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Yarl's Wood Music Workshops - a Closer Look

Yarl's Wood Music Workshops - a Closer Look

21st December 2016

This article was written by Bedford MID and originally published by Bedford Creative Arts.

Music In Detention (MID) is a national charity, which uses participatory music making to improve the mental wellbeing of immigration detainees and to integrate detainees into local communities. Based within Bedford Creative Arts, Bedford MID is a partnership between MID and local voluntary, community and arts organisations in Bedford.

Our workshops use drumming, percussion, singing, song writing, dance, and storytelling. Recording techniques enable immediate playback and bring the voices of detainees to the outside world.

We spoke to two of our artists, Rebecca DeWinter and Rose Illingworth who deliver music workshops together at Yarl’s Wood IRC.

BCA: The format of your workshops has recently changed from weekly one off events to workshop blocks of 4-5. How has that changed how you work?

Rose: The women now attend 2-3 consecutive workshops and this has allowed for a deeper experience. The women seem to be able to bond more with each other and get more from music making across the weeks. This meant the participants grew in confidence and were able get more out of the music making over the weeks. Seeing that growth was so rewarding and the women seemed to get so much out of the workshops.

Rebecca:  As we don’t share a language, it’s a brilliant way of working as you are already starting from a point of shared understanding and communication. We worked with a woman who came across as shy and withdrawn but over the weeks we saw the impact that music had on her mood and helped us understand better when she wanted to listen and when she wanted to take part. Both types of participation worked for her and were equally important, it was just different on different days.

BCA: Why do you think this work is important?

Rose: Many of the women spoke about escaping their ‘stress’ and finding the experience of music-making a release. Through the improvisations, we create a holding space in which feelings can be shared through sound, and togetherness can be experienced through being part of a musical interaction.

Rebecca: Over a number of weeks, it is really apparent how some of the participants are attending in order to share feelings and gain support with these feelings.

For Music In Detention, music is a universal language, transcending words and available to all. Our simple premise is to improve the well-being of detainees through music. Our work enables them, among other things, to:

  • express their feelings, thoughts, fears and aspirations
  • strengthen their personal and cultural identity
  • assert autonomy and leadership while making music
  • relax and relieve their stress and depression

If you would like to support this work, we will soon be recruiting for volunteer workshop assistants who would like to gain experience of supporting music-making workshops in detention centres and in neighbouring community settings. A passion for music and some musical ability is essential as is an interest in working with people from a wide range of ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds and of all age groups including young people and children.

If you would be interested in becoming a volunteer or to find out more about Bedford MID contact Jih-Wen Yeh at jihwen@musicindetention.org.uk