Will Gareth end up singing 12-bar blues?

Manchester Evening News - - TODAY’S TV -

YOU’VE got to hand it to choir mas­ter Gareth Malone – walk­ing into a prison crammed with some of the na­tion’s most dan­ger­ous men is not easy.

And this is not his nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment – a church or cathe­dral, maybe. Not this.

As he en­ters Ayles­bury Young Of­fend­ers Prison to talk to in­mates about singing, it’s like watch­ing Ross Kemp’s more timid, tune­ful cousin.

“It’s quite an im­pos­ing door,” he says. “I re­ally have been very ner­vous. Ev­ery­thing I know about pris­ons is from TV dra­mas, which is all ter­ri­fy­ing.”

Gareth has ev­ery right to feel ap­pre­hen­sive. Some of the in­mates, aged 18-21, are in for mur­der, man­slaugh­ter and GBH. Gareth has to have his own prison guard.

The chal­lenge – in case you hadn’t al­ready guessed – to form a prison choir.

Prison Gov­er­nor Laura Sap­well hopes a choir might en­gage the young men they are try­ing to re­ha­bil­i­tate.

But as Gareth quickly re­alises, you can’t just wan­der into a room of of­fend­ers armed with sheet mu­sic for a jolly singsong around a pi­ano.

“The kind of mu­sic you do ain’t the kind of mu­sic we do,” says one pris­oner, smirk­ing. The most Gareth gets from any­one at first is: “I rap a bit.”

Then there are lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenges, such as keep­ing some pris­on­ers apart be­cause of gang ri­val­ries – fights break out on av­er­age once a day.

It’s a lot for Gareth to take in, and he’s some­times con­flicted in his com­pas­sion for these crim­i­nals, but he man­ages to get the boys to trust him. And the re­sult is sur­pris­ingly mov­ing.

Con­cludes to­mor­row night.

Choir­mas­ter Gareth Malone is used to a chal­lenge – but this is a whole other level

Prison Gov­er­nor Laura Sap­well

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