We can all fly

If you watched this week’s documentary The Choir: Aylesbury Prison, I am sure that, like me, you will have been moved. As he has done successfully in other institutions Gareth Malone, the choirmaster, was aiming to use singing as an inspirational tool to bring otherwise inexpressive people together to unleash their musicality. Only this time, the hurdles were even higher, the reluctance even stronger and the rewards even greater.


This prison houses young offenders who commit, in many cases, violent crimes and the rules are such that bringing in-mates together to form a choir is both dangerous and improbable. What moved me was the light that these young men saw when they sang. Suddenly the tunnel wasn’t dark and in some cases the emotion and creativity poured out of them. The remorse was clear too. If they could turn back the clock and tell their teenage selves to behave differently, they would. But change is hard for many people let alone prisoners.


I welcomed the pupils back on Wednesday with one of my favourite folk tales about a king who was frustrated that one of his two magnificent falcons would not fly, preferring instead to stay on its perch. Despite summoning the best falconers and sorcerers in the land, no one could make the bird move. That is, until a farmer came along who very quickly enabled the bird to soar. How? By cutting the branch on which the bird was sitting.


The point here is that we can all fly – we all have talents and things we do well. But if we are not careful we can become too comfortable on our perches and fairly soon forget how to fly. It is good from time to time for our branches to be cut so that we can be challenged and forced into changing direction. But we can do that of our own accord too. With a new year upon us, I have encouraged the pupils to see that they can change if they want to and, like the 20:20 year that it is, be clear-sighted on the pathway in front of them towards their goals and ambitions.


Whatever one wants to achieve, it invariably means making changes and setting small targets. This almost always means being courageous, especially if your tunnel is dark!

Perseverance is needed too. And trust, both of others and in oneself. But above all, it means being determined to make the most of the opportunities one has so that regret and remorse remain very far away. 


‘He who thinks he can and he who thinks he can’t are both usually right.’ (Confucius)

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