I recently had a call from an agent about a couple of gigs he wanted me to do: the first was to play classical guitar in the drawing room at Syon House for the wedding of Mike Jatania, one of the UK’s richest men, and the second was to play a lunchtime recital for some of the inmates at Bedford Category C Prison. As you can see, this agent caters for all types of event!
I heard the prison gig was part of a Spanish themed day, so I put together a set list of Spanish songs and pieces from my solo album. I turned up with my guitar in one hand, passport in the other, and set about the journey through the seemingly endless labyrinth of double-locked doors and screening rooms to get into the prison.
Just before I began my first set, the prison officer said it would be very nice if I could have a chat with the inmates during the interval and answer any questions they had about the guitar etc. I was fine with this and so after my first set I went over to where they were having drinks and biscuits and started to make conversation. Of course the one thing you really want to ask is “So, what are you in here for?” but I assumed this wasn’t really the thing to say and that maybe there was an unwritten rule regarding it… so, instead…I assumed crimes for each one of them in my head!
I spoke to a big man called, funnily enough, “Big Al” – a friendly and chatty guy who introduced me to the other inmates and said, “they’re quite a nice bunch you know… which is surprising really ‘cos there ain’t ‘alf some nasty bastards out there”! And he was right, they really were a nice bunch who were genuinely enjoying escaping from the daily routine to lose themselves in some Spanish music and food.
The highlight of the day came when “Big Al” asked me where I had learnt to play flamenco. When I told him I lived and studied in Seville for a number of years he paused for a moment as he cast his mind back and then said “oh yeah….. Seville…. we did a job down there once.”