One Spirit – Update March 2020

Over the last 12 months One Spirit has delivered its music and resettlement focused projects across HMYOIs Cookham Wood and Feltham and HMP Highdown, as well as continuing to support those released from custody with opportunities to carry on their music/creative arts work with a One Spirit mentor, receive support with their transition from custody to community and guidance for next steps to employment and/or further education.


This year OS projects have engaged a total of 213 young people/adults in weeklong Residency projects, 1to1 In-Custody Mentoring sessions, Introductory/Induction sessions and/or 1to1 Through The Gate Mentoring sessions in the community. 147 were unique users and 39 young people/adults engaged more than once and/or in more than one strand of the project, 8 engaged in all 3 strands of the project.


HMDT Music has also set up a new One Spirit project in HMP Aylesbury, with funding from the London Mayor’s Office. This project will build on the success of several one-off One Spirit residencies delivered over the last 3 years and will run until 2022 allowing One Spirit to deliver its provision weekly in the prison. The project will contain the usual elements of social and functional learning based around music, creative arts and business but will also offer participants the chance to train with HMDT Music when released and, for those on longer sentences, the opportunity to develop a ‘career in custody’, gaining peer mentoring skills in One Spirit’s music education methodology.


This year One Spirit’s work at HMYOI Cookham Wood has expanded to include working with some of their most vulnerable and unsettled residents: yps on ‘single unlock’ and yps with mental health issues. These sessions have delivered vital support and been gratefully received by the participants and staff alike, with one young person remarking “thanks for coming to see us, Sir; it’s nice to be taken seriously’.


Delivery at Cookham Wood has also included working with yps who are working towards clearance for ROTL (Release on Temporary Licence). 7 participants have been released from this unit into the community over the course of the year, all of whom have accessed support via One Spirit’s Through the Gate program.


Sadly the number of young people serving sentences for violent crimes, particularly murder, has continued to rise over the year, at the same time behaviour on the wings, in the corridors and classrooms has been more challenging than ever, with frequent disruption and violent occurrences including a rise in assaults on staff.  Frustration, anger and fear are never far from the surface of most (young) people serving time, often rising and boiling over in education. Perhaps this is why so many participants (71% of those who fed back) highlight social group activities such as warm ups, game playing and focus exercises as some of the most enjoyable in the One Spirit project.


In other feedback collected from participants 72% declared they felt better about working with others; 69% felt better about taking criticism and more equipped to give constructive criticism; 90% declared increased self confidence; 84% (of those who initially revealed it as an issue) felt better able to manage their anger and 92% said they felt better about the future. 100% of those asked said they had learned something new on an OS project.


In the community One Spirit has continued to support young people/adults during their resettlement and beyond. 8 young people/adults who engaged with One Spirit whilst in custody have been released over the last 12 months and accessed the Through the Gate mentoring program either remotely or in person (distance and safety of travel remain a challenge for many). One Spirit has been working with several YOT/Ss across London to ensure that their mentees have got ‘joined up’ support and have their time with One Spirit timetabled into their licence conditions.


Several longer term mentees have enjoyed success in their onward journeys, including one former mentee gaining a role in a major TV soap opera, another working as freelance A&R for major record labels and one signing a publishing deal with a successful top 10 music production company.


Currently there are 37 young people/adults accessing the program variously from once every 6 months to once a week in the case of the newly released.

At the time of writing


  • 56% are in college, training or further education
  • 41% are in employment / self employment
  • 87% have not reoffended (national average approx. 35%)


Across the board the verbal feedback from participants and staff has been very positive; this is what they said:


“I like ‘Hackney Music’, it’s a different kind of class, we all got on together and it’s actually worth behaving for” Residency Participant HMYOI Cookham Wood


“This is definitely the best thing I’ve done since I came to prison – it doesn’t even feel like jail when I’m down here” Mentoring Participant HMYOI Feltham A


“Thanks for the work you have done with RS, especially around peer mentoring. He has visibly matured in the last few months and I am not so concerned about him moving up to HMP now” Dep Manager HMYOI Cookham Wood


“Your project is crucial for the guys interested in music and media and really helps to put what we teach in the classroom into a real world perspective; this has been a very important part of their preparation for employment” Education Manager at HMP Highdown


Article: Charlie Parker, Project Manager, One Spirit


With thanks to: