Project History


In 1989 Pimlico Opera performed two operas in Wormwood Scrubs: Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and Walton’s The Bear. The first joint production with prisoners took place a year later with people serving life sentences.

Since then we have taken over 60,000 members of the public into prison. We have worked with more than 1,000 prisoners and have given crucial first employment to prisoners on their release. Over 10,000 prisoners have seen a performance.

In November 1992, the collaboration with Wandsworth Prison, Guys & Dolls, was the subject of a BBC2 documentary “Guys, Dolls & D wing” which was nominated for a BAFTA.

In 1994 Pimlico Opera staged the UK (and European) premiere of Shostakovich’ musical Cheryomushki in the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. Pimlico Opera commissioned David Pountney to write an English text, and composer Gerard McBurney to create a reduced orchestration. The BBC made a documentary on the project (Another Bite of the Cherry) which included footage from the 1963 Lenfilm version. In 1995 it was recorded for BBC Music Magazine (Volume 3, Number 80).

Our House
Sister Act


There is powerful evidence for the benefit that this work has to society, the public purse and the wider economy. Improvements in prisoner rehabilitation and the lowering of re-offending can only be a good thing.

‘With professional help, I have learnt to act and dance and to express my own feelings. I have become much happier and more confident’.
‘The project teaches us to push ourselves through our fears and has given me a new lease of life’.
‘I integrate better with other fellow residents, prison staff. I believe our prisoners and prison staff need this project’.

Testimonials from cast members of Sweet Charity at HMP Bronzefield, 2018

Pimlico Opera’s Lengthy Sentence

1989 HMP Wormwood Scrubs Le Nozze di Figaro
& The Bear
1991 HMP Wormwood Scrubs Sweeney Todd
1992 HMP Wandsworth West Side Story
1993 HMP Wandsworth Guys & Dolls
1995 HMP Wandsworth West Side Story
1996 Mountjoy Prison, Ireland West Side Story
1997 HMP Bullingdon, Oxfordshire West Side Story
1999 HMP Downview, Surrey Threepenny Opera
2001 HMP Winchester Threepenny Opera
2002 HMP Winchester West Side Story
2003 HMP Wormwood Scrubs Guys & Dolls
2004 HMP Ashwell, Leicestershire Assassins
2005 HMP Coldingley, Surrey Assassins

2006 HMP Bronzefield, Chicago
2007 HMP Wandsworth Les Misérables
2008 HMP Kingston Sweeney Todd (project cancelled)
2009 HMP Wandsworth West Side Story
2010 HMP Wandsworth Carmen – The Musical
2011 HMP Send, Surrey Sugar
2012 HMP Erlestoke, Wiltshire Les Misérables
2013 HMP Erlestoke, Wiltshire West Side Story
2014 HMP Bronzefield Sister Act
2015 HMP ISIS Our House
2017 HMP High Down Les Misérables
2018 HMP Bronzefield Sweet Charity
2019 HMP Bronzefield Hairspray