Phil Longhurst – The Man behind “Phil Good Friday”
September 21, 2021
Team building! There are many ways for teams to bond and build morale and a sense of togetherness.
During Lockdown last year many people will have been isolated from their colleagues and friends. However, our Managing Chaplain at HMP Northumberland was able to deliver a unique way of promoting positivity and a togetherness amongst the Senior Team, in his own special way. Phil Longhurst - The Man behind “Phil Good Friday”.
Name: Phil Longhurst
Position: Managing Chaplain
The Chaplaincy remit is: Faith provision for residents, pastoral care for all staff and residents.
Time served at HMP Northumberland: I started working here (then HMYOI Castington) almost 18 years ago. At the time, employed by Reflex (Christian Charity), afterwards employed by HMPPS as a Chaplain and, of course now, Sodexo, promoted to Managing Chaplain in August 2017.
Career Highlight: Difficult to pick one highlight, I love the experience I have had here. Seeing or hearing from our former residents who have stayed out and are now living law abiding lives always keeps the smile on my face.
Outside of work summary: I like spending time with my family and friends. I also enjoy playing and listening to music.
The start of Phil Good Friday
In late 2019, Phil was asked to bring a word of the day to the morning operational meeting, which is a meeting with the senior managers within the prison to reflect on the previous day and discuss the day ahead. Every Friday Phil brought a different word to the meeting, discussed it’s meaning and for a bit of fun, each senior manager had to fit that word into their update. Some of the words included compassion, love, friendship etc.
One Friday morning in November 2019, Phil decided to write a Poem and read this poem out to the senior managers, replacing the word of the day. The Poem was about listening:
“Are you listening?” Was the shout from house block 4
Who can you talk to when you're locked behind your door
“Do your time” but is there too much? It drives you mad when you can't get in touch
“Are you listening?” Said the teacher in the class, “here’s a chance to move on, forget about your past.
Be yourself, no mask or wig, what are your dreams? Start thinking big.”
“Are you listening?” Said the officer, we sometimes call them screws, “there's a Chaplain here to see you”. That's got to be bad news. Who will it be? my Mother or my Dad, will it be something else? I hope it's not too bad
“I am listening” said the member of staff, they weren't taking the P or having a laugh.
So whether you're officers in boots or managers in suits when you take the time to listen it reaches deep down to my roots.
This weekly poem continued every Friday and when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK in early 2020, many employees had to shield or work from home, Microsoft Teams was used as a virtual morning meeting replacing the physical meeting. The weekly poem carried on, adding some light-hearted listening to the morning meeting when many employees only contact with colleagues was via Microsoft Teams. Phil Good Friday was born!
In October 2020, the poem morphed into song lyrics from various artists, with Phil giving out prizes for anyone who could guess all of the artists used. Here is one example:
Time to Talk
Feeling a bit low and stressed, not happy and mellow, my traffic light is red amber or maybe that's yellow.
Keep worrying about stuff and don't know how. I'm building up my problems to the size of a cow.
Unfinished sympathy, everybody needs some empathy.
Come up and see me make me smile, walk with me every inch or even 500 mile
Working in a prison is no life of Riley. If we're not careful we'll go loco like Kylie
I want to break free, is it time for a cup of tea? Some days this job drives me around the Mercedes Benz, but, we can all get by with a little help from our friends.
Intergalactic, spaced out like C3PO, sometimes floating in the stars, our minds are somewhere only we know.
Blinding lights, too much traffic in your brain, you need a friend to bring you flowers in the pouring rain.
Mental ill health can leave us with suspicious minds, or some might say. We need to remind ourselves that it's ok not to be ok
Wake me up when it's all over or at least before you go go. Spending the days with people around you is easier than doing life solo
Support one another and be kind we call it R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Don't forget there's additional help available ring Sodexo supports me.
Oops I did it again, should have said this when I started. I believe that God is close, especially to the broken hearted.
There’s a strength inside us all, rolling in the deep, within our inner core. We all have that eye of the tiger and now is the time for us to roar.
In December 2020, Phil moved further away from his comfort zone. At the end of the Friday meeting, Phil was “spotlighted” on Teams and performed live music, singing various famous songs, all with heart and meaning, often leaving colleagues welling up!
In June Phil took the time to provide help and advice on his Phil Good Friday slot to all of the Senior Management Team on the subject of coping with the pandemic. Phil gave techniques and “must do’s” to help with the anxiety and stress that has undoubtedly been placed on all of us over the past 18 months. This level of care goes above and beyond his role, but it demonstrates just how kind and caring he is! What a guy!
Phil good Friday is still going strong today and is without doubt the highlight of the week, listening to Phil put 100% into every performance!
Outside of Phil’s weekly slot he also works with his Chaplaincy team in partnership with external providers, external partners and charities to help with the resettlement and rehabilitation of residents. This includes helping to find residents a home, staying in touch with their loved ones and helping them cope mentally and spiritually through one to one sessions.