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Page last updated at 14:57 GMT, Tuesday, 2 February 2010
Billy Bragg's music project helps offenders
Billy Bragg
Billy Bragg helped develop a project using music to help people in prison

A music project by musician Billy Bragg has helped hundreds of prison inmates.

Jail Guitar Doors began when a Dorset prison's drugs and alcohol counsellor contacted Billy for help, back in 2007.

Billy donated six guitars for a music workshop counsellor Malcolm Dudley had set up at Guys Marsh in Shaftesbury.

Four years on, Billy has developed Malcolm's original idea, who died in 2008. Now there are 200 instruments in 31 prisons around the UK - as Billy plans its launch in America.


Billy believes the development of Malcolm's idea - now told in a new documentary film called Breaking Rocks - is a fitting tribute to him.

Billy said: "It was a real loss [when he died], because he brought people together, and in this project, some of the guys he worked with have turned out to be incredible musicians.

"One of them, Theone Coleman, went on to set up his own music project in Bournemouth, and then won a Prince's Trust award."

Billy, who lives in West Dorset, remembers his first impression of the scheme.

He said: "When I first went down to the prison I was impressed with the way Malcolm was connecting with these lads and he was clearly having a positive effect on them.

"And as a musician, I thought this is the sort of thing I should be doing, and also I understand the process of using music to help deal with my frustrations."

From there, Billy contacted other people doing similar work to Malcolm in other prisons, to try and develop similar schemes around the country.


Soon the process was being filmed, which resulted in the documentary film, and is now being shown across the country on a tour.

Billy said: "A guy called Alan Miles had been filming the whole process.

"He followed me around as I worked on it, and also some of the guys involved in the project after they left prison.

"And Malcolm features in the film a lot."

The film also features footage shot at Portland Young Offenders Institute, including a sequence where pupils from the Bryanston school, near Blandford Forum, visited the prison to meet fellow musicians.

Billy said: "They were brilliant, they both played some songs for each other and there was a great result. A real proper spark when they worked together.

"There's been some incredible work coming out of Portland YOI. In fact, they even wrote a book together comparing their experiences, and they weren't that different.

"There was a resonance there, between the young men at Portland and the pupils at the boarding school, as both were groups who were away from their families.

"It's an incredible tribute to the effort put in by the staff at both the school and at Portland."

Plans for America

Beginning the film's national tour, it recently received a special showing in Sturminster Newton in memory of Malcolm, who lived in Ibberton.

"The work that Malcolm began is being carried on."

The special Dorset showing came as plans for the project's launch in America take shape:

Billy said: "I'm going to be at South by South West, which is a huge music festival in Texas, but while I'm there I will be helping to launch Jail Guitar Doors USA.

"But Malcolm lit the spark for this, which is now spreading around the world."



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