Monday, September 15, 2008

Springhill Prison

The pictures are of the celebration at Springhill Prison of the 15th Anniversary of the opening there of the first Buddha Grove in an English prison. The construction work was all carried out by prisoners, under the leadership of Sam Cutler, who was coming towards the end of an 8-year sentence, and with the active encouragement of the then Governor, Tim Newall, who was there yesterday, with Mrs Newall. The present Governor, Dr Peter Bennett, has kept up what is now a tradition, of marking the Anniversary with an event in the Grove including chanting by a number of monks led by the Ven Ajahn Khemadhammo Mahathera, the Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy Angulimala, a few short speeches, and a meal prepared by the Thai community for the prisoners, staff and visitors. An official from the Thai Embassy was amongst the visitors as usual.

Prins Gunasekera came with me on this visit as he has done also on many years, and it was good to have his company on the journey. I was trying out our new GPS device, and instead of my usual route via the M40 it took us via north London, with traffic jams in strange places such as Cricklewood, and then through Aylesbury, so that we arrived 20 minutes after the official starting time of 18.00. Maybe this route was the shortest in distance, but it certainly wasn't for time.

Today Margaret Steinitz came to lunch and we talked about the programme the London Bach Society is having on November 7, partly for my 80th birthday, as well as other plans the LBS has forthe future. Margaret is doing great work encouraging schools to take an interest in Bach, for instance by combining performances with teaching 18th century dance moves. Unfortunately its an uphill struggle to get the public interested in Bach; his music isn't much played on the BBC, or taught in the schools are generally and the DCMS, the Department of Culture, doesn't give it much encouragement.

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