Music

Changemaker Judah Armani takes former inmates to perform at Latitude fest

The festival invited InHouse, created by Big Issue Changemaker Armani, to perform a selection of songs written by the former prisoners

Graduates of a record label set up to transform lives within prison will make history with a performance at next month’s Latitude Festival.

Around six people who have taken part in the InHouse Records project were invited to perform up to four original songs on Friday July 19 at Henham Park in what founder Judah Armani – also a Big Issue Changemaker – calls an “unprecedented” move by the festival.

InHouse is run by and for prisoners to reduce reoffending. Inmates are taught how to play instruments, how to write songs and how to use production gear; the support continues after release with ‘graduates’ performing in showcases every three months and visited by stars like Jamie Cullum who want to pass on advice. The project has produced a reoffending rate of zero so far.

Armani, who will also be interviewed by Huw Stephens as part of InHouse’s appearance at Latitude, said: “I’m pretty certain it’s unprecedented.

“What we’re going to do in less than a month’s time I don’t think will have happened before at a UK festival. InHouse records will be performing without having gone down the traditional route of having management; no PR; and more importantly they’ve yet to release a single piece of music.

“I can’t think of any music artist that’s performed on any major stage at any British music festival that hasn’t released any music. To get there literally just on the reputation that’s been created that’s quite astonishing.”

Armani said the graduates are nervous but extremely excited to perform, and that punters can expect to hear songs that show “really reflective, human responses to sometimes difficult circumstances”, “a really positive outlook for the future”, and “just high-quality music”.

The project is gearing up to launch InHouse studios later this summer, an initiative run outside of prison for those at risk of offending but using their same tried and tested methodology. Young people who have been identified as having gang involvement or at risk of being involved in knife crime will be referred to the project, set to be run by InHouse Records graduates as well as staff.

“They’ve seen a path they don’t want to go down ever again,” Armani said of the graduates who have signed up to help younger generations, “so they’re very excited to contribute in a meaningful way with a focus on music.”

InHouse recently teamed up with the Universal label and hopes to release music to the public in a matter of months.

When this happens, the project founder has plans to populate the InHouse store with the label’s own music on vinyl that is manufactured in prison.

While it will be a completely different initiative in some ways, Armani said, it will be built on all the same aspirational principles as the rest of InHouse “so it won’t be mundane or repetitive”.

He believes it will give prisoners a chance to still hone a craft linked to the music industry while bagging experience in marketing, distribution and artwork.

Judah Armani and InHouse Records will appear in the music and film arena at the Suffolk festival starting July 19.

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