An Evening with Evelyn Glennie – HMP Askham Grange

An Evening with Evelyn Glennie
 by Anon, resident at HMP Askham Grange

 When I arrived in the ballroom, I saw a large amount of different instruments and I instantly thought, “this is going to be good!”

The room fell silent and suddenly Evelyn began to play the snare drum. As she played the tempo began to change and you could feel the whole room vibrate from the intensity of her playing. The audience was in rapture at her playing, and, we all wanted more!

Evelyn went on to encourage us to take part in trying the various instruments and we were so surprised by the sounds they made and how each one vibrated in different ways.

The whole experience was totally amazing and has resulted in me listening to all the sounds I hear around me each day.

The event was so successful in many ways. A lot more ladies attended than usual and have fed back to say that it made them think, it made them take time to stop and listen and write down their thoughts. They have also requested music books to be available in the library to read and the staff and some of the ladies are hoping to start up a music group, we have asked for a room where instruments and sound making equipment will be available for us to use.  To me, literacy is such a broad subject and there are so many ways we can encourage people to enjoy reading.  I cannot read music but I can follow the chords if I can hear the music being played.
By a participant from HMP Askham Grange (written June 2024)


Further information:

We recently welcomed world famous percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie into the female populated HMP Askham Grange in York as part of the National Literacy Trust’s work to provide innovative literacy enrichment opportunities in prisons across the country, funded by the Ministry of Justice.

Negative experiences of formal learning, exclusion from school and low levels of literacy are common themes among people in prison. To help individuals re-engage with learning and literacy, each month we welcome writers, artists, poets and performers into the prison to encourage new, fun and accessible ways to engage women in reading, writing and storytelling.

Evelyn delivered a captivating session for twelve women, where she demonstrated the power of music to communicate meaning, spark conversation, evoke emotion and inspire reflection.

Evelyn started the session by performing a piece on the snare drum, showing the various dynamics which could be created. This ended in a round of applause and the group knew they were in for a treat!

Our session was very organic with discussions around how we communicate and how word choice, speed and delivery can have a bearing on the consequences of how what we say is interpreted. We learned how to create a presence through silence, and we discussed the value of positive communication.

We created a sea of emotive descriptions, illustrating our reactions to the percussive sounds we were hearing. The vocabulary explored was intense and we celebrated what rich communicators we had in our audience.

The evening welcomed so many new faces to the project. We had tried a new innovative way to encourage even more women to attend our sessions, particularly those who might not necessarily identify as readers.

Our project aims to support women in placing value on their own stories and to attend more educational opportunities in their setting, outside of the prison’s formal education offer. We are pleased to share that the women agreed that Evelyn’s visit had encouraged this.

We asked the group, “What did you like best?”

One participant said: “The interaction with the instruments and finding out about the sounds they make. I like it because there were different musical sounds coming out of every day and unusual items. It was very relaxing and educational. I would like more sessions like this. It was very informative, would love to hear more of her work. I liked joining in”.
Rebecca Rowan, Project Manager, Criminal Justice, National Literacy Trust (written June 2024)

Being in the company of the great Evelyn Glennie today in a woman’s prison was a transformative experience. The way her kindness worked in making people get involved in something completely alien to them was astonishing. For those people to touch a musical instrument, then explore its sound and then finally to collectively submit and connect to the power of making music left everyone in tears. I’ve never witnessed anything like that.
Ralph Dartford, Project Manager, Criminal Justice, National Literacy Trust (written May 2024)

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