Focus on what's strong, not what's wrong
The UK’s first ever prison-made record label, ‘InHouse Records’, have launched a magazine in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The magazine, titled Aux, has been released to prisoners to entertain them during their strict lockdown procedures. Aux educates them on music theory and aids them in their pursuit of knowledge.
Currently aimied towards the South-East, the magazine is shared with 2,500 prisoners every week, with distribution over seven different prisons. The content of these magazines is varied, ranging from creativity, song-writing, rhythm, music production and culture.
As a result of Covid-19 procedures, the majority of their readership endures almost 24 hours of confinement a day. This is to restrict the possibility of spread. One can only imagine how gruelling this must be. Therefore, Aux is a welcome escape from the dullness of lockdown procedures.
Whilst looking at the history of InHouse Records, it’s clear to see their devotion is more towards healing and rehabilitation. This creates long-withstanding relationships with their members to reduce repeat offences.
InHouse Records was formed in collaboration with a group of inmates from HMP Elmley. Founder Judah Armani emphasises that “it’s not a service done to or made for the prisoners, but it’s been created with and by them.
“Using music as our vehicle, we are focused on developing the skills to do relationships better. By doing relationships better, we are able to engage positively with others and most importantly with ourselves too”.
“Better relationships means being able to have the skills to be a better employee, a better employer, a better father, husband or family member”.
Since its formation in 2017, InHouse Records have reported a 428% increase in positive behaviour in their prisoners. Furthermore, they’ve seen a further 80% of prisoners still engaging with the label after their release from prison, a rather impressive statistic. InHouse Records boasts an extremely impressive re-offence rate of less than 1%, with their efforts recognised on a national level by a number of prestigious organisations.
Their efforts with Aux was highlighted by receiving the ‘NOW Spotlight Awards 2020’ due to their innovation and dedication to the betterment of prisoner welfare. In a time which was, and is still, riddled with confusion, the outstanding efforts of Aux magazine ensured that prisoners were, and are, not forgotten about.
Judah stresses that InHouse records isn’t about the awards. InHouse records is about “the expression it brings that music provides, allowing prisoners to talk about things that words don’t really capture.” It’s about taking the skills people already have and putting them to positive use. It’s about character building, not creating superstars. The modesty in staying true to the real goal of InHouse records, and not claiming to be ‘world conquerors’ makes Judah affable and authentic.
This authenticity drew UK Jazz-pop star Jamie Cullum to the project:
“One of the things that really interested me, is it wasn’t a star-making factory. You’re not making people into superstars; you’re bringing out the best of people through creativity”.
“One thing I do innately understand is how creativity can be a positive force for change”.
Jamie is himself a MOBO-winner and Grammy award nominee. His 3x Platinum album, Twentysomething, became the fastest-selling Jazz album in chart history, propelling him to become the UK’S highest-selling jazz artist in history. Jamie works with InHouse graduates to give them a pathway beyond InHouse, and he has contributed to Aux magazine.
Judah describes Jamie’s contribution as “priceless”.
“We’re now speaking a language with people that are successful, and they’re interested in these guys”.
“I have multiple examples of our guys that will have a session with Jamie and talk about it for months.”
Just from speaking to Judah and Jamie, the passion for the project is clear to see. One thing that is extremely obvious; the authenticity speaks volumes. InHouse is not a cash cow, it’s not a PR ploy. It’s a platform for people to create a better life for themselves through harbouring human relationships.
“We’ve forgotten creativity heals us”, Judah adds. With the government pushing out creative subjects in favour of more scientific subjects, this sets a potentially dangerous precedent across society.
The future is exciting for InHouse records. Judah states music should be released from InHouse for public consumption later this year. The ambition is to branch from the South East, but not only across the UK. Trans-Atlantic success is a goal, with negotiations already ongoing with two correctional facilities in Connecticut.
For Jamie, the record label is setting the framework for social change and something that will only get bigger. “It’s something that within the music industry can offer real change and value and it feels really exciting.”
For Judah, he wants the project to go as far as it can go, but only if it’s making lives better. “As long as it’s creating positive communities, less victims of crime and reducing reoffending, I want it to go as far as it can. If at any point it stops doing any of these things, it’s a waste of time”.
The launch of Aux magazine is just a small step in what could be a major change in the music industry. More importantly, it could be a catalyst for people to change their lives. Inhouse Records is unique, it’s ambitious and it’s genuine. It’s time to make it the future.
Words by Andrew White and Tom Moorcroft