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7th Week TT23 Newsletter Interview - Maisie Hulbert

Each week, the OUMS newsletter features an interview with someone who positively contributes to the Oxford music scene. This week, we sat down with singer and pianist Maisie Hulbert to ask about her charity work with the organisation Sing Inside!

Maisie Hulbert (she/her)

Singer and Pianist; and Chief Executive of Sing Inside

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I am a freelance musician and charity worker based in London and I run Sing Inside – a national organisation with a branch and student society in Oxford. Sing Inside was founded in Cambridge and expanded into Oxford in 2018 – we bring volunteers from the local area into their local prisons to conduct community singing workshops. We’ve worked with the music faculty on the Music in the Community course and also with a number of local prisons, including HMP Bullingdon, HMP Long Lartin and HMP Huntercombe, and we’re recruiting now for our fourth student committee!

What kind of work does Sing Inside do?

We deliver community choral workshops inside prisons, bringing people in prison together with local volunteers to learn together and co-create a performance. We focus on enjoyment, connection and confidence in our workshops so that everyone can contribute comfortably, and we use singing as a vehicle for social interaction and creative inspiration in highly punitive environments. Our workshops are usually day-long sessions, and led by one of our trained music leaders and an accompanist, who work through a series of exercises, games and songs in the morning and in the afternoon session work to build a performance or recording. You can hear recordings of our work on our website.

What makes singing so transformative in a prison environment?

Prisons are really challenging places for people to engage with one another freely, and also to engage creatively. We believe that the rehabilitative and educational work prisons do can only be successful if people in prison are also given spaces to enjoy their hobbies and try out new interests – activities which energise us all to commit to the tasks which we might be less enthusiastic about. In prisons, most people aren’t able to access this kind of activity freely – everything they do is gatekept in some way. Having a space where they are not judged or assessed is invaluable. We assess our impact solely through asking participants to reflect themselves on what they learned. We ask everyone to come with an open mind and to listen carefully to all participants; to contribute their voice to a shared product alongside many other voices, embracing their individuality as part of a bigger whole; and to share their views openly. Volunteer work in prisons is also unusual on the scale which we provide it, and has the added impact of improving understanding of life in prison and breaking down stereotypes about prison communities. People often say our workshops make them feel human, or help them forget they are in prison and focus on a task in front of them. We aim for people to have fun, to connect with others and feel part of a community, and to improve their mood and wellbeing.

What inspired you to start working with music outreach work in prisons?

I have always really loved community music and have done a lot of teaching and workshop leading, but the prison setting is so unique in so many ways so when an opportunity to visit came up in 2014 when I was a first year undergraduate I was really interested. The first ever prison I visited was a maximum security men’s prison, and we went at Christmas time to perform and teach carols. It completely changed my life and I’ve been working in prisons ever since. I would really, really encourage you to get involved – I started as a student and it’s the best thing I ever did! I very much learned about leading and workshop participation on the job, and by doing more of it you get a really strong sense of where your strengths are and where you could benefit from training or support. As we’ve developed as an organisation we’ve solidified what our approach to leading and structuring workshops is, so now Sing Inside also provides musical leadership training (a half day, free session) all over the country. If you wanted to attend the training and receive follow up feedback from our trained practitioners by trying out leading skills on a supervised prison visit, keep an eye out for the next training session or contact us on

Can you give us a music recommendation?

I’m in the midst of planning music for a busy few weeks where I am leading prison sessions twice per week and so I tend to listen to what I’m going to teach next a lot! At the moment I am listening to Stormzy - Blinded by your Grace, Part 1 – something which men in HMP Liverpool requested to learn with us – and also working on some harmonies for Lean on Me by Bill Withers, which we’re learning with women in HMP Send.

To listen to Blinded by Your Grace Pt. 1, by Stormzy, follow these links:

To listen to Lean on Me, by Bill Withers, follow these links:

To find more about Maisie, and the work that Sing Inside do, visit the Sing Inside website!

To find out more about the OUMS newsletter and our interviews, email Christopher at


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