SINGERS and musicians are being sought for weekly singing sessions with the inmates of Coldingley Prison in Bisley.

They are being recruited by Liberty Choirs, which has been running a programme at prisons in London since 2014 and is expanding across the South East.

Last month, Liberty started pilot sessions at Coldingley and is now to hold musical programmes every Monday from 1.30pm to 4pm.

Emma Gray, the Liberty Choir operations partnership manager, said the sessions are designed to help develop skills and self-confidence, open up the world of arts through singing and provide access to new social networks as the inmates leave prison.

“The crux of the programme is that volunteers come into Coldingley and commit to singing weekly, or regularly, alongside the prisoners, and this combination of singers is what is called the Liberty Choir,” Emma said.

“The intention is that the singing is a continuous programme throughout the year, as this yields the most beneficial results. When the prisoners come out, they are called Liberty Choir graduates. They can then join our choirs in the community or just stay in touch as we offer friendship and support to them.”

Emma said the sessions cover a very wide range of musical genres, from classical through swing and show tunes to pop and reggae.

“Our choir members often tell us that the choir is as important to them as it is to the men.

“A lot of our volunteers come every week and never miss a session because they love to sing. Singing is brilliant for improving your mental well-being, for relieving stress.”

The choir is looking for volunteer singers and has paid roles for musicians and musical directors to lead the sessions.

“No singing skills are required, but a love of music and singing is beneficial,” Emma said.

“We welcome volunteers who are open minded and have a non-judgmental approach to prisons and those people in prison.”

Emily Russell, head of learning and skills at Coldingley, said the inmates were “absolutely buzzing” about the singing sessions.

She told the visiting singers: “I can’t thank you all enough for bringing your positive energy and enthusiasm to us. It was a wonderful afternoon and we can’t wait to see you all again.”

Emma added: “We worked in many prisons pre-COVID and the feedback that we get from men who take part in our programme is that for two hours in the session they feel free.

“They forget about their problems and they’re just people again and they’re just singing with other people.”

* IF YOU would like to become a volunteer with Liberty Choir, email Emma Gray at [email protected] and to inquire about a role as a music director or accompanist, email Alex Roberts at [email protected].