sound healing, focusing on mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation, with a qualified Sound Therapist. Deborah brings in professional guest musicians and speakers, and tailor makes each course specifically to group and individual needs. The courses focus on the healing power of music, and how songwriting can be used in recovery, and for wellbeing and personal development.

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With an MA in Songwriting, an English Literature MA and a Journalism Degree, alongside 20 years experience as a singer-songwriter, guitarist, and recording artist Deborah has always been interested in music as a healing force. She regularly sings for those suffering with dementia and alzhiemers and for those at the end of their lives in hospice care. Deborah has worked with children with disabilities, in a remote bush village in Uganda with women and children, and in homeless shelters. Deborah said “I’ve had an interest in working in prisons for a long time, and saw that there was a demand for songwriting and spiritual aid in prisons, as well as academic learning and formal programmes of education. I believe that bringing music into forgotten and dark places in our society, can bring about huge change, helping to alleviate trauma and depression. The work felt very much like a calling to me, and I was inspired to take songwriting into prisons to help others tell their story and become empowered through writing songs. I ran my first course in prison in December 2017 and have since been made Songwriter in Residence at Featherstone HMP. It’s been the most fulfilling and transformative part of my career so far.”

HMP Drake Hall Women’s Prison, Staffordshire (April 2018)

‘Out of Darkness Comes Light’

Album written and recorded live at Featherstone Prison – Work in Progress

Feedback from Participants:

“This course has been life changing. Songwriting is something I’ll do for the rest of my life now, even if its just for myself”
James Fuller, Featherstone

“This is the first time we’ve felt love and goodness since we’ve been inside”
Jo, Drake Hall

“Prison is a dark place, but with the right support we can make the change. Doing this course shows true strength.”
Fitz, Featherstone.

“ My confidence has hit the roof. I can write songs. I have written a song!”
Charmaine, Drake Hall

“Its the best thing I’ve done in prison. Its brought us all together and broken down barriers between prisoners and prison guards.”
Anthony, Featherstone

The workshop was such a great blessing to all!
Denise Rankin, Parish Minister & CEO Warring Women, Louisiana, USA

I wrote my first poem in your workshop. It was no accident you came to Baton Rouge!
Donald Goree, Prison Minister, Louisiana, USA