Monday, December 20, 2010

Dancing in the Dark

Music has, for as long as I remember, held a powerful place within prisons. It offers a refuge from the sharp background of steel clanging, a soothing buffer of individuality against the collective nature of prison life.

Regardless of the architecture that surrounds it, music has an intrinsic attraction and power. I often use it to be taken on an emotional journey, a way to transform daily frustrations and anger into a more mellow view of life. It really does soothe the savage breast.

There was a standard cannon, a range of tapes that could always be found amongst long termers - Queen, Meatloaf, Dire Straits, and War of the Worlds being the most common. This was a function of both preference and restrictions - strict limits were placed on the number of audio cassettes allowed.

Playing this music was never as straightforward as it would be in the free world. A matter of a few feet separates prisoners from each other and loud music intrudes into the next man's cell - his only semblance of a private space - surprisingly easily.

The standard rule of thumb amongst long-termers is to keep your noise down after 10pm. Persistent offenders are subjected to increasing levels of social pressure, until patience wears thin. You’re likely to find your radio has been damaged; or your cell set on fire ('burned out'). Finding yourself on the wrong end of fists isn't unknown.

Until my mp3 player broke down, I lived my life to a different soundtrack to that offered by the landings. Earphones in place, I could be enervated or transported by the a thousand tunes. Behind my locked door at night, lights switched off, it was not unknown that I'd indulge in what could politely be called 'middle aged bloke dance', a vague jerking of arms and legs following the beat. Wary night staff, who peek through the observation slit, may be warned that I'd often do this naked. To 'Mambo No.5'. That's a vision you don't want stuck in your head.

Enjoy your music. Don't piss off your neighbours. This is universal, isn't it?


  1. Music doth indeed calm the savage beast. Whilst you mentioned "a vision you don't want stuck in your head,
    you realize that mental pictures will be created, do you not? Hope that your mp3 player can/will be repaired. I cannot imagine life without music.

  2. The mental image does indeed spring to mind!!
    The fact that you can "feel the beat" and express it is something to treasure. Dance on!! your mp3 now working or replaced?

  3. My neighbours love my music! They do honestly! Love the mental image btw x