Distant Voices in 2014

2014 06 13_VL DX Briggait_0545In 2014 five songwriters involved in Vox Liminis prison-work were teamed up with someone with personal, practice or academic experience in criminal justice. They were commissioned to write a song exploring the impact and outworking of crime from the perspectives of victims, perpetrators, and family members. A Conversation Through Song was facilitated over an afternoon in The Briggait; each song was played, and 60 invited participants had the opportunity to express a response to the music through personal reflection and group discussion.

We also welcomed an audience of around 160 people to the evening session of our Distant Voices event in June. Songs written in Vox Liminis projects were shared alongside commissioned work. The sharing of the human stories that connect us all created an emotional bridge and an awareness that people in prison, while removed from society, are fathers, sons, mothers: people like us.

One participant summing up the day said:  ‘Today has been a challenge to my brain, a testing of my beliefs, stretching of my heart, and a feast for my soul’

In the words of Michele Burman, Professor of Criminology: ‘I never thought I’d write a song! Doing so in collaboration with others as part of Distant Voices was such a wonderful and enriching experience. I really want to do it again…please.

SCCJR’s relationship with Vox Liminis and the collaboration on the Distant Voices project has been extremely positive. It has afforded opportunities for new and valuable forms of engagement between academic researchers and musicians and those affected by imprisonment, as well as the broader public. Importantly, the collaboration has furthered our collective aims of opening up hearts and minds to the value of music and song in conveying and reflecting complex questions about punishment and imprisonment.

From Distant Voices in 2014, there is an EP of songs available. Distant Voices: live at The Briggait is a 5 song EP, recorded live on 13th June 2014, and is available to purchase here for £6.50 (Including P&P) or £5 in person.

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The Songs

Five songwriters involved in work in prisons through Vox Liminis were commissioned to each write one song, exploring the outworking of the consequences of a crime on different people in the story. The songwriters were assigned a character and a stage in the scenario, and asked to write from the perspective of the person involved. Each musician was paired with someone with either lived or professional experience in each of the areas, ensuring knowledge exchange in the process:

  1. Lucy Cathcart Frödén, paired with Sarah Armstrong, Criminologist, writing from the perspective of the perpetrator and his partner in the midst of the incident – ‘When The Dark Cloud Descends’
  2. Rachel Sermanni, paired with Fergus McNeill, Criminologist, writing from the perpetrator’s perspective, after being in prison for a couple of months – ‘Please Stay Away’
  3. Yvonne Lyon, paired with Susan Gallagher, Deputy Chief Executive, Victim Support Scotland, writing from the perspective of the victim one year on – ‘Pockets Full of Storms’
  4. Kim Edgar, paired with Sarah Roberts, Child & Family Support Manager, Families Outside, writing from the perspective of the 10 year old son of the perpetrator – ‘Things Crack Then Shatter’
  5. Andrew Howie, paired with Joe Bowden, Positive Prison? Positive Futures…, writing from the perspective of the perpetrator shortly after release from 2 years imprisonment – ‘What If My Best Isn’t Good Enough’