Beating Time

This is our first year of support for what we think is a particularly inspirational charity. Read the message below from Heather Phillips, its founder and chief executive.

Beating Time is a small charity that uses music, in particular singing, to help people cope with a prison sentence and turn it into something positive. We do this primarily by building prison choirs. Secular, open to all, groups that meet every week to sing. Our choirs are led by inspirational professional musicians but the direction they take is strongly influenced by the members. Our singers and the relationships we build with the prisons we work in enable us to achieve other, extremely valuable, things.

Community: Our choirs become community assets which serve the prison community from which they are drawn: singing at award ceremonies, special days of remembrance, festivals (religious and secular) and lending dignity to prison funerals.

Employment: Choir concerts are used as an opportunity to invite in local employers to help the prison and other agencies create new pathways to employment for people who have served sentences. The experience of seeing and hearing our performers demonstrates that “prisoners” are also people with huge potential. We also run Employment Fairs – providing the impetus to build on the opportunities and relationships we create.

Entrepreneurship: The Choir Programme, also serves as a platform for our Enterprise Programme – Restart. Around 50% of people in prison want to be self-employed.  For many that is their only option. Building a business is a creative act of confidence in yourself and your ideas. We offer people in choir the opportunity of a Start-Up Programme, supported by KPMG Mentors and practical support on the outside.

Family: maintaining family ties is a major factor in preventing reoffending. We put on monthly family days, where parents sing with their children – more in the school holidays. Singing provides an opportunity for children to follow the lead of their Mum or Dad and create a joyful memory.

Through the “simple” tool of singing we preserve mental health in a dark place, we create communities among the socially excluded, we develop employment and self-employment opportunities for people with convictions and we help prisoners maintain family ties.

As at Summer 2019 there were about 84,000 people in prison in England and Wales – up from 45,000 in 1995. Prison sentences are much longer than ever before. There are over 50,000 incidents of self-harm per annum currently. The reoffending rate is around 50%. Reoffending costs the country £15billion per annum. Under half of the prison population feel they have done anything in prison that will make them less likely to reoffend.

We are very grateful to the singers, musicians and audiences of Oxford Orpheus for supporting our work. Hear us and find out more at:

Maidstone Jammers – the choir of HMP Maidstone