The story of how music can help rehabilitate prisoners was a surprisingly cheery listen
The Band Behind Bars (Radio 2) was an unexpectedly cheerful listen. It wasn't just the story, told by Craig Charles, of how music can be used within prisons as part of the rehabilitation process. Or the fact that Billy Bragg appeared, talking passionately about his charity, which gets guitars into prisons so that inmates can learn and change. "Music as a redemptive force is very powerful," he argued. It wasn't even the fact that in prisons where such schemes exist, reoffending rates dwindle.
The uplifting part of the programme was hearing the prisoners' appreciation of what music had gently given them. "It's a weird little turning point in life," said one inmate, remembering when he signed up for the five-week project at Mount Prison in Hemel Hempstead. You got the strong impression he hadn't experienced a positive turning point before.
But it was also a pleasing hour in the way it was produced by Heather Davies, one of the Radio Academy's 30 Under 30 young talents. She took a simple narrative approach, and had the conviction to let the words and music do their work. The daunting prospect of recording in a prison was captured by the sound of keys jangling and heavy doors clunking; the ferment of possibility by the sounds of musicians tuning up, rehearsing, and their very moving final concert.