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

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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

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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:

 

Mark

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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Reflections Of A Female Prisoner

dv2-june-15-s-butler-12Some heartfelt thoughts from a (very) recent Vox Sessions participant…

“Sometimes I’m not so good at vocalising things so I wrote something down that I wanted to read to you all.  Last night, I was thinking about how it’s important to me when people take the time and make an effort to spend time helping other people.  I’ve looked back and in the past when opportunities have been offered to me I haven’t taken the time to at least try and express my gratitude and appreciation.  But I was trying to write you all a letter that sort of says thank you but I couldn’t really get it out last night and then at lunchtime there I got some words down.

So, I’ve been wondering a lot recently, and in particular the past few days, why it’s important for individuals to touch another person’s life… is it to pass something on, to leave a legacy, an imprint, a history, or a memory.  What motivates people?  Why are people so important to other people?  Is it just a human condition, a need… because people can help other people to pull things out of each other and help them discover, or rediscover, and reignite things that were there all along but that were deeply suppressed and buried.

I’m not sure what, or if there any answers to these questions… maybe it just is as it is but I know it feels absolutely fantastic.  When you make a memory, however small or insignificant the experience may seem to other people, that amazing memory will live with you forever.  And that’s what this felt like for me.

I’ve been deeply touched by all of you in some way over the last few days. When you’re not consumed by substances you can realise a life beyond your wildest dreams and in the most unlikely of places, like in prison when you’re stripped back and laid bare, as my song says, when paths cross for whatever reason, you can find true contentment and happiness where dreams are limitless.  Thank you so much for opening my mind.”

 

We invite you to click Donateand be part of Open Doors.