I have been involved in many, many community songwriting sessions over the past 10 years or so, but never one like this. Locked in a room, locked within a larger room, locked within a system of gates we sat down, the ten of us – complete strangers – and started to write. We spoke about loss and regret, we spoke about the nature of freedom, we spoke about home, and about the flickering images of lives we would like to have. And then we made something together that couldn’t be contained.
Last year I was invited to be involved as a songwriter in a Vox Session in Cornton Vale Prison working with a group of 10 or so ladies. As people, the 10 of us were probably about as varied a group as you could imagine being brought together. But there was something very special that happened as we placed ourselves in a space that was about music and imagining (rather than doors and keys and differences) that allowed us to understand each other and work together.
We thought about the moment in prison, when one person gets to go home and another is left behind. It’s a moment that brings so many things in to focus. As we reflected on that, brave sharings began to emerge… One writer spoke about realising that she couldn’t remember what home was like any more. Because she’d been in prison since she was a child. Another spoke about her life seeming like the menu screen on a DVD – the same scene that goes round and round, monotonously repeating itself between inside and outside, and how much, in that moment, she yearned to pause it. Yet another, described the only times she got to see a glimpse of home – when she was taken outside the prison in a security van. If she strained very hard, she could see pixelated images of the streets outside flashing past the tiny high up windows. And she held on to those tiny images very dearly, to help her to hope that one day she would be there too.
Pixelated Pictures is the song we wrote together about all these feelings. And I was extremely proud to be involved.
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