|Type of post:||Choir news item|
|Posted By:||Dave Johnson|
|Date Posted:||Thu, 25 Feb 2021|
|We hinted at this FTA in last week's email, after an Instagram post from our hosts mentioned we were the last group to sing in the chapel. So here's the full story of the day we went to a prison for the first time:
OUTREACH: HM PRISON SHEPTON MALLET LGBT HISTORY MONTH PERFORMANCE
Tuesday 28 February 2012
To mark LGBT History Month, we were invited to perform at Shepton Mallet prison by their GBT society, 'Inside Out' to promote acceptance of and offer support to gay, bisexual and transgender inmates. Our audience consisted of inmates, officers and volunteer prison visitors and was very well received. At the time the prison was the oldest operating jail in the UK, opening in 1625 and steeped in history, with many accounts of ghost sightings over the years. As far as we know, we were the first (and possibly only) LGBT choir to sing in a prison.
The evening comprised of our performance in the prison chapel, followed by refreshments and a tour of the working prison, which was both fascinating and very eery. The Great British weather played its part by shrouding the prison in thick fog, meaning our visit to the gallows and unmarked graves in the grounds of the prison was nothing short of terrifying - listening to our guide tell us of the long list of previous inmates who met their end at the hands of this grisly apparatus, all while fingers of icy cold fog wrapped themselves around this naive group of gay singers nervously looking over their shoulders into the murky darkness.
Being a working prison, no photographs or recordings were permitted, so you'll just have to take our word for it that the evening was thoroughly fantastic and yet another example of the varied and diverse history of this amazing choir.
We based our performance on the One In Ten concert (click the blue link to see performances of all the songs from that concert), which we had performed a few weeks earlier and featured in From The Archive, earlier this month. We performed 8 songs and introduced them with amended speeches about the LGBT history from the decade the songs featured in.
As mentioned, the prison was open and working at the time but it closed the following year and has since operated as a tourist attraction for the area; although controversial plans have recently been approved to convert the derelict areas into accommodation and community spaces. The prison recenty tagged our performance in an Instagram post to their followers (although they did get the year wrong!!):
SHEPTON MALLET INSTAGRAM POST 19TH February, 2021
CERI: Hello and good evening. It’s wonderful to be here this evening in one of our most unusual of performance venues and we’re delighted to be able to perform a version of a concert we did a couple of weeks ago. For those of you that haven’t heard anything about us before, we are Sing Out Bristol We are the largest lesbian gay bisexual and transgender choir in the south west - and one of the biggest in the UK. Tonight we are here this evening in conjunction with LGBT History month, representing the much quoted one in ten of the population who identify as LGBT.
|1957||Westside Story Medley||1957||00:08:15||Upbeat||Piano||Yes||BAST||ALL|
|1966||Rhythm of Life||1969||00:03:30||Upbeat||Piano||Yes||TSBA||ALL|
|1965||Feelin' Good||1965||00:02:30||Upbeat||A Cappella||Yes||STBA||ALL|
|1976||Could It Be Magic||1992||00:04:00||Upbeat||Piano||Yes||STBA||ALL|
|1997||Make You Feel My Love||1997||00:03:50||Mellow||Piano||Yes||SATB||ALL|
|1992||Long Day Closes||1992||Mellow||A Cappella||No||SATB||ALL|
|1997||Angel||1999||00:05:30||Mellow||A Cappella||No||STBA||SMALL ENSEMBLE|
As a consequence of this contact, we went on to perform at Leyhill Prison for their Pride event in 2017 and ahead of that performance, we again received a message from another inmate who was Shepton Mallet at the time and later transferred to Leyhill:
"Thank you for agreeing to perform for us on May 29th – Leyhill Pride Day.
I was one of the organisers of your concert at HMP Shepton Mallet and I have been trying to get you to Leyhill ever since!
Leyhill Pride is a day of LGBT celebration held at the end of LGBT Awareness Month at Leyhill prison. The whole month is intended to increase awareness of LGBT issues facing prisoners and the wider community, and to promote a culture of tolerance and respect in prison.
This is our second year of staging this high profile and unusual (in a prison setting anyway) event. Last year was very successful but this year we plan to be bigger, better, bolder, brighter and gayer!
Our goal is to build a lasting, though rolling LGBT community within Leyhill, to strengthen ties with the wider community and to grow into a prison where all LGBT people feel comfort