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  • Writer's pictureAnn

Don't Play it Again, Ann

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

On Monday March 28th 2021 I was solo on site at HMP Shepton Mallet, and unwittingly recorded a child humming and singing gently, several times throughout my six hour stint. He or she was apparently a very busy little entity that day!

I was on-site painting two cells destined to be interpretation spaces when the prison is able to legally open to the public once more, hopefully in May, Boris-allowing. Because of these remarkable captures on A Wing, the Centre, and in Healthcare, when I returned on April 1st (absolutely zero April Fool's scamming going on here though I can assure you) I took with me Jack's guitar. It's not hugely expensive, but plays nicely and has a lovely tone. I hoped that it might encourage a little musical activity! Before I left in the morning I played it, and decided that it was definitely the one to accompany me, and I was genuinely excited at what sort of response it may encourage.

At the prison, I set up in the Healthcare corridor that leads past the morgue and treatment rooms. Further down is the dentist's surgery. On a chair I placed the camcorder, and on the floor next to the guitar that was leaning against the wall, a green ball, K2 meter and voice recorder. Everything was ready, and I hit Record...

Next I dropped into visits to see if the coffee machine was ready to bestow its much-needed goodness, but it wasn't and so I gathered a new tin of paint and intended to trot off to A Wing to carry on with my painting.

As I passed Healthcare, I decided to move the guitar and gear further down and around the corner, so that there would be less chance of audio interference if either of the two staff on site might pass by. Then I left and continued my devastatingly woefully awful efforts at DIY. After three days my gargantuan amounts of Polyfilla still hadn't dried in the immense cavity that I'd unwittingly carved out of the centuries-old wall. Tap what you think's a paint bubble and when masonry begins a-raining down, it's time to stop! It became rather clear that I would need the prison's red Henry Hoover, and so I sped like the fat asthmatic that I am back towards visits, dropping my main voice recorder on the wooden doorstop block at the entrance Healthcare as I passed. This was how I inadvertently recorded the child singing last time. As I walked away I heard something, a crash or bang, but thought nothing of it and continued.

Armed with Henry Hoover and the most delicious mug of coffee known to man or woman, or any combination thereof, I stooped to collect my recorder and went again to check on the guitar... perhaps I should just check the footage to see if anything had happened during my brief time away?

It had.

And what's more, I didn't need to review the camcorder footage to see it. The neck of the guitar was almost totally snapped off! All the while the guitar had been leaning against the wall and nobody had gone near. Even if they had, they would not have done anything so awful as this. For a moment I stood stock-still in shock.

Both the camera and the recorder were still recording, and I spoke to camera about what I'd just found. Then, feeling rather shaky and sick, I removed the guitar and my gear and went to show Charlie and Felicity what had happened. Their reaction was pretty much the same as mine! I'd like to reiterate at this point that although I had transported the guitar on the back seat of my car, it was protected. There were no bumps, and I certainly didn't smack it on anything before during or after the trip - it was in top quality when I placed it in the corridor of Healthcare. During the ten minutes that I was away, something happened to it - and thanks to my recording gear, believed that I was about to find out exactly what.

That afternoon I eagerly uploaded my camcorder footage onto my laptop. But something was amiss... where was the footage for that ten minutes? I had the brief segment previous to it AND before I moved it to next stretch of corridor, and I had the piece afterwards - but NOTHING from the 'incident' segment at all! Feeling slightly unnerved (even more so than I had earlier that day) I uploaded what was on the backup recorder that had been sitting next to the guitar. Five files, all fine until... you guessed it, THE INCIDENT. I tried several times, and each time it flashed up with 'error!', even when I tried to convert the file type online, it was absolutely corrupt. And so it dawned on me that this most convincing, intelligent piece of would-be evidence, was not to be. Thank goodness I left my trusty Sony recorder on the door stop! Thankfully it DID record the cracking wood, unlike the other that decided to corrupt itself. I am still trying all manner of online conversion tricks to try to access the file that would contain the sound of the splintering, and who knows, highly likely EVPs as well.

This is an on-going investigation, and I will update both this blog and my Soundbites and Video pages as well.

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