Group Singing Used To Reduce Re-Offending in Prisons


Two women, Heather Phillips & Jane Evans, are trying to create new ways of reducing re-offending in Britain and importing ideas developed by businesses here and in the States. In a society where the majority of prisoners spend their time watching TV in their cell and self-harm is at a record high, Heather Phillips, a former Partner in a City Law Firm has teamed up with ex Corporate Finance Director Jane Evans to create the charity Beating Time is equipping people who have spent time in prison with the skills and mindset they need to rebuild their lives. Beating Time is a charity that uses group singing to help prisoners fight mental illness, feel socially included and develop vital employability skills like: listening, communication, commitment, focus, presentation and team work.

Jane and Heather are not content just to help prisoners develop the confidence and skills they need to find a job on release - they are now actively building networks that people who have served their sentences can use to get jobs and, even, start their own businesses. “We realized with our contact base, experience and networking ability- we were better placed than most people to do this” says Jane. Beating Time’s vision for the future is to use every skill, contact and ounce of experience they’ve had to build working relationships with businesses and other organizations that are doing fantastic work in prisons, to help people with a “history” build business plans and new lives. They are mobilizing businesses to provide the jobs, a start-up fund and mentors needed to start to reverse the reoffending epidemic in the UK: They are launching an “Employers 30-2-2 scheme” in the West Midlands – ‘Business Beating Time’, based on successful models in the US and a ‘Beating Time Entrepreneurs Fund’ in London.

Growing up, communal music was a very ordinary part of Heather’s life, her grandfather and father sang in church choirs in Yorkshire, her godmother was a choir mistress and her Mother and Godfather are church organists. She joined a local choir in her 40s and, realized that she always left Choir in a vastly better mood than she arrived in and that ‘up’ feeling stayed with her for a day or two.

Heather says, “I think the experience of singing in a choir- gave me the creative courage to start my own business, Singing Works in 2010. Team work, empathy, stress release, powerful mood booster- I thought all organizations could use this.” So she started over 20 work place choirs including: Royal Mail, Shell, The Dorchester, Adidas and many more.

Inspired by her experience as a law student where she encountered a boy who had been in care and imprisoned for stealing cars to reach his absent mother, Heather thought the benefits of singing as a group might have an even greater resonance and impact in prisons than the work place.

Heather co-founded Beating Time with Jane in 2014. Their children were in the same year at the same school when Heather asked if Jane would be interested in working with her. Now they’re in 4 prisons (including HMP Huntercombe and HM Prison Maidstone) about to be 8: They are a good team, their skills and experience go very well together. Total opposites. Whilst Jane is a natural introvert, is soft on her son and likes evidence and facts, Heather is almost the opposite, extrovert, into concepts and ideas and a zero tolerance Mum.

As Heather puts it,Good relationships in prison aren’t just about better team work, they are key to people’s safety and mental health is a huge issue in prison Fundamentally, we all get the same out of singing: We all feel like we belong because we’re part of a group of people that achieves things we can’t achieve alone. We know that as human beings we share common emotions and the language that we share them in is music.’

Jane’s journey was different, after 26 years in the City working as a Corporate Finance Director at KPMG leading advisory teams in their Major Projects Advisory Practice, Jane was looking forward to spending time at home when Heather approached her at the school gate and (disapprovingly) suggested that she ‘looked like a woman with time on her hands!’ Jane admits that prior to joining Heather she was not that musical. “I used to play the recorder at school and would go to the odd musical at the theatre but that was about it!” Since she has been working with Heather she sings with the choirs and has performed at St Clement Danes as part of the Brandenburg Festival. “I had to practice what I preach. It is great to be able to say, based on personal experience, that what we do really does work.”

As Jane puts it, “With the average, annual cost of a prisoner being £36,000, which is more than the average wage, it would have been crazy not to have done something to try to get prisoners to contribute to the economy rather than being a drain on it whilst also providing them with the support, skills and opportunity to avoid re-offending.”

Businesses interested in supporting the Business Beating Time scheme should contact Beating Time at or and Please contact Vikki Scott about this Press Release at or on 07767 371 657