Vox Liminis x EEFS

This month we collaborated with East End First Saturdays (EEFS) for the first time. Set up by our friends over in Many Studios, EEFS is a new initiative that encourages folks to get down to the east end on market day to explore what’s on offer, from food and music to art and design.

October was our first time joining in the fun, on what turned out to be a gorgeous, sun-drenched Saturday. We ran a relaxed open mic, with musicians that we work with (professionals and keen amateurs alike) playing songs from Distant Voices, Unbound and In Tune. It was totally family friendly, with kids joining in, playing bells and singing along. Maybe best of all, plenty of people of all ages wandered in off the street to learn more about what we do, and play us tunes of their own. A big thank you to everyone who turned up and made it such a success.

What else is on offer?

EEFS has a wide range of things going on each month. If you’re into your food, there’s always something on the go between BAaD, McCune Smith and the Ross St Market. For the art-lovers among you, our ace neighbours at Wild & Kind open their studio to a different artist each month, then you’ve got exhibitions at the Pipe Factory, Glasgow Women’s Library and Market Gallery on top of that. Best of all you’ve got the buried treasure tucked away in the Barras itself. Being based on the street in this part of town is great – we’re loving playing a role in the cultural life of the east end.

For more info on what’s coming up at the next EEFS, go HERE

We enjoyed it so much we’re doing it all over again. Swing by between 12:30 and 4 PM at 217 Gallowgate to catchup over coffee and music:



We’ll have the guitars and keyboards out and ready, in case you fancy pitching in…..!

Spotlight on In Tune

When a parent is sent to prison, it can throw family life upside down. It is often said that ‘the family serves a sentence of their own’. Young children are told stories about why they have to go on a road trip to see their mum/dad; older children face stigma and prejudice if they talk about it; one parent is left shouldering the burden of parenthood alone, and the other is separated from their loved ones.

With In Tune we work to create a space (in a prison setting) where parents can be parents and children can be children, despite this huge disruption to family life. In Tune has been running since 2014, perhaps more in the background than some of our other projects like KIN and Distant Voices. Thanks to funding from Children In Need and Cattanach Trust we’ve been able to develop the In Tune model this year, working in more prisons and in more diverse ways than ever.

What does In Tune look like?

Good question! The short answer is ‘that depends’…

In our Family Music Making Sessions we bring together multiple families at the same time. We try to strike the right balance, giving folks the time to catch up and enjoy being around each other, before leading a wide range of music and rhythm based games and activities. Parents are encouraged to help their children engage, families take the lead in activities and most of all, we try to make it easy for everyone to enjoy themselves!

We’ve recently run our first Early Years Family sessions. This is a new twist on In Tune, for families with children under 3. In one week we might make bug shakers, or family trees and do group sing-alongs, before families split off to write nursery rhymes of their own.

And finally, we work with imprisoned parents to write songs, nursery rhymes and lullabies with their children in mind. This follows a similar format to a Vox Session, but with a real focus on the family. This has yielded some beautiful and important songs for our participants.

“I think it’s really meaningful, it’s nice for your children because obviously when they’re older they can say “Ma Da actually made an effort, he went out his way and worked with people to make a song for me”.  Hopefully it’ll make your kid feel loved.” Dad

Family Trees

What do people get out of it?

With parenting, it’s often the little things that can feel the most important. In one session, it could be the joy that dad feels to sing along with his daughter, or laugh with her as she plays the glockenspiel. It could be taking time out to read a book together, in a laid back environment. It might be Gran getting a break, having been the primary caregiver, and letting mum take over. Repeatedly we see parents grow in confidence and consideration, as they get to help their children out with wee tasks, and get the chance to do things together.

The balance of having space to do your own thing, but also activities to join in with works well. One family drove all the a long way from home to prison every time In Tune was on. Mum said:

‘It’s all been really great! I think there should definitely be stuff like this more often. I enjoyed doing something with him that’s a bit more hands on. When you’re in here you feel like you’ve not really got anything, but it brings you closer together. We’re all bonded more than usual.’

A number of families grouped together to write us a thank you card recently. One of the messages said:

 Thankyou so much for pulling us closer as a family we’ve loved every minute of and it and sorry to see you go. Hopefully we get to do something with yous again soon.

In Tune continues to be an important focus of our work, underpinned by an understanding that positive and strong relationships are critical for families when mum or dad comes home from prison. It’s a great privilege for us to play a small role in that, by making space for families to make music and memories together.


UNBOUND: Where the Wild Things Are

For those of you who don’t know, UNBOUND is our Tuesday night creative community, made up of people who we’ve worked with either inside or outside of prison, from a range of different backgrounds, or folks from the local area who are just curious about what we do. Every week we get together, share a meal and then make some art or music. Or just play table tennis!

Now that we’re happily settled into our new home in the Barras, we thought we’d share a few photos and a song with you, to give you a sense of what we’ve been up to over the last few weeks! jumping off from the theme of ‘Wild Lives’, we’ve worked together to make some inspiring new things.

Sandy cooking up a storm!

‘Island of Dreams’ was a collaboration between Graeme Strachan, Fergus McNeill, Heather Irvine and Hannah Graham.

Of the writing process, Fergus said:

‘Graeme wrote all the words: I just helped shape the metre to work with the tune. In terms of the music, we talked about a few styles and Graeme settled on folk — hence the DADGAD tuning — not quite sure where the tune came from, except that it was inspired by the determination and dignity represented in the words, which gives it the slightly anthemic feel (I think). Initially, we worked on the tune together — and once I had worked it up a bit — we asked the others for help with the arrangement.

Listen in below:


Unbound has often been a space for making art and other bits and pieces as well as music. Recently, we teamed up with Charlotte Duffy from the wonderful ‘Waste of Paint’ productions.

Equipped with cardboard, glue guns and a fresh sense of what is possible with Amazon packaging, we created a world stuffed full of trees, eagles, highland cows and guitars. If you’re in the neighbourhood, pop in and see them for yourself!

We’re dead chuffed about how Unbound fits so well in our new home, and we’re excited about the opportunities for development that exist there – a huge thank you again to those of you who helped make the move happen through the Open Doors campaign. Watch this space for more updates over the next few months. . . .

From Benefits to Poverty to Crime: Time for a new approach

A guest blog post by Graeme Strachan, a member of our Tuesday night ‘Unbound’ group.

A still from Ken Loach's 'I, Daniel Blake', an uncompromising examination of the current benefits system and it's impact on people's lives

Ken Loach’s ‘I, Daniel Blake’ takes an uncompromising look of the injustices of the current benefits system

Visiting the job centre has become an unpleasant parody of community service. This is a by-product of our benefits system that was set up to look after those in need but has been utilised by the government to penalise and criminalise the weakest in society. This article will discuss how this works and what we can do to change it for the better.

Our current benefits system is based around “conditionality”. Conditionality is where you are required to do exactly what the government or advisor tell you or you will lose your benefit. This is where sanctions come in to play. Sanctions are used to psychologically and socially criminalise the poor, sick and unemployed. Incredible amounts of unreasonable pressure and stress are placed upon those who are already the weakest in society.

Sanctions can hold more financial weight than that placed by a criminal court for example. They are imposed by people with no duty of care or legal standing. They leave claimants with no option but to use food banks and in many cases criminalise themselves to find money to simply live on. These circumstances are fertilised by conditionality, which in itself breaches the UN convention on human rights, some argue. Sanctions do not work. They take people further away from work and into poverty, leaving them with no choice but to find other ways to survive.

This clearly hits one parent families the hardest. Looking after a child or children while being forced to undertake conditionality to survive is bordering on medieval. OPF have other priorities; in this case conditionality interferes with their duty of care for their children, another factor contravening the UN charter. This clearly leaves an unregulated system with unqualified personnel making decisions that leave families and children living in poverty due to sanctions.

Advisors hold the lives of people in their hands and are not scrutinised in any legal capacity. Some for example will be happy to work round parent’s commitments to their children; others will not, leaving parents suffering sanctions for not turning up for appointments. The other option is where parents have been forced frequently to leave young children standing at the job centre door or on the street. This is quite simply unacceptable. Refusing to work for free, disagreeing with advisors, homelessness issues, and being a few minutes late for appointments are just a few commonplace examples of other situations that can leave OPF facing sanctions.

We can change this – there are other alternatives. Scandinavian countries such as Norway, Finland and Denmark for example have higher benefit rates and a lower crime rates. The one common theme that keeps occurring is to implement a Universal Basic Income. Scotland is now looking at bold decisions by those in government to address this situation.

An income that every citizen would receive – no matter what their employment status – would guarantee them a means to live. This is in contrast to the current system, in which individuals and families, stripped of their confidence and dignity, struggle simply to survive. If we wish to eradicate poverty and lower crime rates, we must not push the weakest in society into poverty through conditionality and sanctions for simply being poor, unemployed, sick and trying to survive. We must look to build confidence and instil a desire to succeed rather than fear of losing everything, which understandably drives people to survive by any means.

For more on Universal Basic Income, see this recent TED talk by Jamie Cooke, head of RSA Scotland. 

Opening the Door to our new home

You may have noticed that things have been a bit quiet here at Vox HQ. Change has been coming thick and fast, with a new office, two new members of the staff team and a new website in the pipeline.  Thanks to our generous supporters during the ‘Open Doors’ campaign we’ve been able to move from our old home in the Briggait to shiny new digs in Glasgow Collective, just across the road from the mighty Barrowlands Ballroom. (Two musical powerhouses, so close together!)

The Main Space (Shutter Up)

(The Upstairs Space, with the shutters up)

We’ve got two floors in our new space, aptly named The Music Shop in honour of it’s former life. At street level we have a flexible and spacious open-plan office and a basement that lends itself to a myriad of uses, from a rehearsal room to workshop or meeting space; there’s plenty of space for Unbound and other projects or events. It’s an exciting prospect and has really exceeded our expectations of where we might land! Thanks for making this a reality.

The Basement

While the finishing touches are being made to The Music Shop, we’ve been camping temporarily in the Collective’s main space. This has been a blessing in disguise, giving us more time to get to know our neighbours, but it’s meant we’ve held back from celebrating the move until we can show you around properly.

During the ‘Open Doors’ campaign we pledged to incorporate the names of campaign supporters into an artwork in the new space. We’ve been in touch with the wonderful Gabi Froden, who some of you might remember did the artwork for our ‘Silent Seconds’ EP, who has been tasked with working everyone’s name into a piece. We can’t wait to see what the final piece looks like.

Soon, we’ll be opening the door of our new space, with a free concert (to be live streamed for those who can’t make it) and an opening party for our supporters. Watch this space for invites and updates!

Thanks again to all of you for your support through this exciting time for Vox!

Nice NeighboursNice new neighbours!

KIN – Still Breaking Ground

It’s now 5 months since the KIN folk brought ‘Breaking Ground’ to MANY Studios on a freezing cold day in January 2017. Whether walking round the Barras with the ‘Golden Thread’, or making their own postcard responses to ‘The Thing’, around 300 people joined us for the day. Check out KIN on Twitter to see how the postcards continued breaking ground and challenging stigmas after the event.

Next week KIN will be presenting to both the National Prisons Visitors’ Centres conference and the National Youth Justice conference. They will also present to the cross party group for families of prisoners at the Scottish Parliament.

Massive congratulations to the crew for everything they’ve achieved, we can’t wait to see what they come out with next. Video courtesy of our friend Sandy Butler.

Things Left Unsaid – EP Launch & Event – 23 / 05 / 17


Photo: Andrew Downie
This week sees the release of our new EP ‘Things Left Unsaid’, at an event in St George’s Tron Church, Buchanan St, Glasgow, on 23rd May 2017, 6pm – 8pm.

‘Things Left Unsaid’ is the result of six-months of workshops exploring community justice and what it means for women in Scotland. We were lucky enough to bring together a remarkable cross-section of women, from prison governors and retired judges to service managers and women who’ve been sentenced. These women then joined forces with some of Scotland’s best songwriters to see how making music could help them tell their stories.

Musicians on the project have included Louis Abbott (Admiral Fallow), Donna Maciocia, Lucy Cathcart Frödén and Ross Clark (Three Blind Wolves), all of whom will be performing at the event on 23rd.

There are big changes taking place in the way that community and custodial sentences are being handled for women in Scotland. This project gave women who have experienced that system a chance to tell their stories.

We are inviting anyone who comes to the EP launch to add their voice to the discussion of community justice in Scotland, by responding creatively to the songs that are performed. There will be a series of interactive art installations based on songs, lyrics and ideas developed within the workshops.

Award winning radio producer Steve Urquhart has also produced a podcast based on the project, which you can listen to below:

Things Left Unsaid was commissioned by Glasgow Community Justice Authority, in collaboration with the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, the Scottish Prison Service, and Creative Scotland. It is also part of our wider project, ‘Distant Voices’, which you can learn more about HERE.

This event is free. If you’re interested, please sign up HERE

Facebook event HERE

From 23/05/17 the ‘Things Left Unsaid’ EP will be available HERE


Photo: Andrew Downie

All who attended the event have been sent a password to download the EP songs. Please click here to download your songs:



dv2-june-15-s-butler-13Mark is a prison officer, who has been very supportive of Vox Liminis.  He did what we ask of all participants to do in a Vox Session – come into a new group, and try something you might never have done before. These ways of relating, thinking about our lives and the power of making ‘new things’ together cross (and often break down) all sorts of barriers and boundaries.

“I signed up for the Vox Liminis Distant Voices workshop at Castle Huntly in February 2016. I had never written any music before or indeed produced anything creative, but because they asked us to invite a family member to take part with us, I wanted to give it a go to spend some quality time with my teenage son, Michael. From the get go, the workshop was lighthearted and relaxed, Andrew inspired, nurtured and encouraged me throughout the first day and into the next, when the challenge “Write a song using no more than 30 words” was introduced.  We were encouraged to “take inspiration from a book title from the library in the Link Centre, and you’ve got 30 minutes in which to do it.” . This 30 minute song writing exercise produced a short memory laden tune that fills me with pride every time I hear it, whether that’s in the car on my commute or down visiting my mum. It reminds me of my son growing up and the times we spent together along the way. It reminds me of the precious time we have together and that we should make the most of it.”

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