Health and wellbeing

Funding level: £1,001 to £5,000


Fèis Rois is working in partnership with HMP Inverness to develop a programme of high quality music making activity for offenders. The project aims to enable individuals in custody to develop their music making skills as well as their skills for life, learning and work. We started the project in April this year with the support of Creative Scotland, having never worked within a prison before, and are now applying to the Aviva Community Fund to enable us to continue to develop this work into 2018.

Fèis Rois has an excellent reputation as a provider of traditional arts education in Scotland. For over 30 years we have engaged young musicians and lifelong learners in music, Gaelic language, Highland culture and performance opportunities locally, nationally and internationally. HMP Inverness serves courts in the Highlands, Islands and Moray - a large and diverse catchment area embracing rural and urban communities. It has a design capacity of 103 but currently an average population of 117.

The format of delivery has varied from week-long residencies to more regular weekly sessions. We have engaged men from all three of the prisons population to date; remand, convicted and protected. Activity content has included one to one and group work sessions across a range of instruments including keyboard, ukulele, guitar and accordion and has embedded electronic music making and sound recording too. During our last block of delivery, our great team of musicians worked with offenders to create and record a traditional-electronic track. We have also coordinated two gigs which have taken place within the prison to encourage participation and expose external organisations to our work. Opening up the floor for questions at the last gig, one offender replied instantly, 'When are you doing this again?!'

Our team of musicians are Monica Neeling, Dave Martin, Amy Henderson, Liam Ross and Findlay Napier. Each has extensive experience in working with communities, from early years to established players and between them cover opportunities in song writing, tuition and content production. We want to work alongside the same team in 2018, not only for consistency, but because they are the appropriately skilled professionals needed for a project that demands adaptability and creativity in approach.

The ultimate aim is for Fèis Rois to become a regular service provider within HMP Inverness, with this activity accounted for within our own core programme and embedded within the SPS Inverness annual learning plans. We are working with the national learning team within SPS to see how we can work with Fife College to align our delivery, contributing to the requirements of formal qualifications, so those who engage with our activities increase their numeracy and literacy through music making. This will be a tangible outcome for participants alongside softer outcomes of increased confidence, empowerment and sense of achievement.

We are also very keen to share our learning nationally and internationally. We have become members of the Scottish Prison Arts Network and are looking to collaborate on the creation of new continued professional development for staff within prisons. We have also connected with Carnegie Hall in New York and are in the early stages of exploring the possibilities of a letter based exchange between programme participants, the aim being to widen perspectives and learn about different cultures whilst strengthening written communication skills.

As can be appreciated, working with the Scottish Prison Service has its challenges but every time we try something new, we learn and are able to adapt our approach to suit. We aspire to build on our relationship so we can take music making opportunities into a new environment on a long term basis, creating a stimulating learning experience for offenders, whilst widening our own audiences.

Fèis Rois

Moment of Pride

I am proud that Fèis Rois is committed to growing a sustainable partnership with HMP Inverness for the benefit of those in custody. I am also proud of SPS for trying a new way of working. Most of all, I am forever proud of our resilient delivering musicians & those brave enough to participate.

Location: Highland, United Kingdom