55000

Members of the public taken into prison

1000

Prisoners have taken part

27

years working in prisons

OUR NEXT STRETCH

Les Misérables at High Down Prison 13, 14, 15, 19, 20, 21 October
HMP High Down houses around 1,200 prisoners near Sutton in Surrey. After four weeks full time rehearsal, prisoners and professionals perform with orchestra to the public who may consider the purpose of imprisonment in this positive context.
It is an occasion not to be missed.

ABOUT

Pimlico Opera aims to use music and drama to advance personal development, particularly with younger people. Artistic excellence is an essential part of achieving this aim.

Back in 1987, the company was started by Wasfi Kani OBE and was probably the first to specialise in performing in unusual places – hospitals, wonderful country houses, banks, prisons. In 1991 the company was awarded Arts Council funding. Today it receives no public subsidy.

Pimlico Opera is the sister company of Grange Park Opera which was founded in 1998.

HOW THE PROJECT WORKS

In 23 years of work in prisons, this is the company’s first collaboration with so young a community of prisoners.

Pimlico Opera has an excellent model for this project. Repeatedly tried, tested and proven to achieve remarkable results both in terms of the show itself and in developing our relationship with the prisoners – resulting in a truly inspirational meeting of worlds.

Two of the Pimlico Opera team “walk the wings” of Isis, signing up those who like the idea of singing and performing. “Do you like acting?” often elicits a cheeky response: “Well I tried last time I was in court and look what happened”. Thus, an initial group of prisoners has been gathered. The group ebbs and flows in the first week of the rehearsal and by week two, numbers have settled, and the creative team casts the show. What follows is five full weeks of rehearsal – all day, every weekday. Prisoners return to their cells for lunch but otherwise spend these days as would a professional cast.

The final technical and dress rehearsals take place in the gym, which is transformed into a theatre with a lighting rig, raked seating and orchestra. There are several public performances and further performances for fellow prisoners and prison staff.

Trust is key to this project: between the prisoners and Pimlico Opera and between prison staff and Pimlico Opera. It is the prison staff who knit the very complicated schedule of rehearsals and normal prison life.

Pimlico Opera’s work in prisons creates a springboard for dialogue between prisoners and the public who are astonished by the talent they see. The prisoners transport the audience, inspiring them to think creatively about how prisons might better prepare prisoners for life on the outside. There is powerful evidence for the benefit that this work has to society, the public purse and the wider economy. Improvements in prisoner rehabilitation and the lowering of re-offending can only be a good thing.

Since 1991 Pimlico Opera has taken more than 50,000 members of the public into prison. 1,000+ prisoners have participated, whilst 9,000 prisoners have seen a show. Pimlico Opera receives no public subsidy and was founded in 1987 by Wasfi Kani.

SUPPORT PIMLICO OPERA

Please join us behind bars and support the project.
The project, costing £190k, receives no public subsidy. Since 1990, Pimlico Opera has worked with more than 1,000 prisoners, has employed ex-prisoners and taken 55,000 public into prison.

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PERFORMANCE HISTORY

PIMLICO OPERA’S LENGTHY SENTENCE

In 1989 Pimlico Opera performed two operas in Wormwood Scrubs: Le Nozze di Figaro and Walton’s The Bear. The first joint production with prisoners took place a year later with people serving life sentences.

  • 1991 HMP Wormwood Scrubs: Sweeney Todd
  • 1992 HMP Wandsworth: West Side Story
  • 1993 HMP Wandsworth: Guys & Dolls
  • 1995 HMP Wandsworth: West Side Story
  • 1996 Mountjoy Prison, Ireland: West Side Story
  • 1997 HMP Bullingdon, Oxfordshire: West Side Story
  • 1999 HMP Downview, Surrey: Threepenny Opera
  • 2001 HMP Winchester: Threepenny Opera
  • 2002 HMP Winchester: West Side Story
  • 2003 HMP Wormwood Scrubs: Guys & Dolls
  • 2004 HMP Ashwell, Leicestershire: Assassins
  • 2005 HMP Coldingley, Surrey: Assassins
  • 2006 HMP Bronzefield, Middlesex: Chicago
  • 2007 HMP Wandsworth: Les Misérables
  • 2008 HMP Kingston: Sweeney Todd (project cancelled)
  • 2009 HMP Wandsworth: West Side Story
  • 2010 HMP Wandsworth: Carmen – The Musical
  • 2011 HMP Send, Surrey: Sugar
  • 2012 HMP Erlestoke, Wiltshire: Les Misérables
  • 2013 HMP Erlestoke, Wiltshire: West Side Story
  • 2014 HMP Bronzefield: Sister Act
  • 2015 HMP/YOI Isis: Our House