Musicians Succeed in Reversing Prison Guitar String Ban

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Musical campaigners have successfully reversed a ban that had prevented inmates of British prisons from being able to use steel strings on guitars.

Billy Bragg prison guitar
Billy Bragg had led the campaign to reverse the steel guitar string ban in British prisons

The ban had meant that the only strings available to inmates were nylon ones, used primarily for classical and Spanish styles and largely unsuitable for steel-strung acoustic guitars due to the way that they’re attached. But now steel strings will be available again, to be paid for out of prisoners’ wages and earned on a privileges basis at the discretion of individual governors.

Conservative Justice minister Chris Grayling had announced the ban on steel strings back in April of this year on the basis of they could potentially be used as weapons. It sparked an immediate protest by a host of musical stars including Billy Bragg, former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, Richard Hawley and Dave Gilmour, who published an open letter criticising the decision in The Guardian.

Bragg, affectionately referred to as ‘the Bard of Barking’ by his fans, has shown a great deal of dedication to the concept of rehabilitation through music. He started the ‘Jail Guitar Doors’ initiative with former Clash guitarist Mick Jones back in 2007 that looked to source guitars for prisons. He said about the decision "I've had a number of projects involving guitars on hold which now will be able to go ahead, and will allow those using music in prisons to get on with this important work."

MORE: Billy Bragg likens Kasabian to Spinal Tap

Bragg’s campaign also gained support in political and professional circles. Labour MP Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West constituency) had supported the musicians’ campaign in parliament, while the Prison Reform Trust also welcomed the reversal of Grayling’s decision.


Tags: Billy Bragg - Johnny Marr - Richard Hawley

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